The Problem Always Seemed To Be Me

OFF-endofsex

“So you know what, I’m having sex alone. Bummer. Are you having sex?” — a txt message to my then-wife.

In couple’s therapy we seemed to focus on me and my issues. She kept bring us back to some crisis of trust. Over and over. It was as if I was an alcoholic or something and I kept slipping. But it wasn’t quite that dramatic. Something else was at play.

As your partner begins withdrawing from sex, they are giving you a strong signal about something.

  • They are having an affair (emotional or physical)
  • They are getting ready to divorce you (pulling back to lessen their involvement)
  • They are dealing with some psychological issues of their own
  • They are angry and are using sex as a means of manipulation
  • They are tired. Tired all the time. (this indicates some other potential problems)

Conscious sex (fully-engaged) requires both partners to be sober and open. When there are unresolved issues it becomes hard for the aggrieved party to join in a full and passionate way. In our case the issue of “being tired” appeared to be the most obvious excuse. This is when things were *good* between us. She would often reject my offers of a back rub, or a bubble bath, with tales of how tired she was. How many chores still had to be done. (Oh, and BTW motherfucker why aren’t *you* doing them?)

Sex is not everything, but in our case it *was* an indication of her withdrawal.

At this point in our marriage, I could not figure out the formula, even in the pleasant times, to unlock her sexual side. Is it too revealing to share that we were both on some form of antidepressant at various periods? We both embraced the concept of better living through pharmacology, when necessary. At one point I went off exploring the #1 side effect of the med she was on: suppressed sexual desire. Yeah, I could’ve written the book on it. As in ZERO.

But it wasn’t all her, right? It had to be me as well. Right?

What I tried.

  • Doing more chores, more clean up after dinner, bath, and kids to bed.
  • Hiring a maid once a week to take care of 90% of all laundry and household maintenance.
  • Worked harder to make more money and put more money into savings.
  • Asking in more creative and less demanding ways. Asking without asking. Showing my desire through touch and small gifts.
  • Leaving sexy or funny notes during the day.
  • Suggestive texts leading up to a night without kids.
  • Everything I could think of, read in magazines and online, imagine might get her in the mood.
  • Refrained from porn, so I’d be even more arousable, more available, more present.

But there was always something wrong. Always some reason, in her explanations, that prevented us from having sex. As it turns out, in the last year, she was probably working up the nerve to divorce me. So she was withdrawing as a way to remove the feeling from our relationship. In that aspect, I suppose, her shut down was quite effective.

As we continued therapy during this time, however, the idea on the table was continuing in our relationship. We were in therapy to save our marriage not get out of it. And yet she was not reentering the relationship in a sexual way. I wanted to bring this up, she always seemed to have bigger issues. In my case, there might not have been a bigger issue.

We were less than roommates at this point. It felt at times that I was merely in the way.

And I’m not saying I didn’t have issues. I did. I do. But I was trying to be the “more balanced and loving person” by letting her agenda drive the sessions even as I was starving to death emotionally. We were less than roommates at this point. It felt at times that I was merely in the way.

The Spring Break one year before the final fracture she decided she was taking the kids to visit her aunt in the deep south valley of Texas. I was attending a tech conference in our city the week that she was leaving with the kids. It was a “nice break” she said. Where she could get some time to think about where things were.

When she returned I tried to make the house perfect. I had love notes scattered around for her to discover. Everything was spotless. I had enjoyed my time alone, but I had also been recharging my attitude for her eventual return. I was going to woo her back into love with me.

The results were not at all successful. In fact, we were in a fight within about 30 minutes of her return. Even as I was trying to go over-and-above she was angry about the way I had assumed she would be interested in sex upon her return. I can’t recall the exact details, but she was pissed that I was in such a romantic mood, “right after she had just driven home for 5 hours.”

“I don’t think I love you any more.”

At some point she not only gave up on the marriage and sex, but she began to plan her way forward, without me in the picture.

It was as if my romantic aspirations were a demand on her. I wasn’t asking for sex. I was trying to show her in my actions and in little love notes how much I loved and missed her. It wasn’t about jumping into bed. It was about reconnecting. Needless to say, we didn’t reconnect. She stayed mad for a long time.

