Paul’s Dilemma

October 4, 2003

Here’s a letter from a reader for you to discuss among yourselves. What do you think is going on here?

“Paul” writes:

I’ve been working really hard to be considerate with my wife, and not “blow up” when things don’t go my way, and help “remove the distractions” by showing some interest in house work and other things. And it seems to be paying off little by little.

I am also aware that my wife has a self image problem right now and desperately wishes to lose some weight. Our sex life has not really improved, but her interest seems to have risen considerably which means a WHOLE LOT to me.

Last night I came home and was there before her so I folded some clothes and put away as much of it as I could. I brought in the groceries when she got home without having to be asked, and got the kids to sleep on my own. She was all over me. She was kissing me passionately and telling me that she really wanted me, (and also she told me about this guy that was “obviously checking her out” at Wal-mart, and it obviously made her feel great to be admired, although she doesn’t understand why because she feels fat. My wife is gorgeous, true, she’s not a size 4 like she was when we dated but the weight she put on has been proportional and flattering. She is voluptuous.)

So things are going good, and I’m getting excited because I think my wife wants sex, but then she asked if I minded if she went to the gym, because she desperately wants to lose weight. I said “of course” because I want to be supportive.

While she was gone, I cleaned my self up, shaved, put on a little cologne (not much), and put on some lounge clothes. I also got the bed ready, lowered the lights in the bedroom. Got her bath ready, and laid out a towel and some sexy panties and got out some clitoral stimulating cream that I noticed while I was getting ready and that she hasn’t used in a while and I know that she likes.

Since she was really expressing desire earlier I thought that she would appreciate my effort to get everything ready for her.

When she got back she was tired and feeling a little sore from the exercise, so right away I think, “It’s not going to happen,” but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe when she saw everything I had prepared it would bring back some of those feelings she had earlier. She gave her subtle hints that it wasn’t going to happen by suggesting we watch a movie or something like that when she got out of the tub, I told her I wasn’t really interested.

She asked if I would like to take a bath with her, and I didn’t really because I had just got out of the shower before she got there. (I know that she was trying to show me that even though she didn’t want sex, she still wanted to spend time with me. Which is nice.) So instead of watching TV while she took a bath I decided to go talk to her, which she really liked.

I was talking to her and a friend of mine’s situation with his wife came up. I told her about the advice I had given him (after reading your blog) and she was really intrigued by my insight, and asked where I had learned all that. So I told her about the blog. She was very interested, and glad that I cared enough to try to understand her point of view. I finally decided to just ask, if she didn’t feel like having sex tonight. She said she probably would but she was just so tired and sore from the exercise that she didn’t think she could. I said “Well that’s disappointing, but I understand.”

When I said the word “disappointing” she gave me such a look that I knew immediately that I had said the wrong thing. Do you think I have screwed up? Do you think she will think that all I have been doing was just an attempt to get laid and that I didn’t really mean it, rendering it all worthless?

Do you see anything else that I did wrong that might have caused her to lose the spark that she had earlier that evening?

Also do you think that her affection toward me was because the “other guy” showed her interest?

She seems to always be affectionate (flirt, kiss, say sexual things in my ear) when sex is not possible. (the kids are up, we’re at the in-laws, or in a public place like the movies) Then when we get alone and I think “OK now you can get what you want,” she’s not interested, and in-fact almost completely detached. Why? Is it my enthusiasm?

When I wrote back briefly to ask Paul if I could use his letter, he added:

I used to think she was avoiding me, by always seeming to find something to do as soon as the kids went to sleep, and then keeping herself busy until she had the “right” to use the excuse, “I’m too tired,” but after reading your blog, I think that she genuinely did want to have sex with me, but the distractions of her “duties” would not allow her to feel intimate with me.So she tried to accomplish something first, so that she would be able to allow herself to be rewarded. Of course it is always late by then and she doesn’t finish before she is too tired to do anything but sleep, and my protests then only succeed in making her feel angry, inadequate, and unappreciated. All that led to coldness.

