Imagine this: You’ve been going steady with your partner for a significant amount of time and you’ve both slipped into a routine. The relationship feels mundane, even your intimate moments sometimes feel like a chore, and the spark you felt in the early days has vanished. You try to reignite it but every time you do, you’re met with the cold shoulder of sexual rejection.
Sexual rejection in relationships can have a huge impact on the people involved. It can leave one partner or both feeling hurt, frustrated, and resentful and if it is left unresolved, it could be the beginning of the end for you as a couple. To make sure this rut you find yourself in doesn’t escalate to a lethal blow for your relationship, we’re here to help you figure out how to deal with sexual rejection from your partner, in consultation with counselor and author Niyatii N Shah, who is a sexuality educator and intimacy coach.
Impact Of Sexual Rejection On A Relationship
Table of Contents
Sexual rejection has profound effects on relationship satisfaction. Consistent rejection creates a distance and disconnect between you and your partner, and low self-worth within you. Your damaged self-esteem can leave you feeling unwanted sexually in a relationship, which can lead to a decrease in physical intimacy and emotional closeness, further exacerbating the problem.
If left unchecked, sexual rejection in relationships can lead to infidelity or a complete breakdown of a couple’s connection. It’s essential to understand that sexual rejection is not always a personal attack, and there may be underlying issues causing the rejection, such as stress, depression, or physical health problems.
Physical and emotional impact of sexual rejection
According to Niyatii, consistent sexual rejection from a partner can have a very real physical effect on people. She explains, “Sexual rejection can have physical effects on individuals in a relationship. It can lead to a decrease in sexual desire, which can cause sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness. Additionally, prolonged sexual rejection can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels in men, which can impact their overall physical and emotional well-being.
“Sexual rejection can also have a significant emotional impact on individuals in a relationship. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and low self-esteem. A person may begin to question their attractiveness or worthiness as a partner, which can impact their overall emotional well-being.”
Related Reading: 10 Signs Of Rejection In A Relationship And What To Do
Social impact of sexual rejection
What may be less obvious is the social impact of sexual rejection. Niyatii says, “It can create a sense of isolation and withdrawal from social activities, which can impact the social life of both partners. They may avoid social activities and events where they would be expected to interact with each other or with others. It can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment, and may cause strain in friendships and other social relationships.
“Additionally, sexual rejection can impact the way partners perceive themselves and their ability to connect with others. It can create a sense of insecurity and hesitation in social situations, which can further aggravate the problem.”
What happens when mismatched sex drives lead to rejection?
There is also the matter of having different levels of sexual interest/sex drive. In this scenario, this dynamic is completely different and rejection in a positive way can maintain the strength of the relationship by not making the less interested partner feel obligated to have sex for the sake of the relationship. Research suggests that kindness in sexual rejection behaviors tends to increase relationship satisfaction in the long term but not necessarily sexual satisfaction in the short term.
Man vs woman: How the two genders respond to being turned down sexually
You may also be wondering, “How does a woman feel when rejected sexually versus how a man feels?” When it comes to gender differences, Niyatii says, “There can be a difference in the way a man reacts versus the way a woman reacts to sexual rejection, although this can vary greatly depending on the individual and the specific circumstances. Sometimes, men and women may react differently when they are rejected sexually, but it depends on the person and the situation.”
So, how does a woman feel when rejected sexually? Here are some possible differences between the way a woman and a man may respond to being turned down sexually:
- Male partners may show their disappointment more openly when feeling sexually rejected, while women may keep their feelings to themselves
- Men may feel like their manliness is being threatened, while women may feel like they are being personally rejected
- Men may see sex as a physical connection, while women may see it as more of an emotional connection. So if they are feeling rejected by partner, the impact can be more physical in nature for men whereas women may be more upset emotionally
Related Reading: 9 Sexless Relationship Effects No One Talks About
How To Deal With Sexual Rejection From Your Partner – 9 Tips
If you find yourself in a situation where your partner rejects sexual activity with you, it’s important to handle the situation healthily to prevent it from taking a toll on your overall relationship satisfaction. Here are some tips for dealing with sexual rejection from a partner in a healthy manner:
1. Don’t take it personally
Niyatii says, “Sexual rejection can create feelings of frustration, anger, and resentment toward the rejecting partner. If not addressed healthily, these emotions can lead to a breakdown in communication and further damage the relationship.”
That’s why it is important to at least try to not take it personally even though it’s easier said than done. Be mindful of the fact that it is more than likely that this behavior is not about you. Something may be going on in your partner’s life that you may be oblivious to such as health problems, anxiety, reduced sex drive, etc. that may be discouraging them from being sexually intimate.
2. Communicate openly
In light of that, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about why they are rejecting sexual activity. Avoid making assumptions and listen carefully to their concerns. Communication is the key to relationship satisfaction as well as a healthy sex life. If they seem to shut down to the idea of this conversation, it may simply be to avoid hurting you.
Related Reading: 11 Ways To Improve Communication In Relationships
3. Set aside a time to talk about it
The last thing you want to do is spring your concern on them when they’re getting ready for work or getting the kids ready for school. Let them know that you want to talk about it and come up with a mutually convenient time when you know you won’t be disturbed.
