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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » maintenance sex

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Author Topic: maintenance sex
JollyHolly
Neophyte
Member # 93955

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Lately I've been hearing a lot about how important "maintenance sex" is for a long-term relationship (where the partners are already having sex with each other regularly). From what I understand, maintenance sex is when you don't really feel like being sexually intimate with your partner, but you do it despite your lack of enthusiasm in order to strengthen/maintain your bond with your partner.

Maybe I'm completely misunderstanding what maintenance sex really is... but that behavior doesn't seem very healthy to me. If both partners aren't raring to go, shouldn't sex be tabled until both partners ARE into it? Am I confused about what maintenance sex is, or is this yet another ignorant idea floating around?

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BrightStar171
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I can absolutely only speak for my own experience, and I don't know if Scarleteen has a position on this, but my fiance and I have been together for several years, and we have what you might describe as "maintenance sex" sometimes and find it very helpful for our relationship. We both have extremely demanding jobs, are often very busy and stressed, and sometimes because of that it feels hard to work up the energy to have sex. It's not so much a lack of desire as a lack of energy, though; I'm not sure if it would be healthy to try to have sex when you were lacking both desire AND energy.

Sometimes, when we're both feeling this lack of energy, we decide to have sex anyway. It's kind of hard for me to describe- as I said, it's not that we don't desire one another; it's just that we're in a state where sex is maybe something we wouldn't choose to do if we didn't think that the sense of bonding and intimacy was worth...working through the exhaustion, if that makes sense. It is always sex that is mutually pleasurable once we start having it- neither of us would enjoy having sex if our partner wasn't also enjoying it. But it's sex that, beforehand, we might not have been particularly excited about. And afterwards, we do typically feel much closer and like our romantic bond is stronger. It's something we've talked about a fair bit, and we do feel that it's very healthy for us. It's also the case for us that if we haven't had sex in a while, it's kind of hard to start having sex again- again, not that we don't desire each other, but it's just, like, we get into the habit of not having sex. And so sometimes we need to do that to jumpstart our sex life again.

I don't know if that answers your question, but I'm happy to talk more about my own experience, even though I can't really generalize to other people.

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JollyHolly
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Thanks for your input, BrightStar! What you and your fiancé do actually makes a lot of sense to me. So if that's the kind of thing that these "maintenance sex" people are getting it, that's totally cool!

I think I was getting confused because in every conversation where I've heard it discussed, people talked about the maintenance sex like it's a black/white, yes/no sort of deal -- either you're having the sex or you're not. There's never been any discussion of EFFORT, which I think is really important and relevant. For example, if BrightStar and the fiancé are tired but start with foreplay anyway, but one of them can't get into the mood and it never progresses as far as sex, the not-into-it person shouldn't feel obligated to continue just because it's maintenance sex day. I feel like the attempt should count for something, even though there was no sex.

"Maintenance sex" might be one of those phrases that has different meanings, depending on who's saying it...

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Robin Lee
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A couple of things come to mind.

1. Sex doesn't have to mean just one thing. A lot of times people think of sex as penis-in-vagina intercourse. This definition is limiting.The idea of people in a relationship making sure that they maintain a physical connection with each other makes a lot of sense to me, but calling it "maintenance sex" seems to imply that it has to be that particular and limited activity.

2. Sex isn't just something that happens. There is this common idea thatsex should be spontaneous, arising out of an eruption of desire. [Smile] Most people'slives and libidos don't really work that way, so the idea of, say, planning to have sex or have some physical bonding time together does make sense.

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Robin

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BrightStar171
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I'll jump back in and add a few things- JollyHolly- I think you've really got it when you're describing how the not-into-it person wouldn't feel obligated to continue- it's like there's two types of "not wanting sex"- not having the desire at all, in which case we might start with foreplay and then not continue; or "not wanting sex" in the sense of not feeling like we have the energy for sex but putting forth the effort anyway. And also, yes, sometimes the foreplay effort is enough to create the sense of closeness. As Robin Lee noted, sex isn't just P-in-V intercourse, and so foreplay is sex too. (Sometimes we'll just, say, decide to have some naked snuggling time, and see where it goes- if we end up having sex, that's great, and if not, the intimacy of just cuddling is great and a great bonding exercise too- like you're getting at, it's not really an either/or thing for us.)

And I really want to echo what Robin said about sex not being spontaneous, too- that's such a good explanation of what it's like for us- a lot of times it's a very planned thing. That's not to say that we don't sometimes have very spontaneous sex- we do! But a lot of times it is something where we say "Hey, we're not going to have the chance to have sex for a few days; let's try to have sex this afternoon." Or whatever.

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Kachina
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After JollyHolly's description of maintenance sex it sounded pretty bad to me, but then BrightStar's description sounded pretty normal. I'm not sure what most people are meaning when they use the term - I've actually never heard it. I think it would be pretty unhealthy if you actually didn't desire sex but kept doing it anyway, and I highly doubt that it would increase any bonds, either. However, if by not want, the meaning is more like what BrightStar is saying, ie, feeling like they don't have energy at first but maybe fooling around a bit to see if they can get the energy to go further, I think that sounds ok. I know me and my partner do that for sure, because we are so busy that if we don't stop and make a point to try to have sex it will never just "happen". And sometimes we try, but one of us is just not feeling it and we'll make a raincheck.

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~Kat
Scarleteen Volunteer

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise. - Grace Hopper

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