Paul Byerly over at The XY Code raised some ire with a recent blog post in which he suggested that a woman can’t fully understand what it’s like for a man to be sexually rejected. He postulates that even if she’s the higher-drive partner being rejected by her lower-drive husband, a woman’s experience will still be different than a man in a similar situation. He had a few heated comments from women who understood him to be saying that their pain was somehow ‘less than’ a man’s.
Byerly does a great job describing how a man feels when he is sexually rejected. He talks about:
- Physical discomfort from unsatisfied sexual desire
- Mental distraction from constant thoughts about sex
- Emotional reactions of anger and resentment toward the partner who rejects you
- Feelings of being unloved by your partner
- Feelings of doubt and temptation
This is an interesting topic to me because I work with both men and women who aren’t getting the sex they want in their marriage, some of them for years or even decades at a time. Are their experiences fundamentally different?
While Byerly is right that in general, healthy men have a stronger spontaneous sex drive than women, generalities don’t matter much when you desperately want sex with your partner only to get shut down night after night. I wrote about that here.
A woman feels that same throbbing need as she lies awake, aroused and wanting next to her sleeping husband, needing something to relieve the gnawing feeling of emptiness. Sometimes she lies in bed running her hands down her own body just to remind herself that she’s not invisible, that she still exists. The longing simply to be touched feels unbearable.
She walks around in a haze of arousal, trying to keep her mind on her job and doing her best not to respond to that cute guy in the next cubicle who keeps flirting with her. She tears up when she walks through the lingerie department at Macy’s because she knows that her husband wouldn’t bother to look up from the TV even if she were stark naked.
She has constant feelings of anger, hurt and resentment simmering just below the surface at her husband’s constant sexual rejection. Things he says reverberate in her mind, “Honey, why can’t you be happy with sex every three weeks? What’s wrong with you that you’re such a nymphomaniac? I think you need help!” Periodically, she blows up at him and threatens to leave, but she can’t bring herself to break up her family. She wanders through the house at night looking at her children’s sleeping faces, reminding herself of why she stays.
She reads erotica and has sex with herself, which gives a certain physical relief, but really just leaves her feeling emptier and sadder than before. There aren’t enough batteries in the world to make up for a husband who doesn’t want you. She feels cheated out of the marriage she thought she was getting and wonders what she did wrong to cause all this. She feels hopeless to change things and wonders how she will live the rest of her life like this.
Can a woman be ‘hard up’ in the same way as a man? I dunno. How could you ever quantify it?
The fact is there’s enough pain to go around.
What I find is that both men and women make the same mistakes in trying to get the sex they want. They talk, talk, talk to their partner. They pout, cry, whine, and yell.
None of that works.
In fact, it makes things worse. It doesn’t help to tell the lower-drive partner how much you hurt. You can’t negotiate desire.
The solution is to figure out the blockage, and start fixing things. Those solutions look different for men and women, but they always involve actions, not words.
There are solutions. You just have to find them.