Withholding Sex as a Form of Punishment

Withholding Sex as a Form of Punishment
By Cathy Meyer

In the beginning, your spouse was charming and quite appealing. You had no problems with intimacy. Your spouse couldn't keep her hands off of you. You felt desired, cherished and loved. Before long, the atmosphere changed. Your spouse became less and less interested in sex. Your spouse is still charming and appealing and your level of desire hasn't changed but that person who once seemed so giving sexually has now become rather stingy with their affections. You find yourself wondering, "what happened?"

The role sex plays in a marriage.

Sex is a way of connecting to your spouse emotionally and physically. It builds a bond that promotes closeness and emotional intimacy. Sex is the glue that holds a marriage together. Some would disagree but it's my opinion that the sharing of intimate pleasure in a marriage enables couples to bond more deeply as friends. That friendship will sustain the marriage as we age, our bodies change and our need for the sexual connection lessens. Sex is what separates a couples relationship from all other relationships. A marriage without sexual intimacy and friendship will eventually sputter and die.Why withhold sex as punishment?
Withholding sex is about control. It's a passive/aggressive way of expressing anger. Someone who withholds sex will imply by their actions that they have a lot to give. They are, by all outward indication sincere in their love for their spouse. They hook you in with sincerity and then they cut you off.

They feel in control if they have the upper hand sexually. You are put in the position of being the one who initiates sex. Your spouse doesn't have to do anything in the relationship except show up. All the work needed to develop and maintain a sexual bond is up to you. They don't have to take responsibility for any problems in the marriage, and if the marriage ends they can point a finger at you for being the problem. 

What are the consequences of withholding sex?

Sexual rejection, especially by someone who vowed to "love, honor and cleave unto" you is devastating. It leaves you feeling unattractive and undesirable. You may internalize her rejection and blame yourself by thinking you are not attractive enough; sexy enough, thin enough, smart enough. Her actions will give root to unhealthy beliefs about yourself and your value as a person. There is the danger of depression, loss of hope, you may feel old before your time and there is certainly a sense of shame. Shame over the fact that your own spouse does not desire you. This shame keeps you from sharing your problems with someone else. You find yourself with no support system and the growing belief that there is something terribly wrong with you.

Surviving a sexless marriage.

The only way to survive it is to run from it.  I rarely tell people that divorce is their only option. In this case, my experience has taught me that there is little hope for change. Take your damaged self-image, your shame and any unhealthy beliefs you have come to feel about yourself and get out. Once you've done that, find a qualified therapist that can help you take back the power your spouse had to cause you to feel such negative emotions. The damage will die-hard and may be slow to repair but with time and work, you will once again feel sexually desirable and attractive.

Cathy Meyer is a Certified Divorce Coach, Marriage Educator and Legal Investigator. She works with people who expected to be married forever but are now facing divorce. Through her writing and individual coaching, Cathy provides clients with strategies and resources that empower them and equip them to grow through a time of adversity.




During the past six years, Cathy has worked with individuals and couples going through the divorce process. She assists her clients with setting goals, solving problems and working smoothly through a time of transition. As a legal investigator, Cathy has helped clients by mediating conflicts such as child custody, visitation, the division of marital assets and other issues that arise during divorce.

She is also trained as a Marriage Educator and has presented workshops and seminars based on The Marriage Breakthrough Seminar, How to Keep Love Alive developed by Michele Weiner-Davis. A program developed to assist couples build relationships that are more loving and lasting.  

Comments (10)

Said this on 9-15-2009 At 01:18 am
Should I really run? My husband is doing this now. He won't even tell me he loves me till I make everything in the house the way he wants it. Says it disgusts him to touch me when the kids don't behave or I make him angry. We have only been married since April and I feel like he hates me already. It changes so fast one week I am the greatest wife and the next he can't stand to be around me.
Said this on 7-26-2011 At 04:09 am
<p>Do yourself a favor.&nbsp; Tell him you will leave him if the sex doesnt improve.&nbsp; if it doesnt improve, then LEAVE HIM.&nbsp; I wasted ten years of my life with a loser like this and I am still recovering from the emotional damage it caused me (its been four years since our divorce).&nbsp; Do yourself a huge favor, leave him, this marriage will instill a sense of powerlessness in you over a period of time (which is how he gets his gratification- by making you feel powerless) and destroy your self-confidence.&nbsp; Instead of gaining his sense of power by having a healthy mutually satisfying marriage - he believes he will gain his power at your expense - and in the beginning he may win, but eventually you will be fed up and nothing he says or does will convince you to stay with him.&nbsp; Save yourself and give him an ultimatum, if he doesnt fix himself, end it - dont waste the best years of your life like I did</p>
Said this on 3-5-2010 At 07:15 am

