What is duty sex? Duty sex is when we have sex with our husbands because we “should.” Because it is our duty as a good wife. Because he “needs” it. Because we don’t want him to look elsewhere for it. Or because we are trying to manage his emotions and behavior with it. We have been convinced that we don’t have to want it too. And this simply isn’t true! Duty sex is passionless and doesn’t create the connection that either of you want. So, how do we stop having duty sex? It isn’t an easy process but in this episode, I’ll share with you the two steps to take to fix it.
Last week I did an instagram reel that went viral that said “What if my husband wants sex and I don’t” and my response of “Don’t have sex unless YOU want to.” Well, I’m sure you can imagine that caused a lot of controversy.
One of the objections that I often get about joining my sex coaching membership is women are afraid that I am going to tell them to have more sex with their spouse, which is the last thing they want when they join. I don’t EVER want women having sex with their spouse unless THEY want to. And one of the goals I have for women in my membership is to understand WHY they don’t want to have sex and get to a place where they actually do want to. I’m never going to tell you to have sex if you don’t want to.
One of the main reasons why women don’t want sex and don’t enjoy sex is because they are doing it because they’ve been told and they think that their husband “needs” it. One client recently told me that it’s just easier to have sex that have to deal with his bad attitude. When women have sex with their husbands to “satisfy their needs” to “keep them happy” or “because they need it,” when they are doing it JUST for their husband and not for themselves, this is act of self-betrayal and often what we call duty sex.
So why do women have duty sex? They do it because that’s exactly what it feels like for them. That it’s their duty as the wife to do this for him. They have been cultured to believe that this is something that they have to do in order to keep their husband happy, to make sure he doesn’t stray, and because he does what he is supposed to do by working and providing for the family. Women also have duty sex to manage their husbands emotions and behaviors. We’ve been taught our entire lives that it’s our job to manage everyone else’s emotions. But guess what, this isn’t even possible (although I know it seems like it is). But, it’s also kind of manipulative. And I know women don’t mean to be that way, but it is. Just like it’s manipulative of him to behave badly so that you’ll give in.
There are a few issues with duty sex:
- Self-betrayal: When we do something that we don’t want to do, that doesn’t feel good to us but we do it anyway, this is an act of self-betrayal. I have found that many women self-betray with sex because they don’t want to be seen as selfish or called selfish by their spouse. So they self-betray instead of choosing to love themselves and honor their true desires. This act of self-betrayal causes a breakdown in our relationship with ourselves. We learn to not trust ourselves. Then we begin not feeling safe in our body, which causes further problems when it comes to sex.
- Resentment: I have found that many women feel resentful when they have been having duty sex for years. They feel like things should have been different. They feel envious of a spouse that can just desire sex and also can say “no” to things if they don’t want to. Resentment is never good for a marriage. But women often don’t understand that they are blaming their spouse for this when they actually made a choice. Often they don’t feel like they had a choice though because it was either have sex or deal with the consequences. They didn’t want the consequences, so they just sucked it up and did it. But the truth is they did have a choice. They just didn’t understand that they could handle the consequences in a healthy way. So once they learn how to handle the consequences in a healthy way (something that we talk a lot about in my coaching program) they are able to step into their agency and make a choice from empowerment rather than have resentment.
I often tell wives to stop having duty sex because all of the problems that it is creating in the marriage as well as in their relationship with themselves. But stopping the duty sex can cause problems too. The idea of stopping duty sex often seems scary, especially for the husband, because if they aren’t having duty sex, then they probably aren’t having any sex. And that’s not the goal. This isn’t about withholding or sex becoming transactional. We want to stop having duty sex to stand up for something better in the sexual relationship not just stop the sex altogether.
When you got married, there was most likely an expectation that sex was going to be part of your relationship. Maybe both of you even had the expectation that sex was going to be an important part of your marriage. My heavens, I can’t tell you how many couples I talk to that struggled to not have sex before they got married and it baffles them why it’s such a problem after. But there is a reason why what is happening now in your sexual relationship is happening. And as much as many would like to believe, it’s not that the wife is broken and needs to fix herself.
