How Sex Is Like Gift-Giving, and What Your Response Says to the Giver

Today, my friend J. Parker of Hot, Holy & Humorous is here! Be sure to check out her blog and her cohosted podcast. I am so humbly grateful anytime she stops by to guest blog, and today in particular, I really needed her. Thanks J!

We’re in the season of gift-giving, when we think about what to give our loved ones, how to give it, and how they’ll respond. When we put effort into our choice, we hope the recipient will experience anticipation, followed by excitement, and finally satisfaction.

That’s how many spouses view sex.

We come to the bedroom—or the kitchen, or the closet, or wherever you get your mojo going—in hopes that our beloved will respond to our initiation with anticipation, followed by excitement, and finally, eventually, thoroughly… satisfaction.

Unfortunately, that’s not always what happens. Let’s talk about common responses to gifts and apply them to the marriage bed, shall we?

“You shouldn’t have!”

If initiating sex is never a welcome gift in your marriage, then you have some deeper issues to work out, individually or in your relationship. Julie has some excellent posts about that here, here, and here. It may take time and effort to reach that place of viewing sex as a welcome gift, but it’s worth the journey.

Because yes, you ultimately do need to get each other something sexual. Marriage can survive, but it cannot thrive without the kind of intimacy that comes with mutually-satisfying sex.

“It’s not what I wanted.”

Oftentimes, we hear from spouses who struggle with the gift of sex because their husband or wife rarely, or never, gives them what they really want. It could be that they feel devalued in other areas of the relationship, so having sexual vulnerability isn’t appealing until they receive better treatment elsewhere. Or it could be their sexual needs are not considered so lovemaking itself doesn’t feel that satisfying.

Just like we want to pick a gift that meets our spouse’s desires, we need to listen to what our spouse wants in our marriage, both inside and outside the bedroom.

“But I didn’t get you anything.”

Gift-giving can feel transactional: I get you something, you get me something, and we cross each other off our lists. People then feel guilty if they didn’t get a gift or gave one of lesser value or sentimentality or thoughtfulness or whatever to the other.

Sex-wise, maybe it’s not that we didn’t do anything for our spouse, but we struggle to accept more of the pleasure, less of the effort, etc.—even when our spouse wants to do it.

Look, mutual and transactional are not the same thing. You should be mutually involved and satisfied, but it’s okay if this time or the next time, things feel a little imbalanced. In marriage, it can, and should, even out over time. And honestly, it can be a gift back to the giver to see the recipient pleased with your gift.

“Thank you.”

Every etiquette expert will tell you the proper response to any gift is “thank you.” You can’t go wrong with that one. What you’re thanking the person for depends on the gift itself: thanks for thinking of me, thanks for giving me something so nice, thanks for knowing me inside and out and getting the most perfect thing ever. But gratitude is the attitude that makes gifting easier and better for all.

When we recognize that most spouses initiate sex not from selfish desire but longing to intimately connect with their mate, then even if it’s not quite what we wanted, we can be grateful for the thought. It means our mate really could sing a chorus of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (if not nearly as well as Mariah Carey).

And then we can kindly help our gift-giver to understand what would make the gift of sex even more welcomed and appreciated. We can “exchange” the gift for something more suited to our needs and tastes.

We can also turn all this around and give better gifts of sex to our spouse. Because, after all, this is the season of giving!

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