Sleeping on the Couch? When Sex becomes a Punishment

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Anger and resentment in marriage and relationships are two of the biggest issues that lead to breakdowns, burn-outs and break-ups.  In sex, these two pair together and violate intimacy.

Sex as a punishment can manifest in multiple ways but the two that come to the forefront more than any are in the form of withholding sex and what’s termed “rough sex” or “grudge sex.”

Withholding sex is an old form of punishment.  It is the old “he or she can sleep on the couch” reflex to a fight or disagreement.  Of course, when we’re mad at our partner, the last thing we feel like doing is being intimate with them.  For women, who are emotional creatures, the physical is inspired by the emotional so if she’s feeling anger, a woman is not going to want sex.  Likewise, the mistake men make is that if there’s sex after a disagreement, a man will feel like “everything’s okay.”

For these reasons, sexual detachment could help a relationship.  Keeping sex as a separate level could keep a baseline and set a foundation for togetherness. 

Ladies, you’re husband ticked you off.  But it’s not a super-bad issue so let lovemaking be healthy and fulfilling.  Gentlemen, you’re wife is mad.  But she’s making love to you.  But, she’s still mad on a certain level, you’ll still need to address the other issue later.

What?  It’s a different way of viewing love-making in relationships.  Think of it this way.  Couples rely on each other.   When one spouse is angry at another, they don’t say “Screw it, we’re not paying the rent this month.  There are levels of a couples’ communication and relationship that are not questioned even when they’re not agreeing.  Sex should be one of them.  When we begin to “hold out” we show one another that sex is a power play rather than a loving display of connection.  When we use the sexual cold-shoulder to punish the other person in addition to our verbal cold-shoulder, we reduce sex rather than respect it.

Now, if the issue between the two of you is huge (breaking of trust, infidelity, etc) than being intimate regardless may prove difficult and impossible.  However, in most of our day-to-day scraps, sex needn’t suffer or be a tool of revenge.

“Rough sex” or “grudge sex” can be trickier to determine.  Our levels of physical zeal varies couple to couple and moment to moment.  However, some may use the bedroom to get back at the other person.

A spouse may find themselves on top of their partner after every argument they have.  They dominate the other sexually and may gyrate or thrust to the point that their partner is sore afterwards. 

In both of these scenarios, both are loving couples however, they have taken sex and used it as “grudge sex” and as a punishment.  Even though both partners are consenting and there is no aspect of being forced, there is a highly unhealthy element here as sex is not about pleasing both parties but about anger and resentment. 

How do we get past using sex as punishment?  We respect it.  We stop using its lack as a way to get back at the one we love.  We stop using aggression as a way to dominate the one we find special.

As sex can be a very complicated situation given personal pasts and pains, if there continue to be issues of sex as punishment, make sure you contact your nearest counselor and therapist.


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