How to Destroy Your Sex Life: Are You Sexually Punitive?

Are You Sexually Punitive?

Couples often attend therapy because of sex problems: one wants it (more) and the other one doesn’t. On the surface this may look like a stereotypical problem that the media often addresses in comical ways.

However, anyone who has ever been in this situation knows only too well that there is nothing comical about either believing that your partner only wants you for sex or having to endure constant rejection of physical and sexual intimacy.

The pain is real. What we make our partner’s advances or rejections mean hurts a lot. The answer is always compassion: towards ourselves and our partner. This is a difficult situation for both people in a relationship that can only be addressed with understanding, patience and compassion.

Whilst there are many different reasons for this situation arising, the one I’d like to address in this article is using sex as a tool of control.

Sex in Healthy Relationships

Sex in its purest form is a bonding tool in loving relationships. It is a sign of mutual closeness and affection. It affirms our unique status to each other and confirms the commitment we have made to one another.

Sex is also meant to communicate our desire and passion for each other. It serves to reassure, reconnect, excite and soothe both partners.

We both keep each other physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy by allowing each other to enjoy our bodies. It is a unique experience shared by two people who want to connect and engage in sensual and intimate ways.

Sex happens naturally when it comes from a place of mutual desire and commitment. We know that we and our relationship thrive when we put in these special times for emotional and physical connection so we prioritise this time with each other.

It is a natural expression and consequence of the closeness and intimacy we create throughout the day by being loving and respectful towards ourselves and each other.

The Misuse of Sex

Couples in therapy usually have relationships devoid of emotional safety or intimacy, which is why sexual intimacy has become an issue. We do not like to expose our naked bodies to those we perceive as a threat, those who view us with judgement or contempt, those who are critical of us.

Therapists will usually work with the couple on re-establishing emotional safety, connection and intimacy. However, the couple has to understand the reasons for their sexual game of push and pull.

One of the many reasons for sexual issues within a relationship is the misuse of sex as a bargaining tool.

“If you don’t behave the way I want you to behave, then I will not give you what you want.”

This is not loving or respectful. It might make sense in your own head but it does not come across as an affirming or thoughtful strategy.

We misuse sex whenever we withhold it as a form of punishment or manipulation. In this way, we do not behave responsibly or respectfully in our role as partner to another autonomous human being.

If we withhold sex whenever we are displeased with something our partner has said or done, we are changing sex as a tool for bonding, connection and intimacy into a tool for control, rejection and withdrawal. We make it into something it was never intended to be. We are entering a dangerous territory that is very difficult to re-emerge from.

Consequently, sex becomes associated with bargaining, power and control. It becomes a tool for manipulation.

Instead of expressing ourselves with respect, honesty, clarity and assertiveness, we withdraw, withhold and reject. Nothing good will come from that.

Relationships don’t develop or grow in this way. They suffocate, wither away and die.

The Lie of Sexual Entitlement

One thing needs to be made very clear: No one is entitled to sex. When we commit to someone or even get married to them, we do not automatically become entitled to having sex with them whenever we like.

It simply does not work that way. We have evolved past this point and are now treating each other with more respect than our ancestors ever have. We are in the midst of a relationship revolution: we are acutely aware of what doesn’t work and are searching for what does.

Sex is not a tool for coercion, manipulation, control or threat. It is an expression of love, desire, connection, fun and passion. We get to enjoy it when we contribute the right ingredients into our relationship.

The most natural human response to someone demanding something from us is to withdraw.

The second we feel coerced, put upon or controlled in some way, we retreat and take whatever bargaining tool there is off the table.

Withdrawing and retreating may be forms of evading the threat of being controlled. As this may be an issue of perception of past attachment trauma, a deeper and honest exploration of all underlying causes and reasons is required to inspire change.

Co-Creating an Ideal Sex Life

Ideally two romantic partners are sexually compatible and their desire for frequency and type of sex matches well. Naturally there will always be differences but in a healthy relationship both partners know how to negotiate. Therefore, they are able to co-create a vibrant and fulfilling sexual experience with and for each other.

There are no instructions for an ideal sex life. You and your partner get to decide this between the both of you. This is something that needs to be done with respect, sensitivity, consideration and courage.

Co-creating a fulfilling sex life can be one of the most fun, connecting and fulfilling missions in a relationship. Too many people shy away from it and endure less than satisfying or fulfilling sex lives within their relationships.

This is not something anyone has to put up with. We have way more agency than we are aware of. A great sex life is not something that simply happens to us or that we have to wait for. It is something we proactively co-create with the person we have agreed to be with.

The Best Way to Destroy Your Sexual Bond

You become more intimately acquainted and experienced with each other the more sexual experiences you share. When you are attuned to each other’s bodies, desires and responses, you learn more, feel more deeply and create a strong trusting bond that allows for vulnerability, intimacy, sexual exploration and adventure.

The best way to break this bond is to make it conditional upon your perception of your partner.

“I’ll give it to you, if you please me.”

No one wants to be treated like a child. No one wants to be disrespected like that. (Not even children!)

Using sex as a bargaining tool in your relationship will damage and eventually destroy your sexual bond. You taint the very ingredients a healthy sex life needs by introducing coercion, power, withholding and control.

This behaviour does not only negatively impact your partner, it damages your relationship and yourself too.

There are ways to resolve issues and there are ways that will make matters worse. Withholding sex to punish or manipulate your partner is always the latter.

This type of problem needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. It is something that needs to be explored and understood so we can change. This internal change will translate into healthier, more respectful and more loving behaviours.

Realising that what we have been doing has been harmful rather than helpful can evoke feels of guilt and shame. We do not stop there. We learn. There are new ways and new skills waiting to be learnt. And once we open up to learning and growing, the unhelpful tools of the past become distant memories.

Are You Sexually Punitive?

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Marlena Tillhon

Marlena is a progressive psychotherapist and relationship coach and passionate about helping people connect with their innate wellbeing.

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