Caretaker Sex in Relationships

Caretaker Sex 101

Is sex part of a routine or responsibility for you? Do you feel like sex is one-sided? Maybe you are the one to give pleasure with no expectation of return. This may be caretaker sex.

Learn more about what caretaker sex is, the friction it can create in a relationship and how you can turn your intimate life around.

What is caretaker sex?

Caretaker sex is where one partner in the relationship is having sex as part of their nurturing role in the relationship as a duty or out of obligation (whether perceived or real). This may be how they show their love, or very much about only the pleasure, satisfaction and emotional wellbeing of their partner.

Oftentimes, the caretaker doesn’t mind doing this and they get satisfaction from it, much like cooking a nice dinner that gets a tick of approval, but they don’t get any sexual satisfaction from the sex themselves.

It might be sex where only their partner gets to climax, sex that simply does not have the key ingredients necessary for one partner’s pleasure, or sex that does not go for long enough. Sometimes, it is sex where their partner calls the shots, perhaps fulfilling the partner’s fantasy, kink or desires, that outside of the relationship they wouldn’t much be into or at least if they had the choice based on their own fantasy or desires they’d choose something different.

Maybe it’s simply sex as a gift; a sex act as a way of saying thank you for all you do for the family, the hard work you do, for staying around, etc.

As you can see, this is tricky stuff to even think about.

Why might we be sexual caretakers?

You may be thinking:

  • This is part of me.
  • I am a giving person.
  • It’s totally fine by me to give like this now and then.
  • I know just how to please him/her.
  • It makes them so happy.

Yes, now and then, giving the gift of unreciprocated pleasure is a lovely thing indeed. But years and years? Not so much.

For women, caretaker sex can be an extension of mothering, a caring duty and obligation that keeps the peace and serves to make everyone happy — except herself.

Remember, pleasure is very good for us, our health and wellbeing, nervous system, and for our new and ongoing connections, as well as our sense of self. Pleasure is for everyone. However, in many cultures, and for women especially, we have been conditioned to believe the other’s pleasure always comes first, and it is the woman’s job to make sure their partner is having the pleasure they need without attending to our own, or expecting another to care about it.

Oestrogen, the hormone of accommodation, of connection and caring, plays a huge role in caretaker sex, too. Younger women, new to sex, are often having sex as it is expected of them, maybe making them feel sexy and empowered. And that’s great. But they get a very short stick when it comes to satisfaction. This frequently happens in casual sex.

Caretaker Sex in Peri-Menopausal Women

I hear from women in perimenopause and beyond who ‘suddenly’ wake up to the fact they have been in such an unbalanced sexual pattern with their partner in a long-term relationship. And they feel incredibly sad.

As our oestrogen declines, we lose a lot of our ‘caregiving’ responses and feel very strongly the desire to put ourselves first for the first time in years. This understandably creates huge shifts in our sexual relationships, as well as our sense of self in relationship. Oftentimes, sexless marriage may set in. And this may even result in separation or divorce if those shifts aren’t recognised and honoured by both members of the couple.

Caretaker Sex in Relationships

Self knowledge, boundaries and confidence is what is needed here. Asking for pleasure, demanding a basic balance of giving and receiving, and knowing how to be pleasured.

Women can physically have sex without being aroused. But is it pleasurable? Is it sustainable in a relationship? And is it fair?

In couples where caretaker sex is showing up, it may be from any or many of the following:

  • An imbalanced sexual pattern started years ago as a ‘nice thing to do’ for their partner, but became the only way they had sex over time.
  • Perhaps the pattern started in the first weeks of their relationship and was never addressed. Sex that didn’t have the foreplay (a phallocentric word that needs to be retired) needed to bring about the high level of arousal for great and high-level pleasure.
  • Maybe there was some ‘performative sex’ or faking of pleasure or orgasm that once started became hard to quit? This is so common and there are many multi-layered reasons why we find ourselves doing this.
  • Or maybe it started after having babies when one or both partner’s libidos took a hormonal and/or energetic dive.
  • Perhaps one partner never spoke up about their sexual response, about the things they need to get aroused, or they have never actually explored what gets them going. Here again is that conditioning to not think that their own pleasure matters, and why many women have never explored their own sexual response in self pleasure, and simply don’t know what works for them.
  • Sometimes the partner getting all the joy is unaware what is going on, and would be horrified to realise how imbalanced the sexual aspect of their relationship has become.