Dear Cathy,

Might it not be helpful to define "withholding sex?"  Is it not stripping in the midst of violence?  I LOVE SEX! I have a goregous husband who had always been tender and loving when it came to sex.   Though his abuse of me ove twelve years has included constant verbal attacks, gunning the car, pushing, throwing objects at the wall, threatening to murder my father, yelling at me to commit suicide, he had never brought his violence into our sex life until now.  

At better times we had a beautiful sex life.  I cherish it.  I have recently gotten in shape, lost 30 pounds and adore how he strokes his hands across every inch of my new firm body.  But thanks to your article, now sex is rape.  

He has barely spoken to me in a month, raged F'in this F'n that and GD in dozens of false accusations.  He has not asked for sex or even spoken to me long enough to look me in the eye.  True, it never dawned on my to throw off my clothes in the middle of calling 911 while he raged.  

So the new attack, is listen to Cathy Meyer don't withhold sex.  Please be more careful when you play with fire.

Said this on 6-30-2010 At 02:17 am
<p>Gloria, please point to the article where it says anyone should have sex with an abusive spouse. This article has NOTHING to do with you and your situation. You are projecting your situation onto my writing.</p>
<p>Is it easier to do that than to take control of your life and change your situation?</p>
<p>I'm not the one playing with fire Gloria, you are. You are married to an abusive man and continue to allow him to abuse you. I'm going to assume you have children. If so you are allowing them to grow up watching you be abused.</p>
<p>Instead of me defining "withholding sex" Why don't you define what it is in you that is still able to "adore how he strokes his hands across every inch of my new firm body." Where along the way did you lose your self-respect? How did you get to a place where it was even possible to desire sex with such an abusive person?</p>
<p>Sex with your husband isn't rape if you willingly have sex with him. What I don't understand is why you would want him near you sexually or any other way.</p>
david lindsay
Said this on 6-18-2010 At 12:58 pm
<p>i have been married for more than 20 yrs.for the first 10 she had sex with me&nbsp; but only when she wanted it.now 10 years i have slept in a diffrient room as my wife,why because she would push me out of the bed ,tell me i snore, and with held sex from me only having it when she chose always saying i had a girl friend&nbsp; but i&nbsp;never have.always screaming fusssing so now i moved&nbsp;out ...i want more than this in life ..now she says again i have a girlfriend would you blame me if i did ..i have been a good provider and faithful husband ..but i want out of this marrage ..can i get it on her for withholding sex from me&nbsp;</p>
Said this on 12-12-2010 At 06:40 pm

I just discovered the name passive aggresive which applies to my relationship with my Mexican boyfriend. It answered a lot of questions for me and made me not feel so stupid for not being able to figure out what the heck was going on. We have been together for 20 months and the first four were idyllac, especially sexually. Then the bottom dropped out of our sexual relationship! It has been steadily downhill since the 5th month. However, I am lucky that he has only some of the characteristics: the witholding sex which has driven me to terrible craziness, most of the time not conversing with me, not hearing me talking to or questioning him about everyday affairs and refusing to talk about or even admit we/he has any problems. I am the cause of problems so I am the problem.

