Maintenance Sex: Is It Really Good for Your Relationship?

I have a friend whose husband said “thank you” after they had sex. He knew she was just doing it because she felt it was her duty. And he was grateful, but not particularly happy about it. He felt she was doing him a big favor and now he was beholden to her—a message she may or may not have deliberately intended. She felt she had sex with him, and fulfilled her obligation, so what more did he want? It was just one more item she could check off her “to-do” list.

Some people call this Maintenance Sex. As in, having sex to maintain your marriage or relationship and keep it on an even keel. But at what cost?

Let’s face it. This is usually thought of as a female thing. That is, women are the ones who provide maintenance sex. It could just as easily be a man who makes the effort to have sex for his partner when he doesn’t feel like it. No two people are going to have the exact same sex drive. Someone’s going to want to have sex more than the other, and a little give and take by both partners is a good thing. You take care of each other.

Sometimes when one partner doesn’t want sex, but acquiesces to a little foreplay, he or she can end up really enjoying it when they never thought they were in the mood. A little patience and a lot of love can turn an unwilling partner into an eager participant.

But the stereotype is that a woman is often burdened to have maintenance sex as a means of keeping her husband happy and at home. Why, in some relationships, does this responsibility seem to be solely the woman’s job? This can breed serious resentment over time.

When you are the one who is constantly pacifying your partner, you are going to feel put upon after awhile. Especially if you never get to say “no.” When you grit your teeth and bear it in silent suffering, then things have gone too far. You are being taken advantage of and that can be defined as rape. Definitely not a good thing for your relationship.

Another stereotype is that for men, all sex is good sex. So a woman can just lie there and take it so he can come and she can move on to her other chores. But perhaps we are not giving men—or whoever is on the receiving end of maintenance sex—enough credit.

My friend’s husband who said “thank you” after sex felt he was really missing something when she had duty sex. He preferred the closeness of sex when they both were engaged. Sex was the rich experience that truly enhanced their marriage. It was unique between them, and the glue that cemented them as a couple. He didn’t want to be mollified with rote sex that somehow diminished their relationship. He would have been happier to jerk off himself than have her do something she didn’t want to do.

So think about it—and talk about it with your partner—before you engage in maintenance sex. There are all sorts of ways for couples with unequal sex drives to achieve satisfaction. Just don’t sell your partner short.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.

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