It was an overheard conversation at the nail salon that got me thinking about how so many spouses treat sex in marriage as a commodity rather than an act of love.
In the conversation I overheard, at first, I thought they were talking about their children and allowances.
One woman told another that unless Johnny did all his chores, there was no way he was getting “it.” When her friend responded that she was going to reward her Gary with a blow job if he finally cleaned out the garage, I caught on that it wasn’t their children they were speaking of, but their husbands.
They were followers of an age-old set of rules — believing that the person in control of sex is the one with the most power in the relationship — withhold sex as punishment and use sex as a reward, for good behavior. The problem with that approach is … sex is one of the ways spouses show love.
In monogamous relationships, within the marriage is the ONLY place your partner receives any physical affection or sexual activity. Withholding sex as a form of punishment often sends the signal to your partner that he’d be better off seeking sex elsewhere.
We connect with our partners through sexual intercourse, in a way we don’t connect in other relationships. As such, sex is sacred.
While, partners may not share the exact same sex drive, claiming you’re “not in the mood” because you’re trying to punish your partner (rather than because you truly are tired, or not feeling well) is equal to leveraging sex as a weapon.
Sure, there are nights when you feel angry about something and prefer to forego lovemaking, but to withhold it continually until you deem your partner has been a “good boy” is tantamount to emotional blackmail.
Withholding sex causes resentment, alienates your partner, makes him feel less loving and less valuable, and erodes the trust of marriage.
However, looking at the flip side, sex as a commodity leads to the reward system.
When a couple is happy and want to bond with their significant other, time between the sheets is a great way to make their closeness grow. Sex is a way that partners give to each other while practicing the art of receiving, as well. Time together produces all kinds of wonderful oxytocin, right?
However, when sex is part of a “be a good boy” reward system in a marriage, then it begins to shift sex away from being a way a couple expresses happiness and love and becomes a way a spouse doles out approval.
Instead of being a shared experience as a couple, reward-sex turns lovemaking into something one-sided. Sexual intimacy in marriage isn’t just about intercourse, but also about the sensual and spiritual aspects of sex, as well. When it’s only doled out as a reward, sex in the marriage feels more about the mechanics.
True, we may choose to reward our children with allowances and our dogs with treats, but using sex as a reward in the marriage likens your relationship to that of a caregiver, not a beloved partner.
There’s a great deal of power in sex, and being the person who solely says “yes” or “no” creates a troubling power imbalance.
Are you using that power for the good of everyone involved, including your own physical and mental health? Or are you using sex to keep your partner in line — to punish or reward them for meeting your expectations? (Often, expectations never even mentioned or discussed.)
I would never tell you that you “owe” your partner sex when you truly don’t want it, as well. I simply ask you to ponder whether you use sex as an unhealthy means of control in your relationship (even if you didn’t realize it until now).
If you choose to use sex as a commodity — either withholding sex as a way to “punish” your partner or using sex as a way to reward your partner for “good” behavior — you’re breaking your marital bond and diminishing intimacy and trust. Sex as a commodity will destroy your relationship.
Is using sex as a commodity turning your role in marriage into one of a caregiver or a child? Would you prefer to see your marriage as a partnership?
What if you experimented for the next 30 days with sex? What if you saw possibilities and intimacy any time your partner makes advances of any sort? What if you initiated sex on occasion?
How much stronger — and happier — could your marriage be if sex was an act of love instead of as a transaction?