Something about my blog (the marketing one) was making her nervous. She was certain I was killing my job prospects by being a blogger. And she was mad about it. Furious. Scared, maybe, but it came out as anger at me. As I recoiled from the rebuttal, and attack on my creative output, I was aware of some new strain of anger.

She had taken her best friend with her to share the driving. But something new had entered into her vocabulary after that trip. She kept saying, “Pay attention to what I’m saying.” And “You don’t seem to be understanding how serious this is.”

What she was saying in words was, “I am mad at you.” And she tried this one on a few weeks later.
Now, those are fighting words in my book. But there was no fight left in her. She was done. I think she gave me the next year to figure it out. Or she needed the time to make her plans, measure her options, or something. We took a break from therapy after she described her overall feelings about the relationship as cynical.

A year later, we were just starting up therapy again. Again, right after a Spring Break trip alone. This time there would be no recovery. But what I didn’t know at the time was she had already been to see an attorney. At some point she not only gave up on the marriage and sex, but she began to plan her way forward, without me in the picture. I guess this is what you do if you are the dumper (the person who initiates the divorce).

My experience of isolation and constant anger was painful and dark. When the concept of divorce was broached I was horrified and I fought against the idea with all my heart. However, as the conversations moved forward, I was also aware that too much would have to change for me to agree to stay in the relationship too. She pulled the trigger. But in the end, I too was relieved to be escaping such a sexless and toxic relationship.

Sex is not everything, but in our case it *was* an indication of her withdrawal. And had I fought at the first signs of her departure I might have saved some of our relationship. But I allowed her to dictate the therapy topics away from our emotional/sexual relationship.

At the fundamental core she had shutdown her sexual desire as she moved away from me. I could’ve spoken up sooner, but I’m not sure I could’ve steered her back into a loving relationship with me. She wanted something else. She wanted things to be different in her life. And at that moment in time, she had the kids and the nice house, perhaps in her mind it was time to seek a more “responsible” partner. Well, that’s how she described it, anyway. (grin)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

image: 206, mitya ku, creative commons usage

I Want To Thank You for the Divorce

OFF-breakfastinbed-2015

It’s already sounding snarky to me, but I have to give thanks to the mother of my children for releasing me from a marriage that had grown unbalanced and unhappy. She pulled the trigger and set the separation in motion long before I was willing or able to admit we were done. But we were. Kind of.

I was not done, but I was very unhappy. As an eternal optimist I trained myself over the course of our marriage to sublimate the desire for sex or the desire for joy. I was a good husband and a good provider. But I was not good at just going through the motions. We described the last year of our marriage as “living like roommates.” I was unhappy about this, she was more matter-of-fact. Things weren’t living up to her satisfaction, why would she continue to have intimate relations with someone she no longer loved.

As I took matters into my own hands and forgave her for some loss of libido, I was also beginning to feel a bit hopeless about my ability to remain centered and happy. Of course, I was already way off-balance, but I didn’t know this. I thought I was being the honorable and stable one. What I was being was stoic and stubborn. I should’ve called for a time out or a pow wow long before we reached the D stage. But I didn’t.

I’ve learned I’m what’s called “conflict adverse.” If I can avoid a fight I will. I will hide certain facts (like a speeding ticket or bounced check) in order to not “get into it.” But this sort of behavior, even as small as it was, was maddening to my then-wife. She had trust and security issues. And any minor infraction of this “trust issue” as it became known in our counseling sessions was met with cynicism and “you will never change.”

In therapy we seemed to focus on me and my issues. She kept bring us back to some crisis of trust. Over and over.

The problem was our relationship while built on the desire to have kids was not strong enough to build and rebuild once the kids reached school age. While I was always pursuing my creative crafts (writing, music, blogging) my then-wife had put most of her artistic ambitions in the closet, right behind the vacuum cleaner. She became more obsessed with the cleanliness of the living room and less interested in the connectedness of our relationship. How could someone you love be okay with going a month without sex? I was astounded and hurt that we had reached such a distant state. I asked for therapy, and contributed actively to the rebuilding idea, but something was not working.

