Question: Do you ever recommend withholding sex as a consequence for destructive behavior? Laura in FL
Answer: I don’t recommend a spouse withhold sex anymore than I would recommend that he or she withhold talking when angry. Touching and talking are the only channels that intimacy is expressed and experienced. If someone cuts off those channels when they are angry, hurt or disappointed in their spouse, then you might as well toss away the marriage relationship. Using sex as a weapon is like using the silent treatment as a weapon. It isn’t good for the marriage. It is controlling and manipulative.
The one exception I would make is when someone is unsure of the sexual faithfulness of his or her spouse. Then the person might wisely choose abstain from sex until safety and fidelity issues are resolved.
That said, loving intimacy might be absent in a marriage at times, just like good conversation, but not as a punishment. For example, telling your spouse “I can’t talk right now because I’m too angry to talk constructively or because you won’t listen to me”, isn’t using silence as a weapon but stating a problem in the relationship. In the same way, if someone says, “I can’t have sexual closeness with you right now because I’m too angry to do it lovingly” may be absolutely true. Or telling a partner, “I feel like I’m just a sex object to you when you disrespect me at other times”, helps the one who is doing the hurting to know what needs to change in order to repair the relationship.
There a more extensive answer as to how to talk about this issue with a destructive spouse in the Blog Question: Do I Have to Have Sex with My Abusive Husband?