How do I get rid of feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and distance in my relationship that seem to occur when I'm not having sex?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, this will be long; but I'm posting anonymously and so I don't want to leave anything important out.
Periodically, I go through days of feeling emotional, vulnerable, bad about myself, and anxious about my relationship with my boyfriend. This seems to coincide with the periods when we don't have much sex, which are often periods when we're busy and stressed. These episodes interfere with the rest of my life and I'm really, really over them. We've been together for about a year, and I've experienced this for the last seven months or so. I've had comparable feelings in other relationships but never to this degree.
I have trouble focusing and become antsy and unproductive during these times, exacerbating my feelings of worthlessness. If I'm with him, I find myself wondering constantly when we can have sex and even unconsciously contriving situations to get us alone together (which when I look back on it and realize what I was doing, seems unfair to him). Even when I hang out with friends or work to distract myself, I find myself wondering when I can find an excuse to be with him again. I often get insomnia during these periods. I journal to try to get rid of my bad feelings, but it only seems to focus my mind more on (what I have identified) as the source of the problem--sex. I often have distinct, sorrowful feelings of being distant from my boyfriend when these periods hit, as this is difficult for me to talk to him about.
In the past I have tried to communicate during these periods--just to tell him I'm feeling anxious and down and that it seems connected to not having sex. I've done my best to be respectful and make it clear that he's not doing anything wrong and that rationally, I think our relationship is great. Still, I think it's hard for him not to feel inadequate and bad about himself if I bring up something like this. This has come up enough that I'm sick of the conversation about it (and it seems to make the problem worse) and I find myself avoiding talking to him about my feelings in these periods, or just telling him that I feel bad for no good reason and that it will go away eventually. Normally we have much more productive conversations, but this one just never works. Plus, our dry spells usually coincide with times when he has a lot of work, is stressed out and exhausted at the end of the day, and doesn't usually feel very sexy--so even when I do bring it up, it's hard to fix and I feel like it frustrates him to know about it.
I know the solution to having different sex drives is usually for one partner to masturbate more. In my case, I haven't felt satisfied with this solution. What I get from sex is an emotional connection just as much as a physical sensation, and masturbating to solve this emotional problem has made me feel even more lonely, pathetic, and distant from my boyfriend. Once when I was having insomnia and really going crazy, I masturbated in bed next to him--but, I'm ashamed to say, I did it without his consent while he was asleep (thinking I could just get the feeling over with without waking him up when he had to work early the next day). This really hurt him (and now that I'm not in that state of mind, I can certainly see why) and I don't want to repeat that.
I feel even worse about the situation because I am a woman, and the sensation of worthlessness and lack of value that I often get during these periods seems to indicate my own internalization of gender norms that force women to depend on male attention for self-worth. My boyfriend does lots of great things for me that aren't sex (compliments, massages, little favors, even the heteronormative option of flowers), but these periods of negative feelings and anxiety seem to keep recurring even though he does an awesome job making me feel loved and wanted.
My hormones feel like a teenager's when this happens and it makes me sort of disgusted with myself when I look at it from the outside. I feel not-myself, and even if the "dry spell" is only a week, it feels interminable. The only current fix is for me to ride it out until we eventually have sex. The only other time it goes away for long periods is when we're long-distance; when I know I can't see him, this pattern doesn't happen--perhaps significantly, it seems to be connected to being near him, but not having sex.
I keep searching for some etiology for these feelings that isn't "feeling sexually undesired makes you feel worthless" or "you physically need regular sex to function" because the implications of both kind of disturb me, but I'm not sure where else to look for the source of this problem. Part of me thinks the solution would simply be to explain all this to him and ask him to take an hour out of his day to have sex with me during these times, but that seems really demanding. Whenever I imagine this whole situation if we reversed genders, that (and many of the other behaviors, conscious or unconscious, that I have resorted to) seems even more unfair and kinda creepy.
So what should I do? How should I talk about this with my boyfriend, if at all? How should I try to make these crappy feelings go away without hurting anyone? Have I prematurely ruled out solutions that might actually be a good idea? Maybe the solution is just to do some exhausting exercise and/or take a cold shower?