In therapy we seemed to focus on me and my issues. I suppose, due to my bouts of depression, I allowed this to happen, even when the issues, in my eyes, were more emotional. She kept bring us back to some crisis of trust. Over and over. A little thing, a receipt from a restaurant that I forgot to report on my company expense report for reimbursement could become a “thing.” And the issues continued to grab the lion share of our therapy sessions. Meanwhile we were sleeping in different beds about 90% of the time and my suggestions at intimacy were rejected by habit.

As our emotional life was being crushed we were counseling about “trust issues” and my “mental health.” Of course, my depressions had been awful, and I have nothing but respect for this woman who stood by me through the worst of it. I also began to believe that she might never return to her happy state. She might never joyfully suggest sex or show up in the hallway in matching bra and panties. She was somewhere else emotionally. She was packing her bags as she was hammering me about my next job and when the new insurance would kick in from the new job.

She’s laughed with me at the stupid complications my ex-wife has injected into my life through litigation. We laugh a lot.

Today, almost six years later, I can say, I am very happy and very sexual in my new relationship. And while we’ve got our work ahead, I have to acknowledge that something is very different about how we relate to each other. For one thing we BOTH really like sex, and we BOTH seek out that connection. (Who knew that the best sex was ahead?) AND we seem to have both gotten our emotional and psychological issues mapped out enough to related on a very open and honest level.

She’s seen me depressed. She didn’t freak out or run away. She’s seen my financial status vacillate from AWESOME to BROKE and back. And she’s laughed with me at the stupid complications my ex-wife has injected into my life through litigation. We laugh a lot.

And on my part, I’ve seen things in her that were a bit different from what I imagined. I had developed the idea that only a mother would have the skills and empathy to understand my own kids. What I didn’t know at that time, was how complete this woman could be with her life and her choices and how she could WANT my kids in her life, even if she didn’t have any kids of her own. In fact, the non-kid aspect made our early courtship a lot easier as we merely coordinated around MY kid schedule.

Today, I can openly give thanks to my ex-wife for giving me the opportunity to seek and find a different kind of love. And I look forward to build a new life around and with my kids and this wonderful new partner.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to Single Parenting

related posts:

image: breakfast in bed, nyc, 2015, cc the author, creative commons usage

Sexy Sex and the Other Two Kinds of Romantic Relationship

OFF-blurdance

I’ve been thinking a lot about sex lately. Maybe it’s an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” sort of thing, or a retrospective retelling. I’m not sure it matters which. But in my meanderings someone suggested I listen to this TED talk about sex and desire. She seemed to think I might find some answers to things I’d been writing about. Boy, was she right.

The secret to desire in a long-term relationship | Ester Perel

Did you go watch the video? It’s amazing. And if you didn’t, or you simply don’t have the time right now,  here are my quick notes. Paraphrases from Ester Perel’s talk on desire.

+++ notes +++

“Sex isn’t something to do, sex is place you go, together and in yourself.”

In her studies she asked what made a long-term partner attractive again. Here are the typical responses.

  • when they are away (when we can gain some distance from our mate we can re-see them)
  • when they are being radiant – holding court, in their element
  • when they make us laugh, or surprise us (seeing our mate decked out for a party)

There is a big difference between needing someone and desiring them.
“There is no neediness in desire, no care taking.”

Partners who seem to have vital sex lives later in their relationship also share several traits.

  • they know how to bring back erotic desire (and they work at it)
  • committed sex is premeditated sex (you have to make time and plans)
  • willful
  • focused
  • patient
  • and present

And finally, there are three kinds of love:

  • lust
  • romantic love
  • attachment to a long-term partner

And humans have the capacity to love many people at once, in various permutations of these types of love. And somewhere in between that “attachment” and the “lust” we lose the magic.

+++ end notes +++

Okay, so to apply this new logic to my principle quests here, would be the next logical step for me. How in my marriage did my wife’s “lust” get lost in the “attachment” trap? What parts of our relationship became about survival and not about joy? And why, with a willing partner, did she choose to continue shutting down our sexual connection?

