This article was first published on August 24th, 2016
Let’s face it: Sometimes life is a busy frantic bombardment of people to see and things to do. It’s so easy at times to see life as an angry tide of obligations which crashes down upon us and sweeps us away, drifting alone.
But what happens when that ocean of to-do lists drifts us not just away from our own sense of wellbeing but from our partner too? What happens when emotionally, physically, and sexually partners begin to drift apart?
Sexual Rejection may be the outcome for some, and it’s one of the more wounding and confusing outcomes at that. If you feel like your partner is beginning to reject you (or already has) don’t worry, recovery is possible, and in this article, we’re going to look at some of the first steps together.
What Is Sexual Rejection?
Sexual Rejection is the act of one person in the relationship denying or avoiding sexual intimacy with their partner.
Now, of course, this can hurt but it isn’t a bad thing in every case. We’ve all had times where we’ve simply been too tired for sex, we’ve got too many deadlines to tackle, or have got an illness or injury that stops us from being able to perform (“I’ve got a headache” is more than just a cliché after all).
However, if declining sex occasionally turns to one partner physically and emotionally trying to avoid it (and shutting down whenever it’s mentioned) then things become sexual rejection.
Sexual rejection is a slippery slope and, if not addressed, it can spiral into a sexless relationship.
A sexless relationship is considered as one where you and your partner are having sex less than 10-12 times a year, the results of which can be emotionally devastating.
What Can I Do To Avoid/Fix This?
Obviously, there’s no easy fix when it comes to sexual rejection and sexless relationships, especially if the rejecting partner is unwilling to change. But before you throw in the towel know that there are many ways to move forward together, it’s just a long healing process. Think of it like mending a bridge: The foundations may be there but you don’t want your repair job to be shoddy, otherwise things may collapse again, so you need to take your time.
Here are some tips to help you move towards recovery at your own pace:
1. Find the time to talk
If sexual rejection is becoming an issue in your relationship then the first thing you need to do is talk honestly and frankly with your partner about it. This may be tricky, as chances are they will try and avoid the conversation so make sure you put as little pressure on them as is possible.
Ask them when they’re free to have a conversation and work with their schedule. Once you’re sat down together be patient, compassionate, and understanding. Chances are this sexual dry spell is affecting them too, just in a different way.
Guy Winch, Ph.D. has some great advice on how to go about such conversations in his own article on the topic, which I highly recommend.
2. Find the Cause of the Rejection
Sometimes sexual rejection stems from something as simple as having a clashing work schedule or a mismatched libido but other times there may be an underlying cause.
Depression and anxiety, for example, can both cause a loss of libido in addition to the many other nasty symptoms that sufferers may experience.
Once you’ve got your partner down to chat ask them why they’ve been avoiding sex and really listen to their response. Once you’ve both figured out the source of the rejection then you can work together to try and put a plan in place for recovery.
If it is mental health related then you may be able to get specialist help, such as a therapist, to talk with you through your issues. Always check your local health resources if possible.
3. Work Together, Not Apart
If your partner has been rejecting you then it can be so easy to develop a ‘Me vs. Them’ mentality as you square off against your own emotions. But, remember, you’re both in this together, you both want your relationship to work, and so you both need to act as a team to do so.
For the one being rejected, this means not taking the rejection of physical intimacy to mean a rejection of you as a person and to allow your partner more space.
Taking things slow and letting them initiate any sexual contact might be a frustrating route to take but it will ultimately help them feel less pressured and therefore more receptive.
For the partner doing the rejection, it’s time to really consider what you want from this relationship and to consider your partner’s feelings and your own.
Have you ever seen Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk about body language? If not I highly recommend it, if only for this gem of advice: Fake it until you become it. As difficult as it may seem at first trying to accept and initiate more sexual advances, even when you’re not in the mood, will eventually boost your libido and sexual pleasure. So next time you’re being affectionate with your partner try taking it a bit further and see just how you feel towards the end.
That being said it’s important to set clear boundaries and be vocal about when and why you don’t want sex either. If sexual avoidance is what’s fueling your rejection from your partner then being honest about your feelings is the best way forward. As with all relationship issues, communication is key.
And That’s All For Now
While this article is by no means exhaustive it will, hopefully, provide you with a solid foundation for mending your relationship and dealing with (or avoiding) sexual rejection.
If there is one thing I would like to leave you on then it’s this: You’re not alone. Psychologists estimate that anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of couples struggle with a sexless relationship. What’s more, infrequent sex is only an issue in a relationship if partners do feel rejection. Technically there’s no ‘right’ amount of sex to have so feel comforted knowing that you and your partner set the bar for what works in your relationship.
What you’re going through feels terrible but is ultimately normal and can be overcome. It just takes the right tools, the right approach, and a lot of compassion and communication.