'The First Time My Boyfriend Turned Me Down I Was Devastated' - How To Handle Sex Rejection In A LTR
The Debrief: Is 'not tonight darling' the most baffling and devastating thing you can hear in a LTR?
What do I love about being in a long term relationship? Mainly the deeply involved, intense, emotional chats we have about what we might have for dinner. Then there’s the spiritual connection you develop with the television, and the understanding that although you both only ever really want to watch The Simpsons and You’ve Been Framed, it’s good for your health to stick BBC4 on and watch the occasional Sigur Ros soundtracked documentary about the Scandinavian herring canning industry. There’s also the fact that you’ve got someone to support you if you want to get out of anything ('yeah, I’m really sorry but I don’t think I can come tonight. My boyfriend is coming down with…gout') and that if you do ever get off the sofa and go out, you might as well get a taxi home because there are two of you, which magically makes it half price. Basically, going out with someone for a long time is a celebration of sloth, which makes my next point less than surprising. The sex does drop off a bit.
You’d think that living with someone you love boning would be like moving into a house with a bottomless biscuit tin. Biscuits for breakfast, biscuits for tea and a quick dunk for elevenses. But when you know the biscuits aren’t going anywhere, after a few months or years, you calm down a bit. You’ll have a biscuit later, or tomorrow, when you’re not knackered or on deadline. But offering your beloved partner a biscuity binge and hearing them say ‘No thanks, you’re alright,’ can be baffling, and a little bit devastating. Why wouldn’t the love of your life want your delicious biscuits?
Sex and relationship coach Guy Winters explains ‘Sustaining a sexual spark is one of the hardest parts of a long term relationship. It can be done, but it requires communication and compromise. Couples can go without sex for a long time for all sorts of reasons – it isn’t ideal, but it does happen. The biggest problem is when the rejection is the elephant in the room, and it causes emotional distress. You can survive a sex drought if you’re open about what’s going on, but it will cause all kinds of problems if you don’t own and admit your feelings.
Talk, talk, talk
Helen*, 28 says ‘The first time my boyfriend turned me down I was devastated. It was our anniversary, I’d spent £100 I didn’t really have on Agent Provocateur knickers – we’d been together for three years and I felt that things were dropping off a bit, so I wanted to make a big gesture. I surprised him when he came home from work and he said ‘Look, I’m knackered, I’m not in the mood.’ I cried, and went on a very long walk.
‘When I came back I just wanted to go to bed, but he apologised – and we had a really emotional chat about what was going on. He was worried because he thought he’d gained some weight and wasn’t feeling sexy – I was so scared he wasn’t attracted to me any more, but he was worried that I wouldn’t want him. He was also having problems with his manager at work, and basically not feeling confident. It didn’t immediately get fixed, but knowing that it wasn’t my fault took the edge off. We’d been spending a lot of time in our own heads, and we needed to let things get to crisis point in order to open up and empathise with each other. To be honest, we’re still not having as much sex as I’d like, but he’s trying – and I’m trying to get my head around the fact that he’s got a lot going on and he isn’t rejecting me.'
Take the pressure off
Guy says that when one partner has been avoiding sex, it becomes SEX very quickly, which is scary – but you don’t need balls out penetrative doings to stay connected, you can just have a kiss and a cuddle. ‘If your partner is putting it off, tell them that you’re not expecting anything, but you miss feeling physically close to them.’ Annie*, 29 says ‘My girlfriend went right off sex when her Dad died – she really struggled with bereavement, and I did too – I wanted to support her by showing her we were close, and sex was the only way that I knew how. We didn’t have sex for six months before I snapped – I handled it so badly, but we were becoming increasingly distant. She told me she was frightened of moving forward, and she didn’t want to start kissing and then realise she couldn’t finish it. We just started holding each other again and taking it super slow, and it made me reassess the way I felt about sex, and about her. It wasn’t just about orgasms any more. Things are much better now – I’m so sad it had to get to that point but I feel like we’re stronger.’
Be honest about what you really want
Guy explains ‘In a long term relationship there will be months and maybe even years when your partner turns you down because they don’t feel sexual, or emotionally up to it. But if, in the long term, you feel like you want or need more sex than your partner, you have to be upfront about it. Basically, if you end up resenting them because you feel that they will never give you what you really want, you’re not being fair to them. If your sex drives are out of sync, you have to decide whether you can live with it because the other aspects of the relationship are good – or whether it’s time to look elsewhere. Rosie*, 26 reveals ‘I loved my boyfriend so much, but we had to break up –we were like brother and sister. We were together for four years and I changed so much. I became a lot more sexually confident and keen to try new things, and I ended up cheating on him. I felt terrible, but I needed to do it – because it showed me that we couldn’t go on as we were. Some of my friends thought I was making a huge mistake and my priorities were wrong. It’s been really hard, but it has made me realise that I need a strong, sexual connection when I’m in a relationship, and it wasn’t fair to my ex to keep pretending that I didn’t mind being turned down.’
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Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski
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