I casually mentioned a trip my husband and I took to a bed and breakfast and she started sobbing. I reached out and took her hand, waiting until she had calmed down before I asked her to share with me what was wrong. It took a few minutes, but she began sharing some very personal details about her marriage. She later gave me permission to write about what she shared in hope that others might learn from her experience. I’ll use fake names to protect their privacy. Let’s call them Emily and Phillip.
“Over the last few years I’ve been heartbroken by how Phillip reacts to me sexually. Or better yet, how he doesn’t,” she began.
They are both in their forties and have children in college. I had always assumed they had a great relationship and, since she was attractive, I wouldn’t have guessed that Phillip would be uninterested in having sex with her – especially since all we seem to hear from media these days is how men are always interested in sex and can be aroused easily. Isn’t it only men, generally speaking, who have to deal with sexual rejection from their wives? I knew better from other conversations with women, but stereotypes and assumptions are difficult to overcome when it’s presented as fact from high-profile directions.
“It wasn’t always this way. In fact, it was the other way around. He would reach out and touch me when we both laid down for bed and so often I would cut him off right there. I was either too tired, too stressed, wasn’t in ‘the mood,’ or some other reason.”
Ah yes, back to the cliche’s. She’s too tired, has a headache, etc. But pay close attention to the next part.
“Two things about him rejecting me have broken my heart in the last two years. The way it makes me feel, of course, but also that I realize that he was telling the truth when he described how it made him feel years ago. He would say that it made him feel ugly, unwanted, and unloved. He described other things he felt such as being embarrassed and feeling that I wasn’t attracted to him. I remember rolling my eyes, thinking that the only thing that really bothered him about me rejecting him was that he wasn’t going to get the sexual release he wanted. I was wrong.”
She teared up at this point and was unable to continue for a few minutes. But some tea and my gentle words got her talking again.
“I couldn’t blame him if it was revenge. Sometimes I get out of the shower, and take my time putting the towel around me while he’s brushing his teeth or shaving but he barely even glances my direction. I recognized the look on my face in the mirror as the same one on his ten years ago. And I absolutely do feel ugly, unwanted, and unloved. I feel like my body is unworthy of his attention. He must have felt the same way ten years ago when he watched me show more interest in my makeup than my unclothed husband walking out of the shower.”
Again, tears before continuing.
“But he’s nicer about it than I was. Maybe because he knows how it feels. He hasn’t mocked me for feeling rejected. Or accused me of ‘only wanting one thing.’ In fact, he has apologized for saying ‘no.’ He has reacted sometimes by hugging me, but a kind rejection is still a rejection. It’s humiliating to beg, but I’m to the point I’m willing to try anything. I even blame myself. Maybe if I hadn’t made sex so difficult for him to get over the years, he wouldn’t have reached the point to where he didn’t bother to try and, then, to where he stifled the desire and pushed it away so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of being rejected repeatedly by the person who was supposed to be rejecting all others for him. What a fool I was. I always liked it when we had sex. I’d say yes to laundry, the dishes, house work, and going to the gym, but for some reason I was too tired for sex, even though I liked it. Looking back from this point though, I remember how close I felt to him afterwards and how passionate I felt while we were making love. I have no idea why I seemed to forget that and why I made it so difficult for him. I tossed away something that brought us closer together and refused to do something that brought him such joy. Now I’m on the other side and I am miserable because of how it makes me feel and because of how guilty I feel for doing it to him years ago.”
I had some thoughts for her and they are the same I’ll share with you.
If You Are The One Experiencing Sexual Rejection
I am so sorry for what you are going through. I encourage you to refer your spouse to this article because I believe that thinking through some of this will be helpful. It is likely that your spouse doesn’t see sexual rejection as equal to telling you that he/she is not attracted to you. It’s inconsiderate, yes, but it’s also most likely in part from ignorance and that is something I truly hope I can help by sharing Emily’s story. Do your best to be patient and to make sex as pleasurable as possible for your spouse. Work to eliminate their excuses, if possible, because the more sex that you have with them the more likely it is that he/she will have renewed desire. Above all, I want to refer you this video: My Spouse Sexually Rejects Me.
If You Are The One Sexually Rejecting Your Spouse
Please take what I’m about to say into honest consideration.
This is the person who you shouldn’t reject, ignore, or “turn down.” Marriage is supposed to be acceptance by definition! Study after study has indicated that, not just the quality of sex, but the quantity, leads to feelings of happiness, connectedness, closeness, and commitment. Having sex often and passionately is an extremely positive thing for your marriage!
Though you should be placing your spouse above yourself, if you aren’t there yet, consider your future self. Life’s responsibilities and stresses shift and even if you don’t prioritize sex as you should now, it’s likely one of those “shifts” will, one day, also shift your sex drive meaning that you might be the one left out in the cold due to your spouse’s feelings of resentment, distance, or simply finding some way to do without because of your rejection. Consider the following quote from Emily:
“I’ve been surprised by what I usually feel immediately following his sexual rejection. I don’t immediately feel a shot to my ego, though that usually comes later. I didn’t immediately feel anger because I wasn’t going to get the sexual release I felt I needed, though that usually comes later as well. What I did feel immediately was that I was unloved and unwanted. It was then that I realized I had trained him not to want me. I did that by giving him two choices. One, to hurt. Or the other, to find a way to ignore his desire until he simply didn’t want me anymore. Over time, he had no choice.”
I know you don’t want your spouse to feel “unloved and unwanted,” but I’m here to tell you that if you are consistently rejecting him/her for sex, those are things your spouse almost certainly feels. And, unfortunately, that is how sexual refusal and sexual rejection affect a marriage. It’s very bad and will most likely create distance and resentment over time. At some point in your future, it’s likely you won’t regret perceived failure to keep up with household chores, or not getting twenty more minutes of sleep, but it’s likely that you will regret rejecting the person who has stood by your side and who shares life with you. I write this to encourage you to bring refreshment, connectedness, and intimacy back to your marriage by making a commitment to sexually fulfill your spouse (and yourself). It’s your spouse, after all, who should enjoy such fulfillment from you and vice versa.
P.S. – If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper Workshopfor troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation.