#4: Letting blame and guilt slay your sex life (not in a good way)
The fourth mistake couples make when it comes to sex involves blaming or guilting the other person. Blaming them for any sexual issues, as if blame and guilt will inspire their partner to “fix” it. It never happens that way. Blame and guilt just push you further apart, sometimes to the point of no-repair.
Blame and guilt will kill your sex life. Granted, your sex life might already be laid out on the ground wounded. But if you toss a handful of blame at your partner about how it got hurt, or try to guilt them into responsibility for it, you’ll just slay it altogether.
It’s rare that a couple will recover from an ongoing pattern of blame/guilt about sex without some conscious effort. Blame and guilt are no way to get someone to want sex with you. And it won’t feel good when you actually do try.
Typically the dynamic goes like this:
Partner A wants more sex and is dissatisfied about the frequency and/or quality of their sexual life. > Partner B doesn’t care as much about sex or want sex the way Partner A does. Then Partner B is content to avoid the subject all together.
Partner A doesn’t like Partner B’s avoidance and blames them for checking out. For not giving them what they want sexually or for not showing up for the sexual relationship. > That blame might make Partner B feel guilty or bad. But they don’t know what to do because there is a reason they don’t want sex. So they just go into further avoidance. This tends to create a split and pulls the couple apart, as resentments build under the surface.
: Eventually they stop talking about it at all and they both get used to this “new normal” and accept it. No one is able to fix it. And either they just grow further and further apart until they break up or one person makes the bold move of asking for help. Then they go to couples counseling, a workshop or some place where they can get some real support.
: The third space is to just stay in a platonic relationship in favor of all the other things they like about the relationship and give up on sex altogether. Many people do make that choice, even if they don’t think it was a choice. But make no mistake; if you choose not to deal with your sexual issues, you are making a choice about them.
Understanding How Blame and Guilt Impact Your Sex Life
Understanding that creating a shaming space around sex is absolutely counter-productive and can be hurtful is number one. We receive enough shaming about sex in our culture. The last place we need to hear that is from our partner. Turning that shame outward into blaming our partner and having them feel bad for our unfulfilling sex life helps no one.
Many of us have tremendous guilt about sex, our bodies, our desires or our sexual past. And that guilt only creates a chasm between us and our true sexual self. Then it will certainly create a similar chasm in our relationship if we do not deal with it and make peace within ourselves.
If guilt is weighing on you, ask yourself: What do I feel guilty for? Where did that guilt come from? Did I learn it from religious ideals that don’t support me to be who I truly am sexually? Did my family guilt me? Do I have an internal dialogue of guilty, shameful feelings going on inside?
Working on this within yourself and, if you have one, with a therapist or coach is an essential first step.
Then showing up differently with your partner is important. Stop blaming them. Stop shaming them. Don’t try to guilt them into doing what you want, like accepting your sexual avoidance or having sex they don’t want to have.
How to Shift Into a New Approach
When researchers look more closely at the threats that get activated for both sexual and nonsexual conflict communication, they found that threat to self, threat to partner, and threat to relationship were key. They found that perceiving a threat to the self “is activated to a greater degree during sexual conflict communication compared to nonsexual conflict communication.”
This provides a plausible explanation for why romantic partners tend to avoid sexual communication. If they feel their sense of self and well-being will be annihilated, they are going to avoid talking about sex. They’ll just hobble forward trying to play along. And that might include passing blame and feeling guilt or projecting guilty feelings onto a partner. Or having sex they don’t want to have just to keep the peace and avoid conflict.
But we know that talking about sex can create more intimacy in the relationship, as well as better sex. Acknowledging that the stakes feel high in talking about sex is a key step towards being able to honestly communicate about sex with your beloved.
A 2018 article on “The Role of Sexual Communication in Couples’ Sexual Outcomes” found that “greater amounts of sexual communication were associated with increased orgasm frequency in women and greater relationship and sexual satisfaction in both sexes.” It is no mystery that learning how to communicate about your sexual life is one of the best things you can do to make it satisfying and fulfilling.
Start talking about sex better
As a couple, you’ve got to get underneath what is happening outside. Your guilt, shame and blame patterns indicate there is a bigger picture that needs to be looked at. There is something real in the way of your sexual life–and it could be so many things. Being curious and starting to ask the right questions will help you see it and address it.
Go back to the set of questions for couples in Part 1 of this article and use them to start a new dialogue free from shame, blame and guilt. Open up your heart to the pain or inner conflict your partner may be feeling about sex. Be willing to show up with them to heal and break free of what is holding them–and you–back.
This is foundational. You get to work on how to communicate effectively so that your default modus operandi ceases to be blame and guilt when it comes to sex. Instead, make it open dialogue, regular sexual check-ins, curiosity, creativity and goodwill.
Bottom line: blame and guilt won’t help your cause. Communication, permission giving, honesty, mutual hard work and caring is what will get you out of the no-sex-low-sex rut. Both partners have to want to change it. One person can only go so far if the other isn’t engaged with them. You get to play on the same team so you can find the sexual win-win.
We were put on this planet to live a pleasurable life, to truly experience the depth of pleasure that our bodies – and our psyches – are capable of. We wouldn’t have been given all of our senses if we weren’t really here to experience them. Is this something that you really want to forgo in this lifetime? Or, is it something that you value, and will work to make sure you have?
If you want to have it with your partner, there is much fertile ground on which to plant a new garden. It starts with better communication and presence to what is really going on.
If you’re struggling with blame and guilt in your relationship and find it difficult to deal with on your own, you are invited to Bringing Sexy Back. In this 6-session virtual masterclass you will break through communication and internal issues to revitalize the spark in your relationship with guided exercises, examples and homeplay you can do together to give your sexual relationship the makeover it needs.