But now we are getting past the coldness, and I have learned to “bite my tongue” and “accept” it, and she is showing interest again. BUT I CAN’T TAKE THE FLIRTING. I have told her this, and she says it’s not flirting at the time, she genuinely wants me, but she can’t guarantee that it will happen and “life” as she puts it usually decides that it won’t. But what I am interested in, is what happens to the hot and ready wife at my mother’s house when we get home 10 min. later? or when the kids finally get to sleep? Does the realization that she might have to act on those feelings she confessed earlier scare her? or is she really that tired all the time?

I think this is a fascinating situation and I have a number of ideas about what is going on which I will give when I get back, but in the meantime, I’d like to ask all you readers out there: what do you think is going on here? What is your take? What would YOUR advice be?

I have two suggestions (that are not necessarily mutually exclusive):

1. Take the laundry out of her hands, or the dishcloth, or whatever, say to her “*I* will do that later”. (And then you have to actually DO that later, by the way, or this’ll be the LAST time you have sex!) You have to essentially get across the point that you have GOT to be intimate with her, RIGHT NOW. Think of romance novels – the heroine often says “no” weakly to the hero, as he “forces” his kisses on her. I would NEVER suggest this for strangers, by the way – only for committed couples. She definitely seems to be passive/aggressively provoking you to want her – maybe she’s just waiting for you to “follow through”. Maybe instead of saying “I’m disappointed but I understand”, she was hoping you’d say something like “But I want you so badly, and you look so hot in that tub, fresh from the gym, and I’m so jealous of that guy checking you out…”

2. Did you ever see that Friends episode where Joey is participating in some sort of sperm-related medical experiment and his girlfriend wants sex (which he cannot have due to the terms of the experiment). Monica asks if he’d thought about being there “FOR HER”, if you know what I mean. When she kinda sorta turned you down, you could have suggested “well, how about I just take care of YOU, then?” I wouldn’t guess you’d have to do that more than 2 or 3 times…

PS, I think you’re definitely on the right track with the work around the house, too! catnmus • 10/4/03; 3:30:52 PM

I’m with catnmus on the second suggestion. How about giving with no expectation of receiving? “You’re tired, that’s fine, I just want to rub your calves.”Now the hard bit is that you have to be sincere in that. You can’t be treating it as a stepping stone, if she says “thanks, my legs feel wonderful, now I’m off to sleep”, then that’s how the evening worked out. But as above, my guess is you won’t have to do that more than 2 or 3 times, and if you do, it’s because you were leading too much on the first few times.

I find that sex really happens much more easily when it’s not the focus, when I’m really concentrated on connecting and communicating with my partner.

Dan Lyke • 10/5/03; 2:22:32 PM

Just to clarify, in case I was being too subtle. I wasn’t talking about just rubbing calves!

catnmus • 10/5/03; 2:30:11 PM

And perhaps I did you a mis-service by tying your words to mine.I’m thinking particularly of the night when I met my current partner. A bunch of us were hanging out naked in the hot-tub of a mutual acquaintance[1], and as often happens in such circumstances, there were backrubs and the like being exchanged[2]. One guy was rubbing any female feet he could get his hands on, and trying to advance up the ankle. I was rubbing feet, not jumping around too much, and doing nothing but rubbing feet.

He, of course, kept getting shot down every time he’d try to work higher. I was getting invited up the calves. And the difference was that he was goal oriented, I was perfectly happy to just experience the process. The net result was that I had the option of reaching his goal. He never did.

Paul’s wife is looking for the intimacy, the idea that he enjoys spending time with her, and that she’s not just a means to an end. Even at a subconscious level, she’ll react negatively if she’s being pushed. You can’t bypass the intimacy, but if you’re willing to drop back and allow the intimacy, to give what needs to be given, then my experience is that both participants will get what they want faster.

There’s also something positive to be said for the “I’m going to jump your bones. Now!” action, but it’s got to be done with care, especially after a cold spell, because, again, if it’s just a means to an end she’ll close down so hard he won’t see sex for another decade. It’s the difference between “I have to get off, now” and “I want *you*, now”. Make it the latter, and he’s golden. Make it the former, and he’s… errr… I was gonna say “screwed”, but that’s almost exactly wrong.