In my marriage, as she headed into a passionless place, I was trying to do everything I could think of to get her back in the mood.

These questions parallel a conversation I’ve been having with a psychologist who deals with couples and sex and divorce. And she wrote a post that caused me to ask her a direct question about my marriage and the loss of our sexual connection. Here’s what she said.

“There are only two healthy choices I see: either work on marriage, including deep look at how you perpetuate the dynamic where a wife doesn’t want sex at all (which is pretty rare- only 11% of marriages sexless which I think def is 10 times or less per year but have to look up), or move on.” Dr. Psych Mom on Facebook.

There was a choice, at some point, that my then-wife made. She chose to believe and inhabit the pattern of exhaustion, loss, overwhelm, depression, anger. And in focusing on those aspects of her own life, she failed to see what was right in front of her. A willing and lustful partner, who also happened to be a long-term attachment. We are all independently responsible for our own happiness. There was nothing I could do, though I tried, to alleviate my wife’s stress, worry, and low-libido.

Again, there’s all this talk recently about how women’s desire begins to degrade over the course of a long-term relationship. Duh! It’s the same for both parties. Sure, sex with a nubile young stranger could be just the tonic your sex life needs, but in a monogamous relationship those things are not longer available outside of fantasy and pornography. Sure does get the heart racing a bit. So women, are now able to admit, “hey our sexual attraction diminishes over time, even if the guy is awesome and loving and supportive.”

She had already exited once via an emotional affair, perhaps now she was planning how to reignite the lust with someone else. A very painful and selfish way to go about rebooting your passion, but those were her choices, and at some point, I had to go along with the decision.

In my marriage, as she headed into a passionless place, I was trying to do everything I could think of to get her back in the mood.  Even if I did all the chores on the list, even if I was making plenty of money, even if she got a good night’s sleep… It didnt’ matter. She was making a choice away from the marriage, sex was just an early warning indicator. It wasn’t about the sex. It was about her.

Long-term monogomy takes work. It takes a willingness in both partners to work on keeping things open, honest, and a bit spicy. When one partner begins to check-out or begins denying the flow between you, there is very little a solo-enthusiast can do to reconnect the lust. Perhaps it is like a faucet. At some point she was turned off by me. The stress, the financial trouble, the extra weight I put on while stressing out at the big corporate job. But that corporate job was the thing that gave her so much flexibility and freedom in her work choices. It was killing me, but it was the thing that gave her security.

I can’t put myself in her head. And today, even the words she said or wrote, seem to indicate she was indeed overwhelmed herself. The “attachment” part of our relationship had overwhelmed and overrun the lust part, for her. I say, that, because I was always willing to spark things up for her, whatever or whenever she wanted. But once we had kids, I can count those moments on one hand. She argued often that it was the chores that made her tired. And my lack of responsibility, or how I could ignore a burned out lightbulb for weeks. But something else was in-motion.

While I was one of those people who believed in continuing the pursuit of sexual connection, she was no longer willing to go along with the program. She had exited once, several years earlier, via an emotional affair, perhaps now she was planning how to reignite the lust with someone else. A very painful and selfish way to go about rebooting your passion, but those were her choices, and at some point, I had to go along with the decision.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

This post really began here:  It’s the Quiet Time, the Alone Time, the Empty Spaces

back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

image: dance, dino ahmad ali, creative commons usage

How Much Sex Can I Expect As I Grow Older? If I Work At It?

OFF-oldsex

I used to worry about frequency of sex in my marriage. Then I got divorced. And now I worry about sex at all, with someone other than myself. Well, to be honest, I don’t worry, but I do go without for long periods of time. I hear that I could go out seeking sex and probably be fairly successful. I hear that women are into casual sex at our age and now-divorced status. That’s what I hear.

I’m not that way. I’m cut from a monogamous cloth. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I want. And every opportunity, since my divorce, for casual sex, I’ve dabbled, but ultimately turned it down. I don’t want FWB. I don’t want a one-night stand. (I did that a couple times in college. No thanks.) I don’t want to cruise online dating sites for hookups. Or Ashley Madison for married folks who want to cheat. Gross. That’s not me. And that’s not my idea of love and sex and what I want from a relationship.