“Sexual intimacy is often an essential component of emotional bonding between partners. When sexual rejection occurs, it can create a sense of emotional disconnection and distance between partners, which can cause further emotional distress. It becomes imperative to open communication lines about this issue to prevent it from spiraling out of control,” says Niyatii.
4. Be non-judgmental when expressing your concerns
It is very important to make your partner feel safe in this conversation as well. You don’t want to come across as accusatory or judgmental because that will shut them down. You could say something like, “We haven’t had sex in a while” or “I feel like we’re drifting apart.”
Your partner may be aware of their loss of interest in sex but don’t assume anything about what they might say. And more importantly, don’t judge them. Figuring out how to tell your partner you’re not sexually satisfied without hurting them is key to resolving this issue.
5. Tell them how you feel
Once they’ve expressed their concerns, you can gently let them know how their sexual rejection of you has made you feel. Instead of saying, “You’re making me feel worthless,” or “I’m tired of initiating intimacy,” you can try something like, “I feel undesirable and it’s affecting my self-esteem.” Expressing your feelings is important in dealing with your sexual rejection trauma, and doing it in a kind, compassionate manner is essential to making sure this conversation is productive and helpful.
6. Respect boundaries
It’s also important to respect your partner’s boundaries and not push them to engage in sexual activity if they are not comfortable. Consent is crucial in any sexual activity and you don’t want to exacerbate their dysfunction by pushing them to have sex. There’s nothing wrong with wanting sex but if your partner doesn’t want to have sex, you must respect that.
Related Reading: 13 Non-Sexual Touches To Feel Intimate And Close
7. Focus on other forms of intimacy
Instead of trying to figure out how to make your partner want you sexually, try being there for them in other ways. Niyatii says, “Sexual activity is just one form of intimacy. Try to focus on other ways to connect with your partner, such as cuddling, holding hands, or giving each other a massage/foot rub.” Doing this can help strengthen your relationship by letting your partner know that you care.
8. Take care of yourself
But that doesn’t mean you have to neglect yourself. Sexual rejection trauma can build up over time. Niyatii says, “If you are feeling rejected, it’s important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically. This might mean talking to a trusted friend, practicing self-care, or seeking professional help if needed.”
9. Figure out the next step
Depending on the reason why your partner is rejecting sex with you, either change the way you express your love and affection to them or start thinking about/discussing the next steps. Remember, sexual rejection in marriage/relationship is not a reflection of your worth as a person. It’s important to approach this particular situation with empathy, understanding, and respect for both you and your partner, regardless of how their sexual rejection behaviors make you feel.
How To Turn Down Sexual Advances The Right Way
On the other hand, if you are the one feeling pressured for more sex and are wondering how to deal with it without hurting your partner, here are some tips for you:
1. Be honest and clear
Niyatii says, “It’s important to communicate your feelings and boundaries in the relationship clearly and honestly. Let them know how you feel and why you don’t want to engage in sexual activity at that moment.”
Some partners stay quiet and refrain from communicating thinking they will be judged or for fear of an extreme reaction. If you have a genuine concern about this, it would be wise to seek professional help first. Trying to avoid sex will only make the situation worse.
2. Show appreciation
While you may not want to engage in sexual activity, it’s important to show appreciation for your partner’s advances. Thank them for their interest and let them know that you still value and love them. Research suggests that this kind of ‘reassuring rejection’ is the best bet for relationship satisfaction even though sexual satisfaction may take a temporary hit. Sexual rejection behaviors can make or break romantic relationships.
3. Offer an alternative
Niyatii says, “If you’re not in the mood for sexual activity, suggest an alternative way to connect with your partner and tap into the power of physical touch to may you feel close to each other. Maybe you could cuddle or watch a movie together instead.” This shows your partner that even though you’re not in the mood for sex, you still want to be with them and are willing to try other forms of physical affection. Try to communicate to them that intimate time for you doesn’t always involve sex.
Related Reading: 11 Confessions By Married People On Why They Stopped Having Sex
4. Establish boundaries (it bears repeating)
When it comes to sexual relationships, it is hard to overstate the importance of boundaries. On this, Niyatii says, “It’s important to respect your own boundaries and the boundaries of your partner. If you’re not comfortable with something, let them know, and don’t be afraid to say no.” If you feel defensive, seek professional help in handling the situation.
5. Revisit the conversation
After turning down sexual advances, it’s important to revisit the conversation with your partner. Discuss your feelings and boundaries, and work together to figure out how to reconnect with your partner sexually and satisfy each other’s needs healthily and respectfully. This discussion can go a long way in clarifying the intentions of your sexual rejection behaviors.
- Sexual rejection can happen in long-term relationships because you and your partner are autonomous beings who cannot be expected to always be in sync
- Dealing with sexual rejection in marriage/relationship in a healthy way means responding with empathy and understanding rather than reacting impulsively
- Listen to your partner’s perspective before sharing yours but give them space and support to deal with whatever they may be going through
- Take care of yourself by seeking emotional support from elsewhere such as a trusted friend or family member, or by seeking sex therapy
- If you feel like you need to turn down your partner’s sexual advances, consider doing so in a reassuring way for the sake of the relationship
Experiencing sexual rejection does not feel good but it can be navigated with care and understanding for greater relationship satisfaction. If you are dealing with sexual rejection in your relationship, keep in mind that not connecting sexually with a partner is not the end of the world and not the only way you can bond with them.