Notes From The Mother Box Podcast

Before we get into the cycle of rejection, I just want to tell you about a podcast you can catch me on.

Notes From The Mother Box is a new podcast from midwife Alexis Stickland and doula Beccy Hands, bestselling authors of The Little Book Of Self Care For New Mums and The Little Book of Self Care For Mums-To-Be.

The latest episode features me, Catherine Topham Sly, speaking to Alexis and Beccy about the best ways to look after your relationship after you become parents. We talked about the identity shift parents go through, coping with tiredness, resentment, the mental load, effective communication and more.

You can find Notes From The Mother Box episode 3 wherever you get your podcasts, including on apple devices here or in your web browser here.

The Cycle of Rejection and How To Break It

To understand how to break the cycle of rejection, we need to first understand what’s behind it.

The happiest couples are ones who empathise with each other loads, always working to understand what their partners are experiencing.

And beyond that, they treat each other with compassion. So they go out of their way to help when they see each other having a hard time.

I know this sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy.

When we’re feeling hurt or misunderstood, our focus is naturally on our own pain and what we need to feel better.

So when both parties are feeling hurt and misunderstood, it gets harder and harder to find our empathy and compassion for each other.

The Cycle of Rejection

A big trigger for this can be the cycle of initiation and rejection that causes so much awkwardness and discomfort in relationships.

One partner (in heterosexual relationships most often – but not always – the man) initiates sex from a place of spontaneous desire for his partner, wanting to feel close to her the best way he knows how.

To her, if she’s exhausted by all the responsibilities she carries, with little time to herself, and hasn’t had a chance to connect with him emotionally first, this can feel insensitive.

So she rejects him. And often in a way which feels just as insensitive to him as his initiation felt to her.

Hurt, he withdraws. And this only makes it harder for them to get the emotional connection they need in order for her to feel sexual again.

But he does want to be close to her, so eventually he tries again, and the cycle begins again.

cycle of rejection

Gender and Rejection

Remember too that for most heterosexual couples this is happening in a context where:

  • She thinks of herself as having a lower libido than him, or even worries that there might be something wrong with her – because of how our culture positions spontaneous desire as the norm (because male = default)
  • It might not occur to him to reach for closeness with her in other ways – because that same culture has taught him that showing emotion = feminine/bad, and being sexual = masculine/good

And so we have a recipe for disconnection, hurt, and loneliness.

She needs him to see it from her point of view.

He needs her to see it from his.

But both are too hurt and frustrated to effectively empathise.

Breaking the Cycle of Rejection

Breaking the cycle of rejection is about getting back to a place of empathy for your partner.

When you understand the pattern that you find yourselves in, and what’s behind your behaviour and your partner’s, you can stop both the initiation and the rejection as coming off as insensitive. This will stop the withdrawal and emotional disconnection that keeps you feeling so different to, and separate from, one another.

Back in the Sack is my new workbook which will help you to understand and communicate what you need in order to break this cycle, so that you can both feel understood and get back to having regular, satisfying sex.

It will help you to understand what’s going in between you. And what you need to do to make it better.

None of us means to be insensitive to our partners. And that’s true whether it’s in how we initiate sex, or in how we refuse it.

With a bit more understanding and some communication pointers, you can break the cycle of rejection. Then you can find a way forwards where you’re both getting your needs met.

Back In The Sack is only available for the introductory rate until the end of this week, so download it now and make the change you need to break the frustrating and upsetting cycle of rejection today. 

Get In Touch

If you would like to join my waiting list for counselling (on your own or with a partner), book a relationships after kids coaching call, or find out more about online courses, you can contact me here, or hit reply if you’re reading this on email.