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resentment in relationships

How to Reignite Intimacy After Resentment in Relationships

It had been months since we’d had sex. 3 to be exact. I always swore we’d never be that couple. That I would never allow days to become weeks and weeks to become months without attempting to jump his bones if he wasn’t trying to get in my panties. He wasn’t. I wasn’t. I had no interest in seeing him naked or giving him a Happy Ending. We were in a sexless funk, living under the darkest cloud due to resentment.

I resented him for not supporting my dreams of creative entrepreneurship and for “forcing” me to #adult (ie. get a full-time job). He resented me for being choosy about employment (I didn’t want to settle for a career that I wasn’t passionate about) and for placing the financial burden of building a stable foundation for our family on his shoulders. He was right; inadvertently, while being laser-focused on my career as a writer, radio show host, and entrepreneur, I abandoned all practicality. Pragmatism has never been my strong suit. I was also right; he met me and decided to commit to me as a freelance writer, a self-published author, and a radio show host. I never hid who I was. 

Even worse? We weren’t expressing our feelings of anger, pain, and rejection. And, as they say, communication is key. Especially when there is resentment in relationships.

Jesse Zimmerman, Certified Sex Therapist and Author of Sex Without Stressemphasizes the importance of staying open in order to maintain intimacy and reignite sex during troubled times. “Intimacy is about letting yourself be seen and known, not just when things are good and not just the parts of you that you like,” Zimmerman explains, “it’s incredibly easy to lose emotional intimacy when a couple isn’t getting along.” In this case, neither party wants “to reveal negative thoughts and feelings, and they don’t know how to have difficult conversations during conflict.” That’s when couples who are plagued with resentment withdraw and hide their feelings.

Shutting down is the worst thing a couple can do. As difficult as it is to open up in moments of relationship strife, you must “lean into your partner and share the bad with the good as it helps maintain an intimate connection.” If you don’t, you’ll become an atypical couple who rarely has sex, which, according to a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, happens more often than we think. The study shares that Americans who are married or living together are having less sex now than in past years. You can, however, turn it around and become that intimate couple that’s banging and hollering from pleasure once again. Zimmerman suggests the following steps to reignite intimacy when there is resentment in relationships.

Talk honestly about what’s going on and how it feels.

And that’s without blaming your partner. “Blame and criticism are likely to evoke defensiveness, not a constructive engagement with the issues,” Zimmerman says. Plus, it takes two to tango; both parties have contributed to the disconnect and distance in the relationship. You should each “approach this with the understanding that the situation has been co-created, and that each person should be looking at their own individual accountability.” 

Maintain your sexy and find your worth. 

I know how it feels to feel undesirable. It worsens when your partner doesn’t look at you with hungry eyes or doesn’t touch you anymore. But, you can’t depend on “the reaction of others to create your sense of value and attraction,” Zimmerman states. “We take a partner’s sexual interest as a statement about our sexiness, and likewise we take a partner’s lack of interest personally, too.” Instead of looking for outside validation, whether it’s cheating or flirting with someone other than your partner, Zimmerman advises to “sever the connection between your feelings of worth and the reflection you get from the outside.” Instead, practice self-care, do things that make you feel like the sexy, attractive woman that you are, and find your worth outside of your sexuality. 

Know the difference between thoughts and feelings.

This is crucial in order to stop the blame game and really understand how you and your partner feels and perceives the issues in your relationship and your lagging sex life. Zimmerman gives this example on how to differentiate between thoughts and feelings: 

“You might say, ‘I feel like you don’t value the contribution I make to the family,’ but this is not a feeling statement. You probably feel sad and resentful, but you think your partner does not appreciate you and you think they don’t value what you do. This distinction defuses the tension because acknowledging that you have added your own meaning to the feelings underscores that they are just your thoughts; they are not absolute or even necessarily correct.”

Do you see how we can easily create a reality based on thoughts, feelings, and our own personal baggage? Practice this to better your communication and, in turn, reignite sex when there is resentment in relationships.  

“I” instead of ‘you.” 

This one is tough, I know. It isn’t easy to not point fingers when you feel like your partner has wronged you, hurt you, or doesn’t see, validate or understand your feelings. But, using “I” statements is the best way to express how you feel without labeling or judging your significant other, and vice versa. This is difficult to do mostly because we often go into conversations with our partners trying to prove them wrong. Just remember, “your feelings are valid because you are having them, but that doesn’t mean they’re accurate,” Zimmerman reasons. “Recognize and own that you are making meaning out of events; this keeps your conversation in the realm of exploring what’s happening for you instead of attacking your partner.”

Still having a difficult time using “I” statements? Zimmerman gives this example to guide you: 

“Let’s say you’re feeling like your partner doesn’t value your contributions to the family. A better way to say that might be: ‘I realize I feel sad and resentful about how much I think I do for the family. I have this story that you don’t even notice all my effort. Or that you don’t care or value the ways I contribute. This belief keeps me distant from you, and I can tell it’s really in the way of our relationship. Will you explore with me what I’m thinking and feeling so we can move it out of the way?’” 

If you lead the conversation in this manner, you’ll open the door to communicating with your partner in a way that is as honest as it is vulnerable, which is needed when there is resentment in relationships.

Take accountability.

This is another challenge for most, however, accepting your part in it when there is resentment in relationships is essential to moving forward. Otherwise, you paint yourself the victim and never truly forgive. 

Admit your part in all of this. Acknowledge the role that you play in your relationship and question the root of said role and how it benefits and/or hurts you, your partner and your union. 

Here’s another example by Zimmerman on how to communicate while taking accountability, using the same example of not feelings appreciated: 

“‘I know I have a part of me that is a martyr. I do a lot around the house that you don’t even expect. I take more on that I can handle, and I struggle to ask for help. Sometimes, I don’t even tell you I’ve done something. I wait for you to notice, and then I end up getting resentful when you don’t. I have been too afraid to bring this up and address it, and that’s on me. Going forward, I am not going to secretly pick up the slack, and I am going to talk to you to work out a more equitable way to share the responsibilities.’”

This reveals you can admit your faults and it sets the stage for your partner to reciprocate. 

When there is resentment in relationships, there are many more ways to communicate effectively to get to the root of the resentment and, therefore, reignite intimacy and sex in your relationship. You can find more sex advice and tips in Jesse Zimmerman’s book, Sex Without Stress. You should also take some time to reflect on what type of relationship you truly desire and what your sexual needs are if they are yet to be met. And after all is aired out, if you are not yet ready to get it on with your significant other, go back to basics. Date each other, hold hands, and hug every day, even if you don’t always mean it or desire to. Reignite that spark of love and sex in simple ways every day so that blue skies reign again.

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