Catch TNM podcast #96? Sex as reward or punishment?
Did anyone listen to Episode #96 of THE NAKED MARRIAGE PODCAST this week? Here are some of the thoughts they said or which came to my mind on using sex as a reward or punishment. My mind was blown away hearing it put that way again.
“When sex is used that as a reward or punishment, a carrot or stick (ie – “We can if you…” or “We won’t because you did (or didn’t) do…” then fill in the blank with things like, based on whether or not, one picked up the house to the other’s liking, talked and emotionally engaged, ticked the other off, etc.), then it becomes transactional, in essence even a form of prostitution. God designed sex to be a gift, not a transaction, between a husband and wife. It’s not to be used as a punishment or reward like a parent/child relationship.
Using it that way brings out the worst in us. It’s an act of withholding. It doesn’t bring peace or love or health to a marriage. Marriage is about serving. Both spouses selflessly serving. When one stops doing that and the other starts to keep score, it becomes a transactional 50/50 marriage, harding God’s design or what He models for us.”
What jumps out at you? One question this week here (and comes around on occasion) is “how do we have more sex?” For those who have a gatekeeper spouse and rarely have sex, what would it be like for you to listening to the podcast with your spouse and have a discussion? If you say no, what is your reasoning and why not, if you’ve got nothing to really lose?
I’m not a “podcast” person, so I didn’t listen to this. But, using sex as a reward or punishment isn’t something new to me…. praise God it’s not been a part of my ways for years. I have heard others use it as a “threat”, and that now makes me cringe.
As I was reading the part you quoted, it made me realize that sometimes, sex is used this way because it can feel like the only “power card” one has. When one feels like they have tried communicating in other ways, and they aren’t “heard”, they can know that this message will be “heard.” Yep, not healthy….it’s a sign of unhealthiness on both sides of the marriage. From one book I have read, it shows the act of us trying to “carve” (manipulate) our idol. We want our spouse to be and act in a way that benefits us in that moment, to keep us “happy”.
Spinning off of @MrMarried’s thoughts.
If we look at parenting, there’s nothing wrong with “reward”, when a child does a good job, it’s a blessing to reward. And to go further, we will be rewarded by our Father.
Here’s when there’s a problem, 1) it’s bribing…”if you….then I will…”. Or, 2) when the recipient has an expectation of “payment”….”I did…. so you need to do…”
When I first saw the Q and began reading the podcast transcript, I hoped it would come squarely down on the side of never using sex as a carrot or stick. Amen!!
Using anything in a marriage to get a ‘transactional outcome’ is unhealthy – that includes choreplay or other ‘currencies’ in my estimation. SC’s fine example of getting rid of dandelions (things that crop up and mar the relationship) by dealing with them superficially doesn’t address the real, root cause. If the root cause In marital conflict isn’t addressed, a married couple will be picking ‘dandelions’ endlessly AND probably argue about whose turn it is to pick the ‘dandelion’ of the moment.
Marriage is a transformational relationship. Our marriage continues to transform us even after nearly 50 years. When we engage in sexual intimacy it transforms us – every. single. time. Thank the Lord that neither of us have ever considered giving or withholding sex with any strings attached.
So my question is where is the line drawn between reward, punishment, or even weapon?
I’ll use an example that I don’t see mentioned here often but is often recommended elsewhere, including by Christians–choreplay. Choreplay doesn’t really work in my home (I’m doing a huge number of the daily chores anyway), but I’ve certainly gotten the impression in comments sections on Christian blogs in the past that some ladies were using it as a way to get their husbands to do more around the house. Is there a point at which those chores are basically a punishment or a weapon used against the husband?
Just curious what people think,
Yes, SC. It is a way to get a spouse’s attention but an unhealthy one. Kind of like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. You raise a point about “carving” or manipulating the other and that is dangerous for the health of a marriage if done out of complete selfishness. Question: are there better avenues or “currencies” to try before using sex considering how powerful and bonding sex is for a couple and the potential negative consequences such as those stated above that their will be going down that road? I’d submit yes.
Also, the Willis’ didn’t say a couple shouldn’t hold each other accountable to poor & sinful behavior, that’s a different story than giving/extending grace during a difficult time and season of life.
@NWNL, “Question: are there better avenues or “currencies” to try before using sex considering how powerful and bonding sex is for a couple and the potential negative consequences such as those stated above that their will be going down that road? I’d submit yes.”
I agree, yes. But, as we have witnessed so many times on here, how many times do we see people who think “sex” is the problem, because that is where the manifestation of the tension and issues are, when in reality, there’s almost always something deeper going on? I have used this illustration of a dandelion before, but we want to “fix” or get rid of the dandelion, focusing on and picking the flowered part does no good, long term. It make the lawn a little prettier/greener for the moment, but we know that next season, it will be right back, bigger than ever. We have to, first, realize there’s a deeper issue going on, and then, we have to dig at that root and treat it. Once the root has been taken care of, no more “blooming” of the dandelion.
@Scott, don’t you think the line comes down to the heart and intent? Wouldn’t patterns kind of point to the heart? For example, a husband is extra busy and isn’t able to help with a chore that he typically does… what’s the wife’s response? If sex continues on as normal, then the sex after “choreplay” isn’t being used as a reward or punishment.
This is really hard and funnels down to in part the difference between men and women. I do not believe at all that choreplay should even exist in a marriage (even though H and i have joked that if he puts in the screen door, i will “reward” him but it was sexual “play”, really) but from a woman’s POV, she does feel loved when her husband acknowledges her in certain ways outside of the bedroom.
Now if he becomes neglectful in his relationship to her, the bible still warns us to come together BUT…that wife’s feelings inside will no doubt change and she will feel used. She will feel that he’s getting the longer side of the stick so to speak, neglecting her and getting the sex that he wants and her feeling no intimacy out of it. Just saying that there should never be choreplay where one holds sex hostage but it is a wise person that recognizing that filling the others non sexual tank so to speak IS AS IMPORTANT as not defrauding one another. Well that is my opinion….
(also i wish they had show notes, i am wayyyy too ADD to sit and listen)
No sex as a punishment is definitely bad. Rewarding a spouse who pleases you with something sexual… I am not sure that is bad as long as there is no withholding. If my wife said to me she appreciated something I did so much she was going to give me a special treat tonight, that’s not the same as not having sex because she didn’t like something I did. But I’m not sure if I have arrived at a definite fixed opinion on sex as a reward. Sex only as a reward is not a good thing, IMO.
I don’t think sex in marriage can be prostitution in the Biblical sense. The reason prostitution is wrong is because it is sex outside of marriage. The New Testament uses the same word for sex before marriage as for prostitution. It’s all porneia. Whether you get paid $200 or $0, it’s still the same sin. I heard someone put it this way… generally who would be considered a lower class prostitute, the one who worked for $200 or the one who would do it for 25 cents? Most people would say the one who does it for 25 cents. But plenty of people are judgmental of prostitutes, but fornicate for free. Isn’t that lower class than the 25 percent prostitute?
What jumps out at me is we are to “not keep score.” I feel unappreciated when my husband keeps a running tab of the number of times we have had sex in a year. This in no way causes me to want to increase frequency. I think both spouses have to have a servant mentality and if one person does not want to have sex on a particular night they should not feel pressured into it, that is not serving one another.
Everyone only has a certain amount of energy in a day, week or month. If one partner does more work so the other one isn’t tired all the time that isn’t a transaction and not prostitution. I’ve told my husband repeatedly if he worked more and made more money I could work less and would feel like having sex more often. It goes both ways.