Sex and the Pity

Raise your hand if you love a night of fabulous lovemaking based entirely on the notion that you should be pitied for not having had any in a while. Oh my, I see all of two hands back there! And you two have only ever experienced pity sex from your spouse, so it’s all you know.

There is a better way.

Proposing sex to your husband with “Do you need a release?” or “It’s been a while, I guess we can do it tonight” doesn’t cut it. Even if you don’t say something this like aloud, your demeanor might indicate that you are dropping the robe or sliding beneath the covers only out of marital duty. While there is a Bible verse that talks about our sexual obligation to our mate, you choose your attitude in meeting that obligation.

My kids are obligated to do chores around the home. Sometimes, they pop in with a smile and help me out, and sometimes they throw a hissy fit worthy of a 9-1-1 call to the Super Nanny. Either way, they do the chore. The choice of attitude is their own.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that lovemaking is equal to doing laundry (I have not once had an orgasm while folding underwear; go figure!). But the premise of choosing your approach is the same.

If you feel like you’re schlepping yourself to the bedroom for a 15-minute inconvenience of physical engagement with your husband, you are treating it like a chore. I would bet that your husband is also not jumping up and down with glee at your arrival. He might engage anyway because it’s all he can get! However, you both miss out on the connection that God desires in gifting us with sexuality in marriage.

So what do you do when you feel more duty and he feels more pity in the bedroom than either of you feel intimacy?

Do everything you can to adjust your attitude! Forget the pity, and go for empathy. Empathy is putting yourself into your spouse’s shoes, or boxer briefs in this case. Would you want your spouse to grudgingly engage in activities that make you feel loved or take part willingly and joyfully?

Think about what would make sexual engagement an intimate and thrilling experience. Perhaps you need to clear your schedule; set the mood with music, lighting, and an inviting bed; spend some time preparing yourself with a bubble bath and pretty lingerie; and relax and participate in the lovemaking.

When you make sex a priority for your marriage and plan for it accordingly, you may find that the experience is more enjoyable for you as well. Sex is not an interruption to your day or evening or night. Physical intimacy with your spouse is worth interrupting the rest of your day for.

Save your pity for the stray animals in your neighborhood or the child-actress-turned-addict; they need it! Meanwhile, your husband deserves your love and a fully-engaged wife.

I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages . . . there I will give you my love.”

Song of Solomon 7:10-12

13 thoughts on “Sex and the Pity

  1. Anonymous

    I love your posts. I read them because this is an area I am working on in my marriage. But sometimes I feel like you over-simplify. No, I’ve never had an orgasm while folding laundry either, but I also rarely have them during sex, quite frankly, and neither do many other women. At least at the end of doing laundry I feel a sense of worth. At the end of sex I just feel fat, ugly, conquered, vulnerable in a bad way… So yes, it’s a chore: it’s a “routine and unpleasant task.” My husband can be cruel in many ways. I have begged him to stop. I have prayed that he would stop. Then I prayed that God would change me- that I could be more resilient and more patient and loving with him. Some women would say that I married the “wrong man”, but I know that when I said, “I do” in before God that I made a life-long commitment to him being the “right man.” Interestingly, all the Christian marriage books say that more sex will make your husband the man you want him to be. But I’ve given up on him changing and now just pray that I can be a woman who can withstand his behavior and protect our children from the damage. It’s just not always as simple as you make it to be.

  2. Dr. Mel

    This is my first time reading your blog. I enjoyed this post, and I feel for the anonymous writer above. I am the chairperson over the Young Married Sisters at my church, and we frequently talk about the bedroom and its importance to a marriage. My usual responses from the women is the same as the anonymous writer above. However, the fact that she is still reading about it shows that she still wants to change the situation, and (I hope anonymous is reading this) nothing is impossible with God – NOTHING. [If you prayed for things to change, or for you to change, wait on God.] I enjoy talking to women about sex in their marriages because sometimes, as Christian women, we forget that we married human flesh, and we set our husbands up for the world to snatch them away. I encourage all Christian women to “get busy.”

  3. J

    Thanks, Dr. Mel for your comments. Very helpful and encouraging!

    To Anonymous – Sometimes I don’t respond to a comment right away because I want think and pray for a while first. I agree entirely that having a healthy sex life with your spouse is not simple. If I thought it were, I would have thrown up one how-to or encouraging post and been done. Satan has attacked the area of sexuality voraciously, and it can be a real struggle to reclaim God’s gift of marital intimacy. Some couples need to tweak their attitude or approach, and others need a complete overhaul. Clearly, sex has not been a blessing in your marriage. Please continue to seek answers and pray for your situation. You cannot make someone else change, but Christian marriage advisors do know one spouse changing can influence the other to change as well. It doesn’t always happen that way, though. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you take on the challenges in your marriage.

  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous…I was once married to a cruel man that made me feel all of the adjectives that you used, when we had sex (and every other time he got the chance). I am so sorry that you feel those things. Remind yourself that God sees you as a fabulous creation made in HIS image, and hang onto that thought with all that you have. I made the very difficult decision to get out of that marriage, as I was afraid of the way it was shaping my daughters; I could only hide so much.
    After several years as a single Mom, and a woman that followed the path that God set before me, I am now married to a wonderful, kind man that reminds me daily of how much he loves me and how beautiful he thinks I am.
    I am not saying that you should leave your husband; only you and the Lord can know what is right for you. I AM saying that I am praying for you and your family, that you all may find peace and joy.

  5. Anonymous

    Please contrast the Pity Sex that you discourage here with the Maintenance Sex that you encouraged this past January. It can be awfully hard on the male end to tell the difference between the two. Both articles make me feel like my wife would be saying to me, “Please masturbate with my vagina instead of your hand.”

  6. J

    Sure, Anonymous. Great question.

    Pity Sex is when a spouse has sex simply to fulfill an obligation or provide the other spouse release. It’s one spouse doing it for the other without being into it themselves. “I pity you, so I guess I’ll have sex with you after all.” Their heart and soul aren’t into it.

    Maintenance Sex is when a spouse decides to engage themselves fully in a sexual encounter that isn’t their dream event. Frankly, it may begin with a YOU WANNA, I DON’T but it very quickly becomes WE WILL. Once engaged in the sexual act, there should be no doubt that both spouses are there because they want to be. “I want to maintain our relationship, so I will definitely have sex with you.” Their heart and soul are into it.

    Perhaps this seems like a thin line. But I think most spouses can tell how “into it” the other spouse is. My encouragement to the lower desire spouse (there usually is one) is to recognize that sexual intimacy helps to maintain a marriage and make the decision to fully participate in lovemaking – not out of pity, but from love and an understanding that God has gifted marriages with this act.

    1. Mrs. Right

      Indeed, I believe they can. I used to be a giver of Pity Sex in my first marriage, and I hated feeling that way, but at the time I didn’t know how to change myself enough. I am most blessed to be in a marriage where Pity Sex doesn’t exist. Maintenance Sex, however, has shown up on occasion, because with pregnancy, nursing, small children, and other life stresses, sometimes too much time passes between physical oneness. And honestly, sometimes I’m the one who asks for it first. As Mr. Right said recently, “You know you always like it once you get started.” 🙂 How very very true, and therein lies the difference. With PS one partner just doesn’t get into it at all, but with MS it quickly becomes mutually pleasurable and desirable. You just need a push sometimes to get started.

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