Seven Year Switch: Why bargaining for sex is a bad idea

ON LAST night’s episode of the Seven Year Switch, Channel Seven’s reality dating show where unhappy couples swap partners, one couple was given some pretty dodgy relationship advice.

Jason and Michelle have been together for seven years – they have four-year-old son and an eight-month old daughter – but they haven’t had sex in 17 months.

During an exercise with the show’s therapist Peter Charleston, Michelle watches a video of herself having an argument with Jason.

The fight covers all bases: She wants help with the kids, she thinks he works too much, he wants sex, she doesn’t want to have sex.

“Michelle, what if you tried to appeal to Jason by talking about something that he will listen to — something that’s important to him,” suggests Mr Charleston. “Think about it as a bargaining tool. What bargaining tool do you have?”

Michelle immediately blurts out, “sex”, and is told to use Jason’s desire for sex to her advantage.

But withholding or offering up sex to get what you want – be it a home cooked meal, an unpacked dishwasher, or actual human interaction – is not a great idea, says Matt Tilley, a clinical professional fellow from Curtin University’s Department of Sexology.

“I wouldn’t support a strategy of bargaining. I would look at the root cause of the dissatisfaction in the relationship to see how the lack of sex could be resolved,” Mr Tilley told
“The idea that anyone can just turn sex off and on for their partner when there may be a reduced or insufficient connection, is absolutely ludicrous.”

Many couples experience what sexologists call “desire discrepancy”. It’s unlikely for two people to have matched levels of sexual desire during their entire relationship.
“We have to figure out how each individual gets their needs met. The three options are: resolving it within the relationship, staying together but seeking sex elsewhere, or breaking up,” Mr Tilley said.
OK, so bargaining for sex isn’t a great idea. But can it work in other parts of your relationship?

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