Do any of these this sound familiar?
You finally have a romantic night out with your spouse or partner but they drink too much and fall asleep on the bed as soon as you get home.
You're on vacation and away from the stresses of daily life but your partner claims they're still too exhausted to have sex.
Your partner consistently goes to bed either before or after you do.
The bathroom or kitchen might be the most 'dangerous' rooms in the house for sustaining physical injuries but as far as self-esteem goes, the bedroom is far worse. Small sexual rejections are common in relationships as no two people are always going to be in the mood at the exact same time. However, when your partner consistently avoids sex and intimacy, or on the rare occasion when they are willing, are obviously doing so reluctantly -- the accumulations of repeated rejections are likely to have a big impact on your self-esteem.
All rejections hurt because your brain reacts to them in very similar ways that it does to physical pain. But when the person rejecting you is your partner -- the person who knows you best in the world, the person who sees you for who you are, the person who is supposed to love you and make you feel loved -- the damage to your self-esteem, feelings of self-worth, and emotional wellness can be devastating.
Unfortunately, sexual rejections are far more common in long-term relationships than most people realize. At first, people typically deal with such rejections by expressing disappointment, making off-hand comments, or resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors in the hopes of their partner getting the hint. Even when the subject is broached directly, the reluctant partner will typically make excuses or engage in feeble efforts that might not last.
After a while, most people stop bringing it up altogether. The rejection is painful enough as it is, and you probably don't want to subject yourself to further disappointment and even greater rejection. The pattern of avoidance thus becomes a stable aspect of your relationship but your self-esteem continues to erode, your relationship satisfaction continues to drop, and your general sense of happiness and emotional well-being continue to decline.
Is it worth trying to do something about about it?
Yes! By doing so you might actually improve the situation and you can definitely improve your self-esteem. Here are the steps to take:
1. Invite your partner to a 'talk': Make sure you will not be interrupted and that you have their full attention.
2. Tell them how you feel non-judgmentally: They are likely to be defensive so if you want them to hear you, use I statements to present the facts ("We haven't had sex in two years and I feel hurt and rejected."
3. Allow them to respond without interrupting: Your spouse may be unaware of how you feel so allow them to respond. If they make excuses such as "You know how much pressure I'm under at work," or "You know how tired I am after taking care of the kids," you can say, "I do. Have you been aware of how terrible I feel because of this?"
4. Assert your need for change: Assertive behavior is a great way to build self-esteem. Clearly stating you need the situation to change, that it cannot go on, gives your partner as well as yourself, the message that you deserve better and are worthy of more. Doing so is an important step in shedding the insecurity and doubt that have plagued you and rebuilding your self-worth.
5. Insist on a plan for change as well as regular check-ins: Be open to making changes yourself if your partner asks for them and they are reasonable. Ask for one small step you can both take right away to signal your intention to work on this issue. Decide on a regular monthly check-in to make sure things stay on track.
Lastly, some people might fear their partner will simply state there is nothing they can do about the situation even after hearing how it impacts your self-esteem and emotional health. If that is the case, you at least know the reality and can begin thinking about whether the situation is acceptable to you or whether you need to consider alternative decisions. In either case, you can take steps to prevent further damage to your self-esteem and emotional wellness and to begin the process of rebuilding your self-worth.
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