This post is inspired by one of the most common sexual dilemmas I see when I work with couples: the impact of frequent sexual rejection in romantic relationships.
A good sex life with your partner usually indicates a stronger emotional connection and sense of commitment within the relationship. Additionally, a positive sexual relationship is associated with other benefits; lower blood pressure, stress reduction, improved immune functioning, boosts self acceptance + self esteem, and chronic pain reduction, just to name a few.
In order to have a good sex life, communication is key. Here are some things you should know when thinking about sex, love, and talking about it with your partner.
•All humans are born with an innate psychological need for the security, self esteem, and connection, that sex provides. This means that if a person is failing to initiate or rejecting sex, the conditions for sex are not being met.
•What does that mean?
•There are many things that can impede sexual desire. Career stress, personal responsibilities, medication side effects, relationship conflict, trust issues, past trauma, etc. Most often, these conditions are not communicated to the initiating party. It’s critical to discuss these things with your partner to build understanding and empathy between both individuals. If the unmet condition is a relationship issue, discussing it may restore the emotional connection and foster intimacy. This is also an opportunity for partners to provide emotional or physical support that may reestablish the optimal conditions for sex.
•There are messages that the rejected partner may misinterpret and internalize when they are repeatedly denied sexual intimacy without reassurance or further discussion. They may experience feeling undesirable, anxious, embarrassed, unwanted, or shame. This is not suggesting that the rejecting partner is responsible for the other’s feelings. This is just a reminder that sensitivity and kindness is critical when having these conversations for both parties.
“Most men talk about regular sexual rejection leading to self-doubt and a loss of self-esteem that impacts their own sex drive, motivation, and happiness. Consistently being turned away by the woman who is supposed to love and desire him the most leads to some pretty strong negative self-beliefs. Men in these situations will often use words such as worthless, unwanted, and incompetent. None of these men would agree with the suggestion that rejection lacks emotional pain. In fact, for many men the core of their masculinity is tied to their ability to be sexually desired and competent.”Nicholas D’Amico, 2017
Although this quote specifically refers to men, women are also significantly impacted by sexual rejection.
Having the conversation:
•Approaching sex with humor and lightheartedness can be beneficial to couples. Having an initial opening with a light hearted, gentle disposition can improve the chances of a productive conversation.
•You and your partner may have different comfort levels and perspectives when talking about sex. This comes from our past experiences and what we were taught about sex that shapes our beliefs. If there isn’t conversations about it, you may be missing the opportunity to learn about your partner and what sex means to them. Be mindful when the conversation is happening to remain open-minded and receptive to your partners perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to agree, it just means that you are willing to listen to understand where they’re coming from.
Helpful Q’s to think about:
•What prevents intimacy in the relationship?
•What are other ways you can practice intimacy to feel connected?
•What is your ideal sexual relationship with your partner? What is theres? Do they align? How do to they differ? How will you guys decide how to compromise on differences?