Sex ad­vice

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - STYLE & LIFE -

My part­ner and I have been to­gether for five years, this is her third and my sec­ond re­la­tion­ship. She does not earn as much as I do and has al­ways ex­pected that I pay for her wher­ever we go, in­clud­ing for hol­i­days. I pay rent to her and my share of liv­ing costs. At the start she was sexy and play­ful and we had a good in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship but, grad­u­ally over time, she has with­drawn phys­i­cally. She al­ways pushes me away now if I ini­ti­ate so that I no longer bother and what was weekly is now monthly and only when she is in the mood. It is brief and pre­dictable as she will not al­low for va­ri­ety.

I am feel­ing used fi­nan­cially and am now think­ing of see­ing other women for in­ti­macy. I talked to her about my needs but she is feels that ev­ery­thing is fine. She sees us to­gether for­ever, with me pro­vid­ing for her – in­clud­ing over­seas travel and sup­port when we re­tire.

I feel­ing like I’m be­ing taken ad­van­tage of and I de­serve more in our re­la­tion­ship. Ev­ery­thing in a re­la­tion­ship is never “fine” un­less both peo­ple see it that way. Have you two dis­cussed the fi­nan­cial mat­ter? In the lust and ro­mance of re­la­tion­ship be­gin­nings, cou­ples of­ten don’t con­tract as clearly and specif­i­cally as they need to about the many is­sues that are in­volved be­cause it seems cal­cu­lat­ing and un­trust­ing – but ac­tu­ally it’s es­sen­tial to do it some­time.

Be­ing gen­er­ous in your giv­ing is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of love which needs to be mu­tual, un­less one is happy in a mar­tyr role.

While I see no future in the prospect of a money-sex trade-off, I think what you’re say­ing in rais­ing these two is­sues is that it feels like you give a lot and get noth­ing in re­turn. Lay your cards on the ta­ble about this and speak from the heart about the kind of re­la­tion­ship you want. She may see it very dif­fer­ently, of course – she has pro­vided a home, you con­trib­ute some of the fi­nan­cial costs – so some good lis­ten­ing will be re­quired by each of you before you work to­gether to find a res­o­lu­tion that works for both. It’s your choice about out­sourc­ing your sex­ual needs, but it won’t do any­thing to en­hance this re­la­tion­ship un­less you both agree on polyamory. If you want to be at the top of your work game, you need to learn to give your­self a break. That means no phone, no email, no re­venge fan­tasies, says As I write this it’s Fri­day. It’s been a long, long week and I’m done in. Ac­tu­ally, it’s been a hor­ri­ble week and I feel over­whelmed and in­ef­fec­tive. Mis­er­able, too. Scour­ing some re­search for last week’s col­umn on burnout brought my at­ten­tion to how many of the symp­toms I cur­rently tick – not great when I’m sup­posed to be an author­ity on the psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­cesses pre­dict­ing well­be­ing. I’ve fin­ished the first sea­son of Ozark, drunk all the wine, and had it with wak­ing at 2.39am night af­ter night, my brain churning through work tasks. Some­thing’s gotta give.

For­tu­nately we’re off on hol­i­day next week, so es­cape is im­mi­nent. We all need time to re­set, re­ju­ve­nate and re­cover from work. That’s of­fi­cial, not some­thing I in­vented as an ex­cuse to get away, but the find­ings of sev­eral stud­ies prov­ing that time away from work is a vi­tal in­gre­di­ent of peak per­for­mance. Work­ers who don’t take hol­i­days are at a greater risk of burnout, more emo­tion­ally ex­hausted at work and, ac­cord­ing to the Fram­ing­ham Heart Study, at in­creased risk of heart at­tack.

Re­searcher Sabine Son­nen­tag, from the Univer­sity of Kon­stanz in Ger­many, has re­peat­edly demon­strated the im­por­tance of be­ing able to switch off from work. “To re­main healthy and en­er­getic at work it’s es­sen­tial to have some time to calm down, switch off, not think about work, and re­turn to base­line so you feel fresh and en­er­getic again,” she says, ex­plain­ing that this ap­plies to both hol­i­days and non-hol­i­day pe­ri­ods. In other words, if we want to work well in the of­fice, we need to stop think­ing about work when we’re not there. That means no calls, no check­ing emails, no day­dream­ing re­venge on toxic col­leagues...

I’m so fed up I don’t imag­ine that will be hard. I can’t wait to post my out of of­fice re­ply and quit out of Mail. I’m delet­ing all so­cial me­dia apps, leav­ing my phone in my case and pro­vid­ing a lan­d­line num­ber for emer­gency con­tacts only. But, what hap­pens when I’m back? And is one week enough?


The good news is that yes, one week is def­i­nitely enough to mit­i­gate the nega­tive ef­fects of work­place over­load. The bad news is that the pos­i­tive im­pact of a hol­i­day doesn’t last long – any­where be­tween three days and three weeks to be pre­cise. This means we’re bet­ter to go lit­tle and of­ten than save the days for one re­ally long hol­i­day. And if we want to sur­vive the stresses of the mod­ern work­place, we have to find ways to switch off dur­ing week­nights and at week­ends too.

Son­nen­tag’s re­search sug­gests that while just re­lax­ing can be ef­fec­tive, mas­ter­ing a new skill is a sure fire route to psy­cho­log­i­cal re­cov­ery. In fact, any ac­tiv­ity that fully ab­sorbs your at­ten­tion takes your mind off work and acts as a buf­fer against stress. Gar­den­ing, cards, play­ing Lego with the kids, cook­ing, read­ing, or ten­nis – it’s not what you do, but de­tach­ing your­self com­pletely from work thoughts.

De­tach­ment also re­quires us to es­cape workre­lated in­ter­rup­tions. En­gag­ing in job-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in the evenings, or on hol­i­day, is un­de­ni­ably detri­men­tal to re­cov­ery. While we may kid our­selves that check­ing emails or short Skype meet­ings to “stay on top of things” re­duces the re-en­try bur­den, in the end they prevent us from switch­ing off and do noth­ing for long-term pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions should be made more aware of the im­por­tance of re­cov­ery, says Son­nen­tag. “A lot of over­time im­pedes re­cov­ery be­cause you do not have suf­fi­cient time to calm down or re­cover… Bot­tom line for man­agers is that they should en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to re­cover. Hol­i­days are im­por­tant.”

So go right ahead and book that div­ing, fish­ing, bik­ing, ski­ing, or cook­ing hol­i­day – ul­ti­mately your boss will thank you for it. *Lucy Hone is tak­ing a break from writ­ing for Sun­day. This is her last Help Your­self col­umn.

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