Do you feel guilty that you aren’t speaking your husband’s love language? That you don’t respond to his advances? Guilty when you realize that you haven’t had sex in months or years? Guilty you’re not the wife you think your husband should have?
I felt that weird mixture of guilt, anger, resentment, and frustration in my marriage for years. If you’ve ever felt like this, know that you are not alone and that you’re very normal. I’m going to cover three steps you can use to process these guilty feelings. That way, you can get unstuck and start to move forward.
#1: Understand what guilt and shame are all about.
We feel these sick feelings in our stomachs and ruminate over them, but it’s good to label and understand the definition of what’s really going on. Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, introduced the following definitions of guilt and shame to me. Guilt is the feeling that “I have done something wrong,” and is based on actions. Shame is the feeling that “I am wrong,” and makes us feel inherently broken.
A lot of women who feel guilty are actually feeling shame. There are many perfectly legitimate reasons why you may not be wanting and enjoying sex very much. There are cultural reasons, reasons from your past, reasons around miseducation, and living in a pornified world as a woman. Maybe you’re overworked, burnt out, and exhausted with no space to explore pleasurable feelings in your life. Maybe you’ve never been taught to connect with your body. The truth is, you have done nothing wrong and you are not wrong as a person.
#2: Ask yourself, “What do I need?”
Those guilty and shameful feelings can be paralyzing like there’s no way you can move forward. I spent years in that state, asking “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get it together? Why don’t I want sex like everyone else?” By asking, “What do I need?”, you can work towards a solution forward. Maybe it is more education about who you are, as a sexual being, and what cultural and systemic factors are affecting your desire. (That’s what we focus on in my eight-week program, Wanting It More). Maybe you need to set some boundaries so you’re not always feeling like you’re saying, “No.”Maybe you want to schedule sex (something I highly recommend), so you can design an experience that feels nourishing for you.
#3: Give yourself a HUGE dose of self-compassion.
You are doing your very best, as a woman and as a wife. When you give yourself permission to let go of the things that you’re feeling bad about, you give yourself space to ask yourself the question, “If I don’t want that, then what do I want instead?”Give yourself permission to never want sex again. Then, with a little bit of space away from those guilty feelings, you can explore your real needs.