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When is it OK to say "No" to your lover?

Hello, again, dear friends, The last blog brought fascinating responses. Not surprising, since I doubt there is anyone with a pulse who hasn't had to deal with the issues around sex at some point.

The emails with replies are as varied as the people who sent them. With their permission, I will share some here.

If you missed my last blog, here is the question I posted, based on a friend's comment: "At what point, if ever, does your partner owe you sex?" I haven't yet shared my thoughts on this, I wanted to hear yours first. Obviously the question hit a nerve. The responses poured in. Just to clarify something right away:

I am just as repulsed by the very idea of "owing" sex to anyone as are most of you. But the issue is much deeper and broader than the sex part of it and it definitely invites a discussion. I would like to continue with it, as do many of you, who wrote asking to hear more opinions.

So please, read my Food For Thought below where you will see a few responses from other people, and please, do send yours.

I only post them with your permission. Clearly, more needs to be said and shared.

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Food For Thought Here are some reader responses to the question: "Sex... doesn't she owe it to me?" – At first I was a little bit shocked. Neither she nor he is owing sex the other side. Sex is a gift shared between 2 partners - married or not married. It is a expression of feelings to be ONE or to give yourself completely (even it is only for the moment) away to someone who deserve this closeness.

Sex alone is not Love - maybe love and sex go together - but if love is only based on sex - surely it will fail sooner or later. Love is an expression of being happily together sharing the moment or life . Love is the greatest thing in life. Sex is a gift - you love to share with someone who can carry you away from all the daily problems - carry you into the World of fantasy.

Love is a gift, you have to work for it every day - but never think somebody owes you sex - if you do - you are a looser - never a lovable husband nor friend - you are somebody who satisfies himself on the back of the others. – Heinz Sprecher, Switzerland

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– You have opened up quite a box! I highly recommend that you reference David Schnarch's book "Passionate Marriage : love, sex, and intimacy in emotionally committed relationships" and his audio "Secrets of a passionate marriage. How to increase sexual pleasure and emotional fulfillment in committed relationships." In the audio book he discusses marriage as the crucible for personal development with sex being central to the relationship. It helps one understand that an emotionally committed relationships/marriage is the very thing which grows us (up)! – K. Fisher

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– In a loving relationship it would be my intention to give my beloved any and everything that I could whenever she wanted it... and I, in turn would expect to be in relationship with a woman who would want to give me everything I want, whenever I want it as well. So if she wanted, say, to have sex with me, then I would do that if it were at all possible....because I want to please her and give her what she wants... When is it OK to say no to that request? When I don't feel like it?...Not OK. When I have a headache? - Not OK When I want to watch television? - Not OK When I want to cook dinner? - Not OK When I want to talk to another friend? - Not OK (these are all trivial things that should not be put before your relationship) When I am bleeding? - Yes, OK to say No. On the spectrum of reactions from minor to major...from "I'd rather not" to I'm bleeding/dying"

I would tend to place the "OK to say no point" closer to the "I'm bleeding", then "I don't feel like it." I think we should be wiling to do a lot for our partner. Having said that, I want to know my partner's willingness to do what I want... sometimes willingness is enough... and you don't have to actually do it...

I would hope that I am sensitive enough to know when it doesn't work to have sex for my partner, and to back off and not press her... that she was willing, is (sometimes) enough. I think that in the ultimate relationship, it will never come up... you will not be pressed to do what you don't want to do... – Vince Scaritch

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– If sex is an expression of intimacy and sharing, the answer is simply No. If I know that my partner doesn't want to share, be intimate with me, to force him or her would be using them for my pleasure. But as I see it, the issue doesn't end there. What if one member of a couple stays in an I-don't-want-sex place for a long time? I believe I have the right to choose not to have sex, but I don't have the right to choose that my partner be celibate. In other words, if this aversion to sexual intimacy goes on for a long time (e.g., 10 weeks or more) I believe it's time either to get into therapy to resolve the problem or to review whether the relationship will continue to be a monogamous one. – Vivi K. So where do you stand on this? And what do you think about a relationship where you "owe" things to each other? Let's take this beyond sex as well. I know you still haven't heard my thoughts. They are coming! I promise! In the next blog.

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