Most likely, neither of you had much sexual education before you were married. You didn’t know how to create a great, healthy sexual relationship. And more than likely, both of you learned how to be codependent, thinking that what your partner says or does (or doesn’t do) is what causes you to feel certain things. Also, life is hard. When the honeymoon is over and real life happens, couples naturally struggle with disagreements over sex, money, child rearing, religion, household duties, desire levels, and so much more. Feelings get hurt. Wounds are created. Communication struggles. And one or both partners feel frustrated, inadequate, and resentful. And when all of these things are happening outside of the bedroom, it makes sense that there are going to be problems in the bedroom too. Including duty sex. But these problems are co-created. And it’s going to take both of you standing up for something better to make changes.
If your husband is honest, while he is scared that without duty sex he won’t get any sex, he probably isn’t actually loving the sex you are having. Duty sex isn’t intimate or passionate. It’s not connecting. With duty sex, he doesn’t actually feel desired and chosen. And what most couples want is a connected, passionate, and intimate relationship. They each want to feel desired and chosen. They just don’t know how.
I know plenty of women who *think* they wish their spouse would stop desiring them so much. But when it comes down to it, that’s not actually what they want. Think about what it would be like if your spouse never desired you. You never felt like they wanted you or that you were chosen. They never touched you. You *think* that’s what you want, but I can promise you, you don’t. And that is often exactly how your husband is feeling.
Now, before we talk about how to fix this, let’s first talk about what isn’t duty sex. It is not duty sex if you are willing and truly giving of yourself from a loving space, even if you aren’t in the mood. If you can walk away saying “I’m glad I did that,” and you don’t feel resentful afterwards, and you aren’t doing it to try and manage his emotions or the consequences, that is NOT duty sex. That is actually a beautiful gift. This is what we call a noble sacrifice, which is different from costly accommodation. They may look identical from the outside, but to the individual who is experiencing it they are building resentment and they have built up serious wounds that need to be healed.
There have been plenty of times that I haven’t been in the mood, but I am always willing because I love my spouse and I know what a great sex life creates for our marriage. There’s no resentment. It’s always about love. And I know how good sex can be for me, so even if I’m not in the mood, I can usually get there with some enticement. But if I’m not up for it, or my husband isn’t, there’s no grudges. There is no keeping score. But part of that is because we are both making an effort.
So, how do we fix this?
- Stop having duty sex. You need to say no if you can’t get to a good place with it, even if there are consequences or your spouse makes it hard on you to say no. One of the best things you can do is learn how to get comfortable with your spouse’s negative emotions. This is what I call emotional independence and one of the first things I teach in my membership. So if he is grumpy or pouty if you say no, that’s ok. That is HIS emotions to deal with. Hopefully he will realize that being that way doesn’t make him attractive and turns you off even more. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t care about his feelings. Of course you do. “I’m so sorry that you are disappointed, but I just know I can’t get there tonight. I do love you though.” When you can start to say no, then you have more capacity to actually say yes. It gives you the freedom to choose, to regain your relationship with yourself, to stop self-betraying.
- You need to understand WHY you can’t get there and work on fixing it. You have to figure out the wounding and work to heal it. This isn’t just a matter of changing your mindset around sex. These wounds can be deep. It often takes a lot of emotional work to heal yourself and heal your relationship. But it is possible. And this is exactly what we do in my membership. Once you understand WHY you don’t want it and work to heal the wounds, then we can start working towards desiring sex again. Being able to come to the marriage bed to create intimacy, passion, and connection for both of you, which is what you both actually want.
This isn’t an easy process. But it is so worth it. I see it with all of my clients. The wounding, the healing, and the joy that comes when things are so much better.
I’ve been getting a few questions about the membership from husbands, so I wanted to address that on the podcast because I know a lot of men and couples listen to this.
My membership is primarily for women. But it is to support the marriage and the couple. So men can participate in the membership right alongside their wives. They can watch the videos, come to coaching calls, even get coached! They can also book private sessions with me. It’s really about supporting the both of you through this process.