So how much are most people having sex?

I tell most women, early on in the dating process, if the relationship does not have long-term potential then I’m not that interested.

You might be surprised to know the average sex counts for dating couples and married couples differs substantially. Or you might not be surprised by that, you might assume that sex will cool after you get married. But what about divorced adults, often with kids, how often are those cute women on OK Cupid getting laid? What’s their frequency if they were unbridled by societally imposed limits? I need to ask my friend and OK Cupid serial dater what her experience has been. But she’s not looking for sex, exactly. She wants a relationship. She wants long-term. She wants “what’s next” to be something that lasts.

I don’t know if that’s the normal single divorced attitude either. I’ve met a friend of hers who seems to be more bent towards screwing while it’s good and looking for what’s next when it gets tiresome. Maybe she’s experiencing a pent up unmet needs hangover from her previous marriage.

I remember meeting a recently divorced woman at a singles party arranged by a mutual friend who was happy to tell me within minutes of our introduction that she had never been fully satisfied sexual by a man. And certainly since her divorce, she had not be able to find an adequate lover who was capable of keeping up with her in bed. She was insatiable, she said. Obsessive and a bit gross, was my read, but any way, she formed at least a portion of the single and divorced female demographic. So the answer is, all kinds of women, all kinds of needs, all different amounts of sex.

But often for women, sex is not the objective. And for some men (breaking the stereotype here) are also looking for something beyond the frequent and satisfactory orgasm.

But when you first get divorced you’re sure the time is ripe for ripping up the sheets with as many women as possible. And it didn’t’ happen for me. Not that I didn’t go out on some Match.com and OKCupid dates while I was still tragically hurt from my divorce. And not that there weren’t any potentially willing partners, if I wanted to play act the dance to get them into bed. But I didn’t. I still don’t.

I tell most women, early on in the dating process, if the relationship does not have long-term potential then I’m not that interested. Sex with someone, anyone, is not very much more fulfilling than porn and my own left hand. So I don’t look for this type of sexual gratification as an initial part of my dating process. And I’m pretty clear on my dating profiles that I’m not looking to hook up or jump in the sack. (And research on OK Cupid also shows that men putting those vibes out AT ALL, get very low response rates. Very low. So keep your libido in your pants, at least in your profile and opening communications with a woman.)

Among men, both poorer physical health at older ages and a decrease in its association with frequency are significant factors in the decline. A change in the association between happiness and frequency is also a significant factor for men.

And there have been a few women who contacted me first, with some sort of “hey your cute” proposition. And the two that I did go meet were really a bit more into it than I was. I simply did not care to proceed, even with a hot woman in a bikini who was downing gold margaritas, to the play that could’ve led to sex. Nope. That wasn’t attractive to me in the least.

So how much sex is everyone having out there? Is there some research we can turn to for answers?  If you look at the scholarly approach to data you get this report: Sexual Frequency Decline from Midlife to Later Life – Journals of Gerontology. And that’s really the demographic I’m interested in. (Millennials, who are probably not reading a divorce and single-parenting blog will have to go elsewhere for their data.)

Here’s the summary: “For women, change in the proportion widowed is a significant factor in sexual frequency decline, as is change in the association between happiness and sexual frequency. Among men, both poorer physical health at older ages and a decrease in its association with frequency are significant factors in the decline. A change in the association between happiness and frequency is also a significant factor for men. Reverse causality may explain the happiness–frequency findings for both men and women.”

Okay, but that doesn’t really help us parse our men and women and married vs divorced. For that I went to The Kinsey Institute: sex frequency by age and marital status chart.

First the men:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.59.03 AM

click to view full-size chart

And then the women:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.59.18 AM

Click to view full-size chart

Okay, so to take my age and desired trajectory (I’m being a bit silly here) let’s see what this data can tell us about the best relationship configuration for having frequent sex on into the sunset years.

frequency-sunset-years-650

Partnered seems to be the winner. Married comes in a close second and the poor single 70+ dude, no matter how fit and virile he is, looks like he’s alone a lot.