Let me say that he is Mexican American and speaks mostly Spanish and a little English and I speak mostly English and a good bit of Spanish. I thought our non-communication and sexual problems were caused from his cultural and his Catholic belief system, but I never could fully figure out the big picture or make any headway healing out problems (What problems? he would say)

The special problem that has plunged me deeply into depression is that, in addition to witholding sex, or acting like he wants it then never follows through or trying to have intercourse but can't often get or maintain an erection...he masturbates frequently to the point that I would say it was an addiction. AND HE HAS ONE OR TWO OVERT WAYS OF MASTURBATING AND THREE OR FOUR COVERT WAYS (THAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED) The covert ways are always when he is in bed with me and I am lying there desperately wanting to have sex with him and he is "secretly" lying there masturbating sometimes for a couple of hours. The covert ways do not involve ejaculation, but very bodily evident to me orgasms. Has any one else experienced their guy's excessive masturbation while in bed with them????? A few days ago I finally said I couldn't and wouldn't take this kind of behaviour any more, that I wouldn't have sex anymore with him (or try to), that I didn't even have a desire for sex with him anymore and that he could not sleep in my bed anymore, but on the couch.

I am amazed at how extremely well I am sleeping and waking up feeling refreshed and with my sanity not endangered. I don't know how long this will last without me seeking another sexual partner openly, that is, telling him I am going to do it.

I am trying to get us into bilingual counseling, and we are on a wait list. The last time our names came up he refused to go.

Hope sometime someone can give me some ensights into the no sex and excessive masturbation thing. Otherwise, he often has headaches, backaches, stomachaches etc. etc. or else I am sick in my Soul because I desire (used to desire) sex with him often.

It is good to be back in control of my sex; non life! I love him and I want our relationship to work out, but I will no longer accept his sexual abuse and non-communication abuse. PERIOD!



