Obligatory sex because your partner wants it so much, the atmosphere is different, or it’s demanded very hard: it happens more often than you think, and of course it’s crazy.
“Sex started to dislike me more and more,” says Julie (38, married ten years). “It felt like an obligation. I was dead tired, had to keep all the balls in the air: children, household, work. All I longed for was rest when I lay in my bed. The worst part was: my husband started increasing the pressure. At first subtle hints that he wanted sex, then he just asked for it out loud, and when I couldn’t bring myself to do it, he got so grumpy that the atmosphere at home was terrible. Often I finally gave in to get rid of the crap. But it felt anything but okay’.
Nicolien (40) acknowledges this: ‘I had a relationship for twenty years. If there was no sex for a week, my boyfriend would get annoyed, start fighting and say that we really had a problem: that I was asexual and his ex-partners were into it every day. When we met, I was very young, I had almost no experience with sex and relationships. He was ten years older and I looked up to him. More and more often I began to think that there must be something wrong with me, because he was always in a mood. I even went to the doctor to check if there was ‘something wrong’ with my hormones.’ When Nicolien talked about it with friends, they turned out to have similar experiences. ‘One friend said she would jump into the shower with her husband first thing in the morning and then give him a hand job or give him a blowjob. It was done in a few minutes and then she could continue her day. Another friend said she told her husband, “Okay, go ahead, but I’ll keep reading my book.” We laughed a lot about this, but of course the situation was too sad to be fixed.’
Relationship therapist Roos Boer recognizes this from his practice. ‘This is particularly the case with heterosexual couples. The dynamic between a man and a woman is different than between two women or two men. Men are hunters by nature, wanting to reproduce, while women have less of that need. Especially if there are children. The partner who wants intimacy will threaten and demand out of frustration. It is anything but good. Sex against your will is not okay. Not even in a relationship. Not only do you not have to do anything physical that you don’t support, claims and accusations ultimately lead to nothing. In a blaming atmosphere, the other goes on the defensive. You come to a dead end.’
Psychologist and relationship therapist Jean-Pierre van de Ven also believes that claiming sex is going too far. This is non-communication. To be entitled to something? Claim something? What are you doing, I think. You’re only undermining your relationship.’
The beginning of the end
OK, but what to do? Ellemieke’s husband (35, married for ten years) literally said “he was right” when she indicated she was not in the mood. Finally, Ellemieke decided to organize ‘book evenings’. Every other Sunday night she had sex with her husband. ‘He had been saying it for years: he had rights. That I didn’t want to, because our relationship was otherwise very difficult, was not a problem. In the end I did it just to get rid of my neck. One time it was good, I could agree to it, the other time it was change and go. After that he was always in a better mood. Very special how it worked.’
Boer has an explanation for this. ‘After an orgasm, oxytocin is released, a hormone that makes you feel happy and joyful. However, that joy is short-lived. Then the whole circus starts all over again’. She emphasizes that it is not good if sex is demanded, but that there are two sides to this story. ‘Everyone needs intimacy, a sense of connection. The one who asks for intimacy and doesn’t get it grieves, but so does the one who can’t give it. By nature, we all want to feel loved. For example, it is a pitfall to think that men only want sex. There is a difference between making love and having sex. Making love has more to do with intimacy and men also want to make love to feel connected. Another prejudice is that men are always in the mood and women less so or not at all. I also know enough cases from my practice where the woman is in a mood more often than the man. Anyway, if partners can’t come to terms with this and start ‘raising’ it, it’s the beginning of the end because they’re signs that you’re disconnected. But so is the lack of intimacy. That is the other side of the story. Then sooner or later the nice secretary or tennis teacher comes into play. It is therefore very important to invest in intimacy.’ Because sex is part of it according to the therapist. ‘If it doesn’t happen automatically, some kind of connection is missing. The family business often runs at full speed, the focus is primarily on the children. But the parents forget that they are also husband and wife. each other’s partners. You often see that the woman loses herself completely in motherhood. It’s a shame. I always say: allow yourself to be a woman too’.
But yeah, that’s easier said than done. How exactly do you do it?