Sex ad­vice

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - ADVICE -

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.

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