In 1986, Pat Benetar released her hit song, Sex As A Weapon. For some reason, it's been running through my brain for the past few days. It's probably because I'm working on the section of my new book, The Soulmate Myth, that addresses sexual dysfunction in long term relationships. One of the most common dysfunctions is when one partner uses sex as a weapon. You might think this is the woman's domain, but it's not necessarily so. In many relationships (an estimated one third) there is a "desire gap," where one person has a higher sex drive than their partner. Unfortunately for the person with the higher sex drive, the one who wants sex the least controls the relationship.
There are many reasonable reasons for a low sex drive. Biologically, hormones fluctuate and medications alter libido. Emotionally, depression and stress will lower libido. Life can get in the way, between high pressure jobs and multiple children, even if the desire doesn't suffer, the execution might.
Just because there's a sexual disparity doesn't mean a person is using sex as a weapon. You have to intend to control, manipulate, or hurt another person in order for it to be considered a weapon. If a low sex drive is a symptom of unresolved problems in the relationship, rather than a biological or emotional symptom, then sex is likely being used as a weapon.
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When you use sex as a weapon, you intentionally withhold sex as retaliation for not getting emotional or physical needs met. You may also be overtly sexual in appearance, but play "hard to get." Controlling the amount and timing of sex can be a way to try and gain more power in a relationship.
How can you tell if you're using sex as a weapon, or if it's being used as a weapon on you?
4 Signs You're Using Sex as a Weapon
1. If you nag and criticize your partner on a regular basis you are using sex as a weapon by intentionally dampening your partner's desire. Generally, women need to feel an emotional intimacy before they'll engage in sexual intimacy, and nagging works against emotional intimacy. While men don't need to feel as much emotional intimacy as women, most of them don't want to have sex with a constant nagger.
2. If you have let yourself go, not wearing make-up and wearing sweatpants every day, you are sending an unspoken message that you're not available. I realize that sounds shallow, but the truth is that men are visual beings, and attraction is a visual experience for them. Letting yourself go is also a sign of negative self-talk, so it's a double barreled weapon in that sense.
Related: 5 Tips for Getting "In the Mood"
3. If you are intentionally, overtly sexual when you are out in public, you are using your sexuality as a weapon. Being sexy is one thing, but being inappropriately sexual is a sign that you're trying to use your sexuality to gain power in a relationship.
4. If you keep track of things you want your partner to do and withhold sex until he does what you want, you are definitely using sex as a weapon.
Sex is an important aspect of romantic relationships. It can and should be used to deepen your connection to each other, and to deepen your connection to yourself. Reducing sex to the status of a weapon virtually ensures that the relationship will end, unless you commit to working with a trained coach or therapist who specializes in sexuality and relationships.
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