Seems pretty simple, but hey, good to know.

reference: The Kinsey Institute: sex frequency by age and marital status

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

image: Italy – 1948: what would you like to do, dennis jarvis, creative commons usage

Good Sex: Getting It Together About Getting In On

OFF-men-women

There’s a great concept in Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer that involves sexual satiation, that feeling of being fully satisfied. And I paraphrase here, “I wanted to f* her so good that she stayed f*ed.”

In my marriage we used to joke with this line of thinking. And while we were joking we were also communicating a valuable message. We were checking in with each other about our satisfaction and satiation. Of course there are different levels of sexual satisfaction, just as there are different types of sexual encounters. The permutations are infinite. And if you’re getting enough sex, you’re entire life has a positive quality, almost a glow, if you forgive the metaphor.

Sex should be a happy act. If sex is a chore for either partner there is a problem.

At the height of our sexual maturity (def: the ability to communicate easily about your wants, needs, and passions.) my then-wife and I were playful and open about our healthy sex life. There was very little strife or conflict about when, how much, or how, when it came to sex. We were in the groove.

A few signs of sexual intelligence:

  • Both partners are satisfied with the frequency and quality of their sex lives
  • The “ask” is easy and often spontaneous
  • Even the “not right now” is not a “no”
  • Rather than “no” the less aroused partner might say, “show me” rather than merely turning down the offer of sex
  • Sex is occasionally a goal of both partners
  • Communication during sex is easy, even when the request is difficult, “Can we trying something else?” Or even harder, “I just don’t think it’s gonna happen for me tonight, dear.”
  • There is very little conflict about sex
  • The kids are not an excuse, they are a challenge

The prevailing response from my then-wife was, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” When she would say this to me after I propositioned her I would get very creative about getting the kids interested in a movie (when they were younger) or off to a friend’s house as they got older. We often joked and teased about how we could create our next “opportunity.” Sex and even the talk about sex was playful and positive.

What happened? What happens to make sex in a monogamous relationship go south?

If you believe the recent studies you’d get some conflicting information. Here are some of the things you’ll hear about the differences between men and women when it comes to sex.

  • Men are always ready for sex.
  • Men think about sex every 45 seconds.
  • Women are the gatekeepers of sex.
  • Women take a lot longer to warm up to the idea of sex.
  • Sex is about feelings and well-being for women.
  • Sex is about animal urges for men.
  • Women don’t crave sex in the same way men do.

I’d say we are much more informed about sex these days. But some of the conflicting messages can mess with our heads and our libido. Yes men have more testosterone than women. Often this causes men to seek out sex more frequently. However, recent studies suggest in previous cultures women might have been the primary initiators of sex. And the studies further suggest that woman desire sex just as much as men, but the modern woman has been more culturally conditioned to not ask for sex or otherwise demonstrate her sexual readiness.

Libidinal mismatches can cause problems, but if the sex is healthy and happy there are a lot of ways a couple can stay in touch physically and sexually.

The joke that illustrates this concept is: When a woman is feeling sexually aroused they will go across the street for batteries much more often than they will go across the street to a singles bar. And sure there are some nice simplicities about masturbation, but the point is well taken.

So if we assume, for the sake of discussion, that in general women and men crave sexual connection and release with the same intensity, but we have been culturally conditioned to behave in different acceptable ways, then we can begin the discussion about what happens in a marriage, or any long-term relationship, when sex begins to become more of a chore than a pleasure.

What causes sexual imbalance in a previously healthy and positive relationship?

1. Sexual arousal.

Sure, I would state as fact that men can get aroused quicker than women. But the girl hard on is no less relevant than a man’s, it just might take different things to get a woman aroused. And it might take a bit more time for a woman to go from doing the dishes to doing her partner. Typically a man could do the dishes while doing his partner, if it meant getting to “do it.”