Some couples make love where one is just there for the intimacy and connection, and the other receives more of the physical pleasure. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, it doesn’t have to be this way. Mutual pleasure is the best kind of pleasure. That’s where the sparks fly and the neurochemistry of deep connection really flows.

This kind of imbalance in sexual satisfaction is one of the main reasons why couples stop having sex altogether, even though they love each other. Once the pattern is ingrained, it seems insurmountable, but I can assure you, the spark can be rekindled

If one partner is giving far more than they are receiving, sexually, it’s inevitably going to cause them to feel less and less like sharing their body. On top of all the other things they often ‘have’ to do in their day, having sex becomes less desirable. Resentment, withholding and shutdown are common over time. Feeling used or unappreciated, not feeling sexy in themselves, losing their connection to Eros , to their innate sexual energy, no longer desiring the other — the relationship becomes a bit domestic and routine. Having sex becomes just another thing they have to do.

How to ‘Fix’ Caretaker Sex

Many people in the situation of caretaker sex talk to me about a craving to be desired, wanted, adored and worshipped. They would love to be pleasured just for the sake of their pleasure, not having to work, perform or try. Just for once, they would like to not have to do a thing; to just receive.

They have a deep wish to have all the time in the world dedicated to their pleasure and not feel the need to force themselves, to rush or worry about how long they are taking. They long to just surrender to sensation.

Really good, satisfying sex is co-created. It's a mutual pleasure. It’s giving and receiving. It’s not so much the unspoken or the “I’ll give you 5 minutes of oral and then you give me 5 minutes of oral and then we’ll have PIV (penis in vagina) sex”, as that’s not good sex either. It’s more than that.

Amazing sex is the act of truly wanting to see the other in peak pleasure, in full-blown arousal; whatever that takes. Great sex is a meeting of souls and co-regulation of nervous systems. It might not even include penetrative sex.

Time spent helping the other become fully aroused should never be about quality in time. It should be about equality in care and dedication to mutual pleasure.

One partner’s sexual response is almost always different from the other’s. Different genders, different hormones, different nervous systems, different ideas about sex, different genitals and different needs. Our responses and desires can, and do, change at different times in our life.

Tips for Breaking Caretaker Sex Patterns


It might take a lot of bravery, but breaking the pattern of caretaker sex starts with communication. You need true and honest sharing of how you both feel, without blame or anger, and with understanding of where you are at right now in this moment.

Have an open reflection about where things started going wrong and both of your roles in it, as well as nature’s role. Make step-by-step plans about how to make it right to tip the scales back to a more even state.Then, explore into your unique sexual blueprints, each of your arousal types and the kind of sexual response types unique to you both. What are your accelerators and brakes to desire and arousal?

Find out new things about one another.

You may be very surprised at the inner workings of someone you know very well, finding out new things that you don’t know about each other sexually. Tantric energy practices and connection processes can help bring about new kinds of intimacy, depth of connection and exploration. There are always ways to be intimate that cause high desire and arousal, like teasing, being fully ‘served’ when you are usually the one who takes the giving role, or perhaps exploring role play or some light kinks or fantasies that have a specific charge for you. Be playful and fun with one another!

Take a course or get coaching.

If the pattern of caretaker sex, or imbalanced pleasure is something you need help with (and trust me, I’ve been there, and it was for quite some years), I have 1:1 coaching packages to help you work out what you really want and need, learn about your own sexual response type, and how to start communicating your needs and desires with your partner.

Or, if you know you’re both ready for better intimacy, I can help you together directly in my couple’s coaching packages. In these couple’s coaching packages, you also get to meet with me as individuals 1:1 several times within the coaching container to work on your own ‘stuff’ you’ve collected along the way in this relationship, or in your life in general. Then, you come together to work on bringing you back into balance and union, co-creating the kind of intimate life you both relish and enjoy.

Have you got a feeling this is just what you need to do? Book in for my free initial conversation — either with your partner or solo — and we can chat over Zoom in this 30-minute, no-obligation call.

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