My wife and I are both 32 years old and have been married for seven years. We have one child who is 4 years old. The problem I am facing is my wife has no sexual interest at all. She only wants to have sex once a month or so – and a quick one – which is not enough for me. She doesn’t want to talk about it either, even if I try to start a conversation about it, she never talks – and, if she does, then she says: “You men are obsessed about sex,” and “It’s not just me, all women are like that.”
If I say I might have to pay for sex outside our relationship, she says I should go for it. It appears she doesn’t really care about it. Please advise. It’s unfair for anyone in a committed relationship to make a unilateral decision. This is simply not how relationships work. No one gets to dictate to the other how sex will be any more than whether they have to be vegetarian. I wonder if your wife has ever enjoyed the sex you two have had and whether you two can be close, loving, considerate and supportive in other ways. Sex is not a service to be delivered, it’s one part of a much bigger picture. There’s a lot that needs to be attended to for lovemaking to stay alive and pleasurable.
In this stand-off situation, I wonder about how power works for the two of you. Your wife is certainly claiming her power around sex; who makes the decisions about money and lifestyle? Can you two share other decision-making or is this sexual ransom picture in fact retaliation?
Maintaining sexual interest requires communication. Keeping a relationship healthy while outsourcing your sexual needs would need communication too, so this standoff cannot continue. I encourage you two to get professional sex therapy to bring an objective third party in to open up communication, identify what this is about and help you address it together and learn the skills of tackling hard stuff, as there are sure to be more – that’s life. Before you propose this, you need to be clear of your bottom line. Would you end the relationship if it remains this stuck? Asked for tips for introverts, had some thinking to do. She concluded that it may be extroverts who need advice. Last week I was somewhat baffled by an email asking me to “share some tips for introverts”. What can I suggest to help introverts, the emailer asked. Help them with what I wondered? Digging deeper, I discovered the writer had an introverted daughter she dearly hoped would become more sociable.
Emails like this make me squirm. I was under the mistaken impression that Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, had dispelled the myth that introversion was an affliction to be avoided and that extroverts rule.
WOULD YOU SHUT UP AND LISTEN (PLEASE)
While it may be hard for us extroverts to get this – we are usually too busy shouting across the bar, celebrating our breakfasts on Instagram or strutting like peacocks around the office to pay sufficient attention – there are good things about introversion. I’ll say that again, only louder, just to check you really did get it… THERE ARE GOOD THINGS ABOUT BEING AN INTROVERT. Extroversion isn’t the Holy Grail of functioning. Some people just like less noise, people and stimulation. As Susan Cain explains so well in her book, writing off introverts as lesser beings is a dangerous bias. Given one third to a half of the population are introverts, overlooking quieter people when we look for leaders, and failing to provide environments in which they can flourish, has broad implications for society at large. “It’s our colleagues’ loss, and our communities’ loss and, at the risk of sounding grandiose, it’s also the world’s loss, too because when it comes to creativity and leadership, we need introverts to do what introverts do best.” Such as thinking before they speak, detecting others’ emotions, and not feeling it necessary to stamp their mark on every new initiative and therefore allowing others’ ideas to come to the fore.
SNEAKING AWAY FROM PARTIES
My defence of introversion also has another source. I suspect I’m becoming more of an introvert as I age. Where I used to thrive on big social gatherings, I now prefer a small group of friends over a crowded room; while I do sometimes collaborate in a team, I’m at my happiest locked away in my office working alone; I yearn for downtime more than uptime. An empty beach is my favourite place. Drifting away from the extroversion of youth as we age is not a rare phenomenon and Cain’s quip that “if the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you’ve been” speaks volumes to me. And yet the pressure is on to live like an extrovert: when I sneak off early from parties even I brand myself dull.
WITHOUT EVEN SAYING GOODBYE
Both of these personality traits have a number of different underlying facets – how gregarious we are, how assertive, how open and warm on initial contact, how much we covet excitement over peace and quiet. We can be high on some of these (I still find it easy to chat to new acquaintances) but low on others (I’d now choose a good book over bungy jumping any day). But the thing that strikes me most is that forcing introverts into extrovert territory is draining. This explains why I enjoy the first couple of hours at a party and then have an overwhelming desire to retreat home, without saying goodbye. It’s not bad manners, it’s merely the quieter side of me finds social gatherings physically and emotionally exhausting. Similarly, it makes me grateful for educators who understand that not every child is suited to collaborative learning, that it’s imperative we identify quiet, calm spaces for introverts to think and learn. The same goes for open-plan offices. We need to value difference, not quash it. So, if you know an introvert, remember not to punish (or crush) them merely because they draw their energy from within.