Love & Sex
Should you be upset if your partner shags you for stress relief?
My girlfriend posed this question to me last week.
She and her husband have been going through a hard time. He was recently retrenched and had been job-seeking for some time. She had some health problems brought about by a toxic work environment. They had a mortgage on a love nest purchased not long ago.
All this, plus the general wear and tear brought about by the daily grind had started to impact negatively on their once rosy relationship.
We'd catch up for coffee. She'd tell me they were squabbling more often. Little things were more irritating. Frustrations were running high.
Then one day, last week, the strain culminated in an almighty fight. The shouting was so bad she was worried what the neighbours would think.
But they were both in tears by the end of it.
They knew the problems were without, not within, their relationship. They didn’t want to be like this. They didn’t want to be ‘that couple’, cracking under the weight of external pressures.
So they talked it out, held each other tenderly, and agreed to be kinder to each other from that moment on.
And then they shagged.
Over our wine, a few days later, she told me it was an enormous release for both of them. She said they lay in bed, holding each other, basking in post-coital glow warmed by the pleasure of reconciliation, and agreed it was the closest they’d felt to each other in some time.
"I feel that's what sex should be like in a relationship - in 'the' relationship," she said.
"I feel like that was real love-making."
But when they bedded each other a few nights later, she didn't find that same loving feeling.
It was a Tuesday. He'd had another day of job rejections. There was a botched interview too.
"I felt like he was using me as some sort of vessel for all his bad energy," she told me.
"We'd had a nice dinner, he'd given me a neck massage watching TV - we were tired, but we were fine.
"But then, when we went upstairs, and got going, he changed - he was angry, and frustrated, and I didn't feel like he even registered I was there at all.
"I felt like an object - like some sort of stress ball.
"And then, when he was done, he just sort of collapsed onto me, and said how nice it was we we'd come to a place where we could give each other what we needed to make it through.
"He tried to hold me, but I was cold. I couldn't believe what he was saying. I thought we understood the relief was a mutual thing - that we weren't going to take out our dissatisfaction with the world on each other. And that's exactly what he'd just done. He literally let it come out all over me."
When I asked her what she did about it, she shook her head. She couldn't say anything, she said, because she didn't think he'd understand.
She didn't want to burden him with more misery either. And perhaps it was a once off. And perhaps it really was what he needed. Should she begrudge him that?
Hence her question, put to me, and now put to you.
For my part, I find the idea of 'using' your partner as any kind of dumping ground for your bad bile offensive.
I think lovers should nurture each other, and tend to each others needs. But I draw the line at taking on the role of vestibule for ill-will and sour sensations.
That kind of poison has no place within the walls of a loving partnership. It certainly has no place in the bedroom.
But that's just me. What say you?
- Sydney Morning Herald