[1] Who also happens to be one of the better known teachers of Tantra in the U.S.

[2] For various reasons, I no longer find myself hanging out with that crowd, but there was a while where I felt self-conscious ’cause I was the only non-Certified Massage Therapist in any particular gathering…

Dan Lyke • 10/6/03; 2:08:30 PM

I wish I could provide any useful assistance. All I can say, though, is, “Amen!” to the idea that the flirting has to stop, when the flirter isn’t prepared to follow through. Because, my S.O. lives several hours away, and we see one another only every other weekend. And in the weeks between, it’s all, “I want you so much,” &c. and she gets here and ice descends. She’ll even be delighted with my giving, ah, “attention” to her, but when I suggest that perhaps I’m interested, she’s tired or she doesn’t really know or, “why can’t we just cuddle?”She attributes it to the wave-like nature of her sex drive, which seems to come (rarely) and go (quite often) without rhyme or reason…

Oh, now I’ve worked myself into a terrible mood. 😉 I’m going to eat ice cream.

laura • 10/6/03; 7:20:08 PM

I think you were right to tell her you were disappointed. You were. That’s just a fact. Reading your letter I knew she wouldn’t be receptive to sex once she got back from the gym. She wasn’t feeling attractive. Have you told her you like the extra pounds on her? It’s hard to give advice without knowing either of you, even just a little. But, I think she needs to believe you find her sexy. It’s not enough to just say it or just show her. You need to do both. Maybe it’s too flakey, but, I wonder how things would go if you met each other somewhere, pretending not to already know each other. Maybe there would be less pressure to perform for both of you.Anyway, good luck, don’t stop doing the housework. You have no idea how much there is to do and how under appreciated it all is.

Another Laura • 10/6/03; 10:59:16 PM

You must discuss your disatisfaction and mention that you want to preserve your love for her. Then tell her you plan to go to hookers till she comes across 5 days per week. Try jerking off and cut out the middleman…this way you know yourself best and don’t have to plead, beg, be subtle…and all at your own time and convenience. Let her know she is unwomanly. Go to porn on the Net and run up some bills and she will see if saves much money to come across more often. Let her know what god intended for women to do in marriage.

Dr Onan • 10/13/03; 1:07:55 PM

October 8, 2003

I think most of the commenters had much the same reaction I did. Paul is a little too “goal-oriented” here. It’s perfectly understandable. He’s feeling sexually deprived and his wife’s “warming up” seems to be proceeding a little too slowly for his taste. She, like many women, probably doesn’t understand that a lack of sex makes him feel Unloved, and that makes his helpfulness and sweetness harder for him to sustain.

But when a woman’s libido is starting to come back to her, it’s sometimes a fitful process. I think Paul is a very understanding and patient husband. He understands that she has insecurity issues (feeling “too ugly to be sexy”), subconscious worries about whether she “deserves” pleasure, and that distraction still has the upper hand. But what he may not realize is that she is probably also picking up on his single-mindedness when it comes to sex.

He’s doing all these things to GET SEX. It’s okay to do that, of course. After all, that’s what I’m advising, on the surface. I’m saying, look at all these possibilities that may be interfering with your wife’s ability to want you, and then make some changes, shift your behaviors (help out, think about what she wants, etc.), so that you can get in the sack. That’s the top note of my message here.

But that kind of thinking can also very easily shade over into utilitarianism. Think about a predatory guy in a singles bar, a really successful Lothario. What does he do to seduce women, to get all the one night stands he wants? He deliberately, cooly plays the part of an attentive, romantic, wonderful guy. Not because he really likes or appreciates the particular woman he’s with, not because he wants to initiate a deep and intimate partnership with her as an individual, but because, well, he wants to get in her pants.

So if you find yourself sizing up your wife as “prey” in this way, constantly calculating, manipulating, “working on” her so you can, as Paul put it “get what I want,” maybe you need to step back a little. Because she’s going to sense what you’re thinking. She’s going to feel the underlying pressure toward the “goal” — maybe not consciously, but since she knows you better than a woman can know a strange guy in a bar, she’ll pick up your Agenda vibes a lot more easily.