When we are in the courtship phase our sexual drives are often heightened above our normal libidinal levels. We’re turned on, we’ve got a new partners, we’re hot for them, we want sex more frequently. As the relationship matures and we get to know the other partner and we become a bit more routine, often both partner’s libidinal drives will return to their original, pre-relationship, set point. (This is a theory, not a fact.) And if there is a huge mismatch of desire, that might have been masked or during courtship, there will often be issues to deal with as the relationship and commitment deepen. But it’s nothing you can’t talk about and deal with. I suppose the levels could be so far off that one partner is never satisfied, but I think these are edge cases and don’t represent the typical sexual relationship.

2. Chores and the responsible parent.

In my marriage we did eventually evolve into stereotypical roles. I was the creative, spontaneous, bread-winner. She was the responsible parent and part-time stay-at-home-mom. I was the playmate who got energy from returning home to my kids, and they were often ready to hop on pop the minute I hit the front door. And since my day had been sans kid duties or dishes, I was more than happy to oblige. On the other side of the bed, my then wife might have resented my freedom and playfulness and wanted more help in the kitchen getting the dinner ready. But we managed. And I did help in the kitchen, with the dishes and housework, and with bathing, reading to, and generally getting the kids to sleep.

But there was a bit of calcification of the roles that over time might have caused problems and resentment. I was the fun one, she was the responsible one. And perhaps she was simply tired. But we always invited her to join our rough housing. We tried to lighten her load and get her to jump on the bed with us. Sure, that was irresponsible, jumping on the bed with young kids, but … What’s the harm? Riding bikes in the house? Why not?

3. Exhaustion.

Physical exhaustion is a personal issue. And exhaustion is a killer of all things fun and sexual. When someone is physically and mentally exhausted they are in no condition to cope with stress, sex, or even play. And unfortunately for adults, our exhaustion is our individual responsibility. As much as I tried, I could not remedy my then-wife’s exhaustion. I could do more chores, always do the dishes and laundry, and always try to pick up after myself and the kids. And even when I was doing 110% my then-wife, in the later stages of parenthood, was often too exhausted for anything but dropping into bed for sleep. Bummer. I understood, and I offered help and suggestions. But, as adults, the responsibility for one’s own health and well-being is solely up to the exhausted person.

4. Depression.

As our marriage was drawing to a close, I think she consciously stopped sharing her body with me.

Exhaustion can cause depression. Over work or overwhelm can also cause depression. And depression is the one absolute sex killer. When I was overly sad, my hopelessness around sex was insurmountable. Part of what I would get even more sad about was seeing my sexy wife and not being able to reach across the bed for closeness. I was so down, that even cuddling felt like I was asking for too much. And when she was sad, she tended to withdraw even more. So we needed to get those little blue periods under control before sex could return to its naturally happy state.

5. Mismatched libidinal drive.

In theory, we have sexual set points. We have frequency and quality levels that make us feel satisfied. And, I do believe that our sexual drives fluctuate over time. Sometimes a fall cold snap would bring my desires up a level as I imagined snuggling down under the covers and making love all afternoon in front of the fire. (Nice fantasy.) And, in the case of my marriage, we definitely went through long periods of sexual imbalance: where one partner (me) desired sex more frequently. (“Hey how about once a week? Or once a month? Or ever…?”)

And while drive mismatches can cause problems, if the sex is healthy and happy there are a lot of ways a couple can stay in touch physically and sexually.

In my marriage the drop off of sexual activity was an indication that emotional tension was building up somewhere for my then-wife. When she got mad, tired, frustrated, conflicted, sex was off the table. And unfortunately, that could go on for weeks at a time. I sat in my dog house of loneliness, even if it was not about me or anything I had done that was causing her to feel overwhelmed and thus non-sexual. And as our marriage was drawing to a close, I think she consciously stopped sharing her body with me.

Conclusion.

Sex should be a happy act. If sex is a chore for either partner there is a problem. If you can’t talk to each other about it, you might need some outside help.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@offparent

Note: I’ve left out sex as a reward or punishment as I think this aspect is beyond my comprehension.

reference: Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex – Marty Klein

related posts:

image: men and women, kevin bowman, creative commons usage