In my experience, one of the most pressing issues for couples is sex and intimacy. More specifically, the conversation often revolves around the frequency, satisfaction and difference in libidos. According to a survey, 62% of women admitted to not being satisfied with their sex lives. Also, the survey showed that 18% of respondents do the bulk of the initiating and have sex less than once a week. The issues surrounding sex are usually about missing the connection and closeness you want with your partner. Sex is a physical act of vulnerability, and feeling safe while vulnerable is the biggest goal of a secure relationship. The rejection of sex can jeopardize the level of vulnerability and security in a relationship
When there is an emotional disconnection, it affects sex. For example, being turned down when you make an advance to your partner can lead to feelings of rejection and inadequacy. The more those feelings of rejection or inadequacy settle in, the less connected you feel with your partner.
In a marriage or a long-term relationship, the partner with the higher libido may often find themselves feeling as though their partner doesn’t care about them, because he or she is “always” saying no. The partner with the lower libido can find himself or herself feeling pressured frequently for sex. One partner feels rejected, the other feels inadequate and the disconnect grows.
How do we get out of this cycle?
For starters, recognize that the responsibility for disconnection falls on both people in the relationship. If you are feeling pressured, or have a lower libido, try refusing sex more gently. If you are not feeling up to being intimate let your partner know that in a soft way. Let them know that their wants, feelings, and needs are important to you. Perhaps say: “I love being intimate with you, but I need a rain check. I had a long day but I love you and you are so attractive.” I also love this one- try saying, “I’m really tired right now, but I definitely want a rain check so that I have something to look forward to.”
On the other side, the partner that has a higher libido risks the chance of feeling rejected. Being able to accept the “no” is super important. While statistics show that it is often the husband that feels the rejection, it certainly is not always the case. No one likes to be turned down for something he or she wants. Men may be more experienced in hearing no, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
What can you do about rejection of sex?
If you are receiving your partner’s “not tonight” message, the more you respond in a validating and accepting way, the more it will lead to sex. Dr. John Gottman, once did an experiment with a couple who had this issue. He explains in his book, 7 Principles for Making a Marriage Work, that when the husband would respond to her refusal with hurt, frustration, pressure, complaining, or sulking, the couple had sex about once every 3 weeks. When the husband “rewarded” her for her refusal, meaning he validated her no and expressed his understanding, their sex rate soared to 4 times a week.
Now, there is no way to truly predict the frequency of sex, but it does show that not only is sex more of an emotional connection for women, husbands who hear, understand and respect their partner’s “no” will have more sex. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be disappointed when you want sex and your partner doesn’t. Intentionally connecting with your partner in the positive and negative moments, will naturally lead to a deeper intimacy and more secure relationship.
Sometimes the cycle of rejection and inadequacy can feel overwhelming or you don’t know where to start. If you feel like this is you or your relationship, maybe it is time to get that extra boost and guidance. Intimacy and sex is often looked at as a private conversation, but if that disconnection is there in your relationship, don’t hesitate to have a trained professional help you and your partner get back on track.
I also highly recommend John Gottman’s book that I mentioned above, 7 Principals of Making Marriage Work.