Paul can sense what his wife likes. She likes it when he comes into the bathroom to talk to her when she’s in the bath tub. She wants to be with him, communicate with him, respond to him, have him respond to her. She’s intrigued that he’s researching marital issues on the web. Paul is smart and loving and he thinks his wife is sexy, so this marriage is going to go gangbusters pretty soon.

I’m not sure exactly what is going on with the “teasing” scenarios, but here’s a couple of possibilities.

1) It can be a passive-aggressive power trip.

2) Fear or distrust derails the follow-through.

3) It’s fun and exciting, especially for a woman who’s just recovering her libido, and she may misunderstand how overtly invitational it feels to her husband.

I think it’s possible that all of these things are operational here, but it’s most productive to assume the best. How to cope? Play along. Learn to love to be teased. Paul says he “can’t take it,” but that’s probably because he is so fixated on what he feels it’s “supposed” to lead to. Think of it as part of an overall atmosphere of sensuality between you. Not every touch and kiss and fondle has to be an overture to some Main Event. Try out some “teasing” of your own, a little stroke or two that you really don’t mean to be taken as an approach. Relax about it.

I think Catnmus’s idea of trying to press forward a bit, be a little aggressive, might be a good one, but again, the key is that you are overwhelmed by love and her beauty and sexiness, not that YOU Gotta Have It. When I was contemplating that scene where he was talking to her in the bathtub, I was thinking, “that would have been a perfect time for him to have said, ‘God, you’re gorgeous in there with your pink breasts floating like that, it makes me want to eat you up,’ instead of, ‘Hey, are we going to have sex when you’re done with your bath?'” That was probably a little too flat-footed. Think subtle, think gradual, think “maybe,” think seduction. His confession of disappointment, although admirably honest, might have only confirmed to her that all the delightful interaction so far was just “goal-oriented.” It’s a tricky time, this early recovery phase.

It’s difficult, I know, to relax about this stuff when you’re so anxious to get some, finally, when you’ve been getting so little (or none at all), and especially when it’s starting to look more and more possible. But really, when you come right down to it, this isn’t a game you’re trying to win, or a prize you can automatically get just by following all the rules. It’s a matter of reconstituting a woman’s trust in intimacy and pleasure with you, and that, paradoxically, means not becoming too frantically focused on having sex.

Damn. You didn’t think it was going to be this frickin hard, did you?

I’m sorry. But I guarantee it’s worth it in the long run.

Comments in response to this post:
This seemed like the perfect example of the split in consciousness between men and women, where men tend to be achievement-oriented and women affiliative-oriented.In other words, he’s looking to score and she’s looking for the relationship. Paul’s thinking is “If I check off all the boxes — laundry? check; dishes? check; hygiene? check — that I’ll score”. Wife is looking for re-engagement at a different state of intimacy, which may not include sex until a certain comfort-level has been reached. (Comfort may be complete removal from those things representing work and responsibility, BTW; returning to the house from Mom’s was a perfect example. No work/responsibility at Mom’s house, but her own house is nothing but that. A complete turn-off to walk into a house that’s little more than work and more work.)

It’s not quite as simplistic as Mars-Venus, but awfully close. There’s a point at which checking off some of the boxes does get Paul closer to the state of intimacy which includes sex, but it’s not all about the boxes. It’s about re-establishing their relationship for her.

Maybe understanding what intimacy means to a woman is more important at this point in the process. Perhaps he should be working on the romance *only*, understanding that there may be no sex in the interim; it’s about the emotion, not the physical. When she’s able to emotionally shift gears, the physical part will catch up, but emotion has to be there first.

I’d suggest investing some time planning a vacation with her away from home, with the understanding that spending the time planning together is relationship-building necessary to “scoring” on vacation.

Rayne • 10/8/03; 2:22:52 PM

I am continually amazed at how well vacations work to reconnect me with my body and my love.But sometimes coming back to non-stop post-vacation crisis management can bomb that sensual, relaxed, romantic aura of “being away” to smithereens in a matter of hours. The contrast with “real life” can be especially traumatic if you’re just tentatively getting back into each other again.

