Carolyn Hax writes an advice column in the Washington Post. Today, she ran an item which made me stop, think, say “whoa” and immediately draft a response. It was that kind of letter, which I include for your perusal:
On the husband who is generous to himself and others but not his wife:
The wife doesn’t say how much sex they have.
I’ve found there is no amount of effort I can expend that will cause my wife to give me sex, the only thing I care about other than food, scuba or golf. I love her, but I’ve come to love her as a friend and business partner.
For men, there is no romance without sex. Lack of sex causes esteem issues and a general feeling of discontent.
These days, my wife gets the same birthday effort I give any friend. I say, “Happy birthday.” I save my efforts for people who may respond in kind. My golf buddies and I spend nine of 18 holes talking about how none of us has enough sex. The sex we do get is boring. The analogy we use is we own an ice cream store and we have to eat vanilla — when we can get it.
My wife does yoga and expends every effort to look good on the outside, but I only get to look most of the time. I take the kids to give her “me” weekends. I cook and do my share around the house. In fact, the weekends with the kids are more fun without her now because I’m not distracted by my disappointment over sex.
You mention that perhaps the wife was misled during courtship. Well, that works both ways. There are limits to the criticism I’m willing to endure from someone who refuses to understand my needs.
Did you notice what I noticed?
“…cause my wife to give me sex…”
Obviously, this fellow believes that sex is something he receives – like a stack of freshly pressed shirts – rather than as a mutually pleasurable experience for a couple.
You and I know that what we focus on becomes stronger in our lives, so every time he talks about the lack of sex in his marriage with his golfing buddies, he’s making that lack bigger and bigger and bigger – and actually making a happy sex life more difficult to achieve. Because he’s already decided how it’s going to be.
She gives. He receives. That’s the deal.
But what if he turned it around? What if he thought about what he gives more than what he gets? What if he went into every moment with his wife oriented toward giving her pleasure? Not just the physical intimacy portion of the program, but in the household chores, in the trips to the store, on the soccer sidelines? What if he shifted from one mindset to another?
What if he truly put her first?
My guess is that the sex-being-withheld focus would give way to deep connection, real happiness, and, yes, more sex.
Happy the man whose greatest treasure is his wife’s pleasure.
And you may quote me on that.
If the letter from this frustrated guy resonated with you and your relationship, take a hard look at the reality you’re choosing to make stronger in your life. Because even if you feel it’s being done to you, by focusing on what’s not working you are totally choosing it. If that’s not the reality you want, make a new one.
Focus on giving, rather than receiving.
And prepare to be worn out.
In a totally good way.
[graphic: Zach Galifianakis, Washington Post]