“We swallow resentment drop by drop, until before we know it- we’re drowning”
Unresolved resentment we carry towards our partners can have a MAJOR impact on our desire, and yet it’s one we talk about very little.
Resentment closes down desire because it causes us to suppress how we feel. With so much bottled up negative emotion, it’s hard to feel loving, kind, wanting to be intimate or give pleasure to a partner. So our sex drives suffer.
I struggled BADLY with resentment and this was a huge factor in my low sex drive. That sense of “simmering resentment” ate away at me until I really wondered why on earth I was even with my partner if they were that terrible!
“Resentment is the persistent feeling that you’re being treated unfairly – not getting due respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward.”
So here’s what to do if you’re a bubbling little pot of resentment like I was, and how to revive your sex drive…
Q: Why do we feel resentment?
A: If we are unable to speak our minds
Not being able to express ourselves takes a few forms. Perhaps we don’t feel able to say how we feel when someone has hurt us. This might be because we’re unused to expressing ourselves, we fear conflict, or we’re worried about our partners response. Or there’s an inability to resolve a situation that has caused us pain.
Without this ability to fully express ourselves (or in cases where there is no resolution to conflict), we can feel frustrated, suffocated, undervalued or unheard.
Resentment is closely linked to our ability to express ourselves, to resolve conflict, and what Nancy Colier calls a “battle for empathy”.
She suggests couples fight over an inability to express empathy for another, to recognise the feelings of the other matter, because to do so would mean admitting they are to blame for their partners feelings.
As this resentment accumulates, it becomes harder and harder to express empathy for our partner because we’re carrying more and more unresolved hurt. Over time, the unheard hurt, pain and anger creates a gulf between you, in which becomes more difficult to reach out and see as partners as humans with their own thoughts, feelings, pain and sadness because we’re so consumed by our own.
What’s funny is that with resentment we want to hold on to it with a death grip, thinking that we can’t show that we are sad or angry about what is going on. We can’t appear weak. We can’t let him/her get off easy (no pun intended). We must win in this instance, and we do so by not forgetting what happened and certainly not losing the control.The problem here is, no one wins.- Cat Meyer
Resentment is then toxic to desire, because it means we don’t feel close, we don’t feel affection, we don’t feel attraction. And many women need to feel close to their partner to want to have sex with them.
So, how to stop resentment coming between you, and ultimately improve your sex drive?
1. Figure out what’s stopping you from speaking out
Are you able to say how you feel to your partner? If not, there could be many reasons why this is difficult.
It could come from within you- previous negative experiences around speaking out, a lack of assertiveness, worry, not feeling like your opinion matters or unclear about how to express yourself.
Or, it could be around how your partner responds to your concerns. If they don’t listen, disregard your feelings or you feel worried of their response should you raise an issue, this is really problematic for communication in the relationship.
In these cases learning more about communication, and setting boundaries in particular, is key. Whether you’d prefer to start with yourself, or whether working together on improving communication is needed, there are many resources out there that can help based on the issue you’ve identified.
Note: if you’re frightened of how your partner might respond if you raise an issue and/or its causing you to change your behaviour, this is a warning sign of abuse.
2. Is it about managing your expectations?
As much as we’d like them to be, our partners are not psychic. So being silent, huffy, mardy or generally annoyed without telling them why is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
We need to let them know what’s on our mind, otherwise we run the risk of martyring ourselves and being stuck in patterns of behaviour that don’t change.
3. Don’t let it brew
Although a cup of tea is best brewed, an argument isn’t. If something has upset or angered you, try and express it in the moment as well as you can.
Resentment comes from bottling up our emotions, so expressing ourselves little and often can stop us from exploding, or imploding and living with a sense of lingering resentment.
Exercises like this “weekly CEO meeting” can be really useful for providing spaces where any saved up emotion can be released, avoiding an emotional build up and improving trust and communication at the same time.
Asserting yourself in your relationship when you’re not used to it isn’t going to happen over night. Use small opportunities to practise standing up for yourself or speaking out, especially ones that you envisage won’t be particularly emotive.
The more you gain confidence through small wins, the better you’ll be when it comes to what you really care about.
Often, practising how to express yourself is called “being authentic”. You can read more about authenticity and the importance of being you for both your relationship AND your sex drive here.
5. Be proud of who you are
Understanding more about yourself and knowing that for you, feeling close before you have sex is important. Read this article on what to do if you want to feel close before you have sex and your partner needs sex to feel close to know more.
Is resentment an issue within your relationship? How do you think it affects your sex drive?
P.S. This article explains the difference between anger and resentment, which are often confused.