Julia Grey • 10/8/03; 4:24:58 PM

That’s exactly why I emphasized the investment in time spent planning together — it’s time that’s NOT in the blissful vacation zone, but it’s relation building at work.

Rayne • 10/8/03; 4:39:31 PM

Besides, planning a vacation is FUN.

Julia Grey • 10/8/03; 5:32:44 PM

You all are right on the money. I know that she feels everything I do and say are “leading up” to something. She will hardly accept a compliment, she DOES NOT ALLOW me to flirt. (or at least touch her when she is not in the mood. Which is why the flirting can be so exasperating. She touches me, I can’t touch her. you know. 🙂 )The thing is I’m not all about sex, but I get misunderstood I think. I’m not sure how to overcome that. If I reassure her or tell her she’s sexy, she doesn’t buy it. She thinks he just wants to have sex with me. I can’t flirt and be playful because she doesn’t see it as playful, but cave man groping. (and the double standard there isn’t fair.)

It’s like she wants to work it out on her own with no help from me. I think she wants me to just be there when she needs me, be a good “friend” to her and let her tell me when she wants sex.

I tried the suggestion on one of the posts about trying to plan. I asked her if she wanted to plan a “stay at home” date. She playfully said, “You mean a stay at home sex night.” I said “NOOO.” She said, “Why not.” I said, “If that happens great, but if not we can just relax together. When do you want to do it?” She said, “how about Friday?”

That was Monday, and we talked about it again on Tuesday. I asked her about it Wednesday to see if she wanted me to rent a movie or something, and she had honestly forgoten all about it, and did not remember even having the conversation with me. And was hoping to have Friends over instead.(which I find suspicious she always wants people around, but then again she does that sometimes.) So I thought, “Here we go again, she’s gonna blow me off again.” But I didn’t fuss, I just told her I couldn’t believe she didn’t remember.

So I was dissappointed, but didn’t say anything, and that night while we where about to go to sleep, we had this incredibly hot kiss, and right after she said, “Well, I guess we can have our date Friday, no one’s really in town anyway.” That is very encouraging!!! Glad I’m a good Kisser. J/K

P.S. She was raped as a child by her brother. She says it doesn’t bother her and that it’s not a problem, but this all started about 1 and half to two years ago when he came back to live with her parents.

Paul • 10/9/03; 8:59:38 AM

It’s not just me that she won’t take compliments from. Recently she found out that according to the teen age guys at the school where my daughter goes to pre – k, she is the “hot” mom that they all talk about everyday when she comes to pick up my daughter. I could tell she was flattered, but she says, “There must be something wrong with them to think I’m Hot.”She recieves alot of compliments from a lot of people, and her standard response is, “I’m glad you think so.”

She just can’t believe it for herself. I think this is a good example of the fact that a woman’s self image can has a huge affect on her emotions, and it doesn’t matter what people say about her if she doesn’t believe it.

She said the other day, “If we could both loose some weight and get back into shape like we used to be, I bet we would be “getting it on” every night. So I can tell this is a big issue to her.

One other thought. I know that getting attention from me without expectations, or without my having an alterior motive is very important to her as well. Once she said, “I wish we could just be friends for a while.” (That sounds bad, but if you heard the whole conversation she was meaning she didn’t want everthing to be about sex and romance; she just wanted to be able to have fun with me sometimes.)

Keep the thoughts coming they are really helpful!

Paul • 10/9/03; 10:54:41 AM

A couple of thoughts, Paul. You reported that she said “if we both could lose some weight…” We know she has problems with her own appearance. How about with yours? Have you “let yourself go”? Maybe going to the gym could be something both of you could do together. I know that the YMCA my wife and I used to go to had a day care facility for our daughter, which made it nice. A lot of what you’re saying is mirrored in my own experience with my wife. We’ve made love exactly twice this year, with no sign of improvement.

