I know this woman who is no great beauty, is not wading in mounds of cash nor does she possess an intellect that would garner her a Nobel peace prize yet she has a profound and beguiling affect over men who flock to her as though she were a sorceress. Short of casting some sort of black magic spell over men- I can only surmise from the chatter which surrounds her is that she uses her feminine wiles to entrance men. And, unfortunately, she has been known to have severed many familial relationships and to have been the catalyst for several divorce proceedings. Yet I’ll be honest, her use of sex as a weapon- and as a means to trap and wield power over a man is a trait I find simultaneously both fascinating and abhorrent.
Perhaps because I’ve never seen sex with my husband as anything but an act of my physical love for him– and something I would never withhold or engage in for any other reason but to express that love– the thought of using it as a punishment or as a reward has not crossed my mind. Although truth be told- I have on occasion said to him, after a most amorous evening, you owe me. Of course his “payment” is often in the form of him walking our dog or emptying a dishwasher. But truly using sex as a tool- whether consciously or not is probably something many of us women do to some extent in our relationships.
And according to Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women,(Jossey-Bass, 2009) when you are angry, upset or sad, it may be difficult to think about hopping into bed with your partner, and it’s understandable why at certain times, some emotional work may need to be done before sexual healing can take place. But when individuals use sex as a form of behavior management, it can damage a relationship.
Here are 3 reasons why sex as punishment is not good:
1) sexual relationship is a necessary part of every marriage. There’s no other place your partner can get sex except with you, so to be withholding sex as punishment may unconsciously give the message that he or she would be better off getting sex elsewhere, and it could lead to affairs.
2)Two individuals in a marriage will always have different needs at different times, and part of the challenge of a happy marriage is to negotiate getting needs met. But withholding sex isn’t negotiating, it’s blackmail, and your partner is likely to feel manipulated. Over time, that kind of withholding until conditions are met stirs resentment and alienation in your partner.
3) Sex is a way of showing love; if you don’t believe it, think back to when you and your partner first started getting it on. Married partners should always be looking for ways to demonstrate affection, but when sex is withheld as punishment, it gives the opposite message. Like it or not, withholding sex may make your partner may feel less love from you, and, contrary to what you’d like to see, he or she may give you less love in return.
On the flip side Dr. Scott adds since sex is naturally rewarding, you would think that experts would recommend using it as a means to reinforce behavior that you want to see.However, it’s not a good idea to use sex as a reward and here’s why:
1) Having sex when positive feelings are emerging from the relationship helps improve couples bonding, but when one person feels he or she can share sex only when good deeds are performed, then it may gradually increase the stress in the relationship, and shift sex from an expression of love to an expression of approval.
2) Reward sex converts love making into a one-sided experience, with one person giving sex rather than two people sharing it; and it weakens the mutuality of sexual liaison and actually can begin to weaken the enjoyment of sex.
3) Using sex as a reward lessens the sensual and spiritual aspects of sexuality, and converts it into a physical act. Sexual intimacy requires more than just having intercourse, it requires two individuals sharing a connection.
Bottom line: Sex is a healthy part of marriage, and even when one person or the other doesn’t put it high on his or her to do list, it is not something that should be overlooked or passed over in marriage. When couples make sex a normal part of their lives, they report being happier with each other in every way, inside and outside the bedroom.
So have you used sex as a punishment/reward in your marriage?