Said this on 1-17-2011 At 02:44 am
<p>ive been in an on and off again relationship with a 42 yr old mumys boy which is extremly frustrating,not one argument has gone by without him contacting his mother about me and blaming it all on me,the first three months wer fantastic,no sarcasim,no emotional abuse,the sex was not fantastic but it was stable and bonding,after that he started changing,he would become emotionally abusive in arguments,dissagreements,and even abuse me for having feelings on something or an opinion,i was being pushed aside after being the center of his world,he became less interested in sex,affection,communication,dinning out,going to the movies,everything except what he wanted to do,fishing!I even went fishing to make him happy but never did anything i wanted to do anymore,he started complaining about spending money on me,and if i asked when we were going to start doing things together,he'd say what?what do you want us to do?go to dinner and spend more money,might i add he is a bad gambler and just sits there all day betting while i do all his chores and cooking,he's changed soooooo much,but yes hes held back on sex many times and wev&eacute; had huge fights over it,he claims theres someting wrong with me for wanting to make love twice or once a day and has called me a nymphomaniac and mental,hes called me a nut,and foul names,and even went as far as to say no wonder your husband did what he did(meaning molesting my daughter when she was little)i left also as i got sick of being told to get out of his house&nbsp;everytime i stood up for myself,i feel stuck as this is the first time ive loved and had a relationship with anyone in over 20yr's,hes very cruel verbally yet tells me he loves me,hes cheated on me with a hooker and also cheated on other ex's,ive learnt this over time,i try to communicate but he just yells and insults me and ill do it back,one time i finished giving him oral sex and just as i went to put my head on his shoulder for affection,he jumped out of bed without even a thankyou and shook his head and abused me when i was upset about it!He also smokes pot!and drinks and most times when i bring up the things hes said to me to hurt me,he doesnt remember and accuses me of insulting him,im sick of feeling im with two different people as he can be so sweet but im too scared now to approach him about anything,i was even abused once for trying to discuss our future and getting engaged,he said i cant commit to a decission like that,im in limbo and im a very attractive woman and wouldn't have any trouble in getting anyone,he acts like im scum now,im confused,please help,im 9 yrs older than him,surely he knows at that age what he wants,i feel he might be a narcissist!</p>
Said this on 7-24-2011 At 10:12 am
<p>I just have a question about this. My boyfriend of 15 years thinks I have been abusing him sexually by not having sex with him for many years. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p>But you see, it's just that when my boyfriend tells me things like:</p>
<p>For instance, we are sitting in a restaurant together with our friends and his clients and he tells me "Your face looks so pretty I would love to fuck you in your mouth right now"....after this I can't imagine having sex with this person....but maybe I'm wrong? Perhaps its normal to tell your girlfriend in front of all for all to hear such thing?</p>
<p>Or call me names like "cellulite shit" for instance?&nbsp;</p>
<p>Not too long ago after I had a fight with him and went to live with another person, I was told about how I am not what I used to be anymore when I was 15. That he has "squeezed out all the juice out of me" and now I am already sort of "not the top notch quality" for him....only for scum like the guy I left him for....which by the way he's going to kill in a most sadistic matter by creating an unbearable pain to him using simple "medical ways" for days....oh no he changed his mind, he decided to live him alive, just cut out his tounge so he wont be able to talk, cut out his arms and legs and his eyes...so that he'd still have other senses but not be able to move or talk or see anything....as a punishment.</p>
<p>That of course he says are things he started telling me after years of me not having sex with me because it made him go crazy.</p>
<p>But I remember times when he would have sex with me (as many times a day as he'd like)- when I still had desire for sex- which was many years ago and then get extremely irritated for no reason and even tell me things like "get out of my house". &nbsp;What did I do wrong by then?....I remember giving him blow jobs in the car as he pleased without questioning but he'd still wanted to kill himself all the time because he believed that "I do not love him".</p>
<p>Well, this is only a few things out of the million that happened. His views are completely different. When he told me that "he would cut out my organs right now if he could so that his son and him could have money for food" he of course apologized and since he said the magick word "I am sorry...ooppss that was indeed a mean thing to say" I am supposed to forgert all of this because its only words....oh and there is NO SUCH THING AS MENTAL ABUSE, its all made up...I should understand the fact that being told such things like cutting me up for organ sale is a normal thing a person may say when he's very angry or stressed and I should have simply ignored it.</p>
<p>Here's the question, I want to normalize relationship with this person but everytime he touches my boobs or other places I start remembering how I was told things like whore, cellulite shit, such a pretty face that would look good with my dick in your mouth at the table in a restaurant among around 6 people in the company. Or how when I did have sex with him before, soon after this I was screamed at, critized for doing things "wrong", being ridiculed "for not having read enough books in my life...what a dummy...he he" when his friend (who was completely retarded by the way) made this comment about me in the car.... Of course since he admitted that this was wrong and therefore "apologized" for this....even though after apologizing for these things he'd always then say same things to me over again that he'd apologized for in the past...but who cares? He'd always apologize for all this later every time....and since he'd always told me this magick word "i'm sorry" as a sane personal I should have forgotten right away all these things he said as this "i'm sorry" word has this magick power that should "neutralize" all the memories of all the unpleasant things I was told, but I couldnt forget and therefore I am evil. So the question is, is there something wrong with me for not having desire for sex anymore?</p>
Said this on 9-6-2011 At 09:41 pm

I think he might be abusive; Get the book called "Why does he do that and see if that rings any bells for you." I know it is hard to believe but I should know as I have been in an abusive relationship for quite awhile now and didn't even realize it.  Mine withheld sex but name calling and putting your wife/husband down is abusive. Google power and control wheel and look at that if you can. There is also a wheel for equality in a relationship. See if you can recognize any of the signs of abuse.

Said this on 11-15-2011 At 08:25 pm

My boyfriend and I have been in an exclusive relationship for four months. In that period of time, we have had sex exactly once, and even then, I practically had to beg for it.

At times, he will come on to me sexually, giving me every indication that he is ready. &nbsp;When I try to touch him (especially "down there"), he pushes me away. &nbsp;This leaves me feeling hurt and confused. &nbsp;When I try to talk to him about it, he shuts down completely. Four months is not a very long time, but I love him.

He says he love me, too, with the declaration, "Im (meaning himself) not going anywhere."  After our first split-up, which lasted just 2 days, he commented, "You didn't think you were going to get away that easy, did you?"

That was 2 months ago. Three days ago, I expressed my concerns to him over our lack of a sex life. He became sullen and withdrawn, after which he left, saying he needed time to "think." &nbsp;I haven't seen or heard from him since. &nbsp;Close friends and family members have advised me to leave him alone because he may be a control freak and, therefore, potentially abusive. Your comments, please.

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