I’ve been checking Julia’s website daily for anything that will help, and I’ve found a lot, but mostly with ways to help me cope with my own sense of disappointment and loss. My wife has gained weight, too, and while I still find her sexy and appealing, she has a poor self image. She’s on the Atkins diet now, and I support her by not eating any carbs around her, which she appreciates. I do a great deal of housework, including laundry, dusting, vacuuming, plus all the yardwork. At first I did it with the whole “goal-orientation” thing…if I do this, she’ll want to have sex! But now, I just do it because, well, you do it once and it becomes YOUR JOB FOREVER. Actually, I do it because I know she likes to see that I’m making an effort, and I do like a clean house…just not as clean as the house she wants. Anyway, I’m rambling. Keep us updated, Paul!

Harry • 10/9/03; 12:39:54 PM

I have put on about 30 to 40 pounds. I definately don’t look as good as I did when we first got married, but I don’t look awful. I know she want me to lose weight for my own good, and I am trying, but I don’t think my apperance it the problem. She obviously still finds me attractive, but just seems to have a problem going through with it.Also I live in the smallest town you can possibly imagine in rural North Louisiana. There is only one “gym” and it is owned by her uncle. It has only a few machine, just enough to do what you need, but I promise there is NO day care. 🙂

I was taking Karate, and working out and different things like that earlier this year to get into shape, but she threw an outright fit. She wanted me to come straight home after work and be with her and the kids as much as possible. I was ticked, didn’t talk to her for a couple of days, but that’s over now and I come home straight after work, and she goes to the gym and comes home tired every night. 🙂

Paul • 10/9/03; 2:01:38 PM

“P.S. She was raped as a child by her brother. She says it doesn’t bother her and that it’s not a problem, but this all started about 1 and half to two years ago when he came back to live with her parents. “Um, bingo? Paul, do you know if she ever received therapy after the incident(s)? Do her parents live close by, i.e., is her brother near by now since he’s moved back in with them? It seems to be that this issue bears further exploration/discussion.

carol • 10/9/03; 2:13:35 PM

Being raped by your brother is not something she’s over. But I don’t know if discussing it is the right choice.I can give you two examples of intimate relationships affected by varying degrees of sexual/emotional abuse. One frankly is now more comfortable living alone. That’s her choice. Is it the absolute best she can do? Of course not, but that’s what does do and it’s not up to me or even her to completely rebuild her psyche.

The other has an on/off problem similar to what you and many others describe. I link that more to emotional abuse, but it’s not like I’ve done a comprehensive study. I’m fairly sure that the emotional abuse creates more body image problems, while the true sexual abuse creates more intimacy issues. But that’s probably my personal experience – that a startling percentage of the lovely women I’ve known have been physically abused.

In other words, there are some things you just have to accept. I suggest you keep coming back with different approaches until progress is made. Don’t expect the progress to be permanent, but you can use it to restart when the switch is on off.

In the end, as long as you keep this in the perspective of your overall relationship, you’ll manage. You’re not married just to bang her.

jonathank • 10/9/03; 2:30:09 PM

Yowch…”p.s.”? That’s hardly a puny little pile of dust swept under the carpet, it’s more like the 3000-lb. elephant in the corner nobody is talking about.I think there’s a lot more going on there that’s compounding any problems the two of you have together (I’m wonder what her relationship was like with the uncle who owns the gym, as well as other men in her family…). Whatever it is, continuing to work on being there emotionally will be important.

Rayne • 10/10/03; 9:07:19 AM

Forgot to add that in light of previous history of sexual abuse/violence being more aggressive may not be the ticket here.Bet Julia’s got something to add about this, I’m sure.

Rayne • 10/10/03; 9:10:53 AM

She get’s along great with all the men in her Family. There’s her Dad, his Three brothers, her Grandpa, and her brother. She loves and enjoys spending time with all of them, and works for two of her uncles. She is civil and caring toward her brother, but resents him and the lifestyle he leads. She refuses to expose him for what he did to her because she dosen’t want to ruin any chance of him being a part of the family, since he has so many other problems. (Drug Abuse, lying, stealing, etc.)The two major problems she deals with are anger, and self-image. She has a terrible temper, and gets set off fairly easily, and even though she is tall and beautiful, and most of her life was a size 2 to 4, and gets countless compliments, she still