Posted by fxckfeelings on October 19, 2015Share This Post
The anger people feel when a relationship makes them feel helpless, whether it’s from disappointment or abuse, is often so painful letting the feels out seems like the only form of relief. Unfortunately, angrily releasing those feelings doesn’t make them go away; instead, it gives them life outside of your head, where they can do even more damage. So don’t vent anger before first thinking carefully about the impact it’s likely to have on relationships you may continue to need and/or value. Then, if you decide it’s worth taking a stand, compose a positive way to negotiate for what you want (elaborated upon later this week). The relief won’t be as immediate, but the possible fall-out won’t make the pain worse.
I guess you’d tell me I shouldn’t focus on the sexlessness of my nine years of marriage and instead focus on the positive experiences we have had and learn to keep my mouth shut—not release the “verbal farts” you talk about—but if letting people get away with mistreating me is what you think I’m supposed to do, then I’d rather have chronic verbal gas. I tell my friends when they are fake and shallow, my husband that our sexless marriage is emotionally corrosive and my parents that I will despise them for physically abusing me when I was a child. In other words, I tell the truth, but according to you, I should “man up” and move on and keep my feelings to myself. I don’t see how that’s better or fair. My goal is to see your point.
If your marriage turns out to be sexless, you’ve been the victim of child abuse, or you’ve generally had and unlucky and unhappy life, then you certainly have the right to feelings of resentment. There’s no benefit from telling yourself that you should feel good about experiencing so many bad things.
On the other hand, as you’ve already guessed, we wouldn’t tell you to express those angry feelings unless they can do you some good in the long run, and, usually, they can’t. As we say in our fart metaphor, beyond the immediate relief, venting ugly feelings then poisons the air for you and everyone around you.
So, while some say venting “clears the air,” we obviously disagree. If anything, talking about resentful feelings is likely to intensify your helplessness and feelings of victimhood, while strengthening your bond with the people you feel mistreated by.
In other words, telling off your abuser might be cathartic, but it’s far healthier in the long run to create boundaries that keep your abuser out of earshot and allow you the opportunity to build a life independent of their influence.
Before venting about your marital sexual disappointment, take time by yourself to give thought to what you want a marriage for. Then list the ways your marriage meets, or does not meet, the marital job description you would create for any husband. In addition to sex, it should include his ability to contribute financially, help out in emergencies, do his share of the work, parent responsibly, and be a friend.
Then look over your list and figure out, resentment aside, whether you’re better off with him or without him. I assume there are some good things holding your marriage together, and if so, you’ll do better approaching the sexual issue positively than by expressing negative emotion, which is notorious for stopping sex dead in its tracks. Get a therapist/coach to help you frame your needs positively and see whether you can make progress. Even if there’s none, at least you’ll know you’ve done your best.
It’s not fair that your husband can’t respond sexually, but don’t let resentment poison the rest of your marriage. If he’s making an effort in other ways, take that effort as evidence of caring. In any case, if letting your husband know how you really feel was going to have any positive outcome, it would have happened by now; since it seems to do nothing, or is perhaps making things worse, it’s time to figure out whether you want to make things better with him or without him.
One of the many reasons that marriage takes work is that there’s always something that hurts that you’re better off shutting up about. If your marriage really doesn’t have value, it’s your job to stop it.
Otherwise, respect what you’ve done to conserve that value, and respect your own goals and opinions—positive or negative—enough to keep them to yourself.
“I feel rejected and cheated when my husband does nothing to satisfy my sexual needs, but I will evaluate his contribution by all my standards and not just my sexual frustration. I will then do what’s best, without allowing complaining to make me passive and negative.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname