What exactly is transactional sex? The idea that your relationship could include this type of sex is probably something you may not even be aware of – but there’s definitely a subconscious tracking of who is doing what for who, and when. Today I am going to give you 7 key warning signs that your sexual relationship is transactional and then what you can do about it.
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When our sexual relationships are out of balance (like so many that I see in my coaching practice), they are often taken on a transactional approach.
“He did *this* for me, so now I guess I should have sex with him.”
“I’m going to do *this* for her, and then maybe she’ll have sex with me.”
Sound familiar? As usual, I’m looking more at the feminine side of things, but this can definitely be reversed.
But approaching sex transactionally, isn’t sexy, and it can actually cause a lot of damage in the relationship.
When I was looking up some references for this topic, almost every article referenced the giving and/or receiving of sex in exchange of gifts, money, or other services. It said that the participants don’t necessarily call themselves prostitutes/clients that is often the case. But they also sometimes call them girlfriends/boyfriends or sugar babies/sugar daddies. That really gave me the heebie jeebies about this topic.
The idea that your relationship could include transactional sex is probably something you may not even be aware of – but there’s definitely a subconscious tracking of who is doing what for who, and when.
One of my friends, Daniel Burgess, who is a therapist I know recently said “Sex isn’t a punishment or reward, it’s communication.” And I absolutely love that. So, are you using sex as a punishment or reward? Or are you using it to communicate to your spouse?
We’ve probably all heard the euphemism “Choreplay.” It’s the concept that men in relationships try to seduce their wife by completing chores around the home which she would usually perform herself. Now, this sounds all good and fine, if he is doing those things because they need to be done and he’s contributing to the household responsibilities. If he’s just doing them out of the kindness of his heart. It’s even fine if he knows that dirty dishes in the sink is one of his wife’s sexual brakes and he is hoping that by doing them it releases it. The problem comes when it goes from a “hope that it will happen” to an expectation that he is going to sex in return for doing them. There’s a fine line here.
Relationships are all about finding a balance of each individual’s needs and desires. And that comes from a place of understanding…not manipulation.
There are subtle and distinct differences between “transactional sex” and just being a good spouse and lover. Tuning in to how satisfied you are feeling and how connected you feel to your partner is a good indication.
So let’s talk about some warning signs that your sex life might be transactional.
- You feel resentful: We all know what that feels like, and it doesn’t feel good. If you are feeling resentful or irritated with your partner, especially when it comes to sex, it’s probably because your sex life is lacking in reciprocity.
- You don’t feel like your needs are being met: And even though I’m saying “needs” here…we all know it’s not really a need, it’s a want. But, if you’re not satisfied, resentment builds. It’s really that simple. If you don’t feel like your emotional needs are being met so you don’t feel like being sexual OR if you don’t feel like your sexual needs are being met. This is often when you start keeping score, although neither of you are really scoring.
- You’re in a rut: If your needs aren’t being met, chances are you’re probably in a rut or in a bad pattern. If things keep happening the same way every time, it can leave you wanting. Being in a state of transaction exchange is a recipe for a rut.
- You’re doing things out of obligation: NO ONE wants to feel like they’re performing sexual acts out of obligation. Obligation KILLS desire. If you believe this is you, it may be time to look at why you feel obligated to perform, and where that pressure is coming from. This is one of the biggest things I work on with clients in my program.
- Communication is lacking: Most of you know how to communicate. We aren’t mute. But can we communicate with our partners effectively? Can you not agree and still stay close and connected? If we are unable to communicate effectively, or think that our partner should read our minds, then often our frustration builds. And that’s never a good thing for our sexual relationship.
- There’s tension in the relationship: And I’m not talking about sexual tension. I’m talking about annoyance and irritability. When your sex life isn’t going the way you want, frustration builds. And that sexual frustration trickles over into other areas of your relationship…which then makes it harder to have more sex. It’s a vicious cycle and again, something we address quite a bit in my program.
- You’re not enjoying yourself: If you or your partner aren’t having good orgasms, the dynamic definitely needs to shift.
So those are the warning signs that things might be transactional. Now how do you get out of those patterns?
- Communication is key: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Talk to your partner! Tell them how you are feeling. Ask them about how they are feeling and truly listen. Many times we don’t talk to our partner because we are afraid of their reaction or afraid of hurting their feelings. And of course we want to be kind and considerate when we are talking, but we have to worry less about their reaction and more about what’s going to come about if this important information is not being communicated.
- Bring in playfulness: Playfulness is the key to breaking up tension. Laughter is truly a gift in any relationship and it’s really helpful for breaking sexual ruts. Hopefully you got some great ideas of how to bring playfulness and variety into your sexual relationship from our podcast a few weeks ago with Dan Purcell of Get Your Marriage On. Keep things playful in other areas of your life and watch how your sex life transforms.
- Embrace reciprocity: This is the key to breaking the cycle of transactional sex. Reciprocity is a constant flux of giving and receiving – and enjoying the process of it. Instead of overthinking the exchange, shift the relationship to a point where you truly enjoy giving to each other again. Practice this outside of the bedroom first and it will naturally carry over into your sex life.
- Express and receive gratitude: Gratitude is one of the best things you can do for your relationship. Expressing gratitude for your partner, verbal or otherwise, let’s them know you appreciate and enjoy their company and what they have to offer. On the other hand, you also have to allow yourself to receive the same gratitude. Learning to be a good receiver of gratitude, love, and physical affection is so important. If you are having trouble with this, think about why you struggle to receive. What lies are you telling yourself about receiving?
We all fall into bad patterns sometimes. It’s almost inevitable in a long-term relationship. But if your pattern is looking like a transaction instead of an interaction, it’s time to utilize these tips and get that fire started once again!