Ask Jake

Why do I keep apologizing after sex?

Two men in bed, one looking sad and the other comforting him.

Hi Jake,

Every time I have sex with someone, I feel the need to apologize to them after the fact. I don’t know why but I get this tremendous sense of guilt. The guilt is not about being gay. It’s more about feeling like I should’ve done a better job at pleasing my partner, and at enjoying myself. The weird thing is I’ve never had anyone say they weren’t satisfied. I’ve actually had a lot of guys want to hook up with me more than once. So, I have no evidence to support my feelings that I’ve done something to disappoint them. So why do I always feel this way? And how do I overcome it?

Sorry Not Sorry

Dear Sorry Not Sorry,

My guess is that the immediate need to apologize when it’s not really warranted shows up in more than one area of your life, not just after sex. In fact, it may even be that as far back as you can remember, you can recall feeling like you are somehow disappointing others.

If you think back to situations involving school, work, friendships, and family, does this seem like a pattern? The automatic, and sometimes even unconscious, compulsion to apologize can stem from a deep-rooted place of internalized shame or unworthiness. It serves a codependent coping strategy, to make sure people like us when we assume they may not, as well as to avoid conflict.

You’ve identified that there’s actually no real evidence to support the fact that you’re not good in bed, and in fact, there’s even evidence to support the contrary. Therefore, this guilty feeling that you’re not “good enough” is clearly not based in rational thought. It comes from something much deeper.

Although you mention that is not related to being gay, I do wonder if growing up gay in a heterosexist and often homophobic society plays a part in this. Many times, when we grow up feeling like we’re somehow “less than” just for being who we are, we develop a low sense of self-worth.

When you apologize to someone, what you’re essentially saying is, “I know I’m not enough, and you deserve better than me.” None of that is actually true, but is a result of internalized messages you’ve absorbed over the years, leading to low self-esteem or shame.

Even if we were accepted fairly quickly in our families, the early childhood imprints of feeling like we are “not acceptable” on the playground, at school, etc. can work their way into our psyches. Therapy is a great place to unravel these unconscious messages.

Apologizing too often can also be a way to avoid conflict. If you worry that someone might be upset or disappointed with you, when you apologize you deflate the possibility of that person expressing that disappointment, and thus avoid conflict.

As queer people, we are often especially attuned to whether or not people like us or not, because when we are closeted and hiding our true self, we want to fit in even more so that we are not “exposed” for being different. We do what we can to be liked, and slide under the radar. Even though you’re out now, and it’s not about being ‘found out’, we can have an ingrained need to make everyone around us accept and like us, as a habit of survival.

Besides simply growing up gay in a heterosexist world, shame can be compounded when we don’t have positive, nurturing, and accepting attachment figures in our life that love us unconditionally. Although I’m not sure what your history is, it could be very meaningful to talk through your childhood with a therapist and unpack what might have contributed to this shame. The goal isn’t to villainize anyone, or to feel bad about yourself. The hope is that by shining a light on all this, you can begin to understand yourself better, and let go of the stories you tell yourself about your unworthiness.

Releasing shame and a feeling of being “not enough” takes time and work. However, what I might suggest first is that you consciously try to take a pause before you apologize to anyone. You may feel a strong desire, but I encourage you to practice tolerating that feeling and not reacting to it. Act “as if” you are confident and not sorry, and see how that feels. Eventually, your feelings will catch up to the action.

The next time you have sex, whether or not you think you were good or bad, try not to put a judgment on it. Know that this feeling of “lack” comes from something deeper, and you’re working to release that. If the words “I’m sorry” work their way to your tongue after a roll in the hay, try saying something like “You’re welcome” instead, with a wink and a smile. After all, A thanks, not a sense of guilt, is what you deserve.

Struggling with your own issue? Reach out to LGBTQ Therapy Space to schedule a free video consultation with an LGBTQ clinician in your state who fully and authentically understands you. And don’t forget to follow us on social for LGBTQ mental health tips, and more!

Jake Myers the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space , the first LGBTQ-owned and operated national platform for teletherapy. He is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both CA and FL, with an online private practice of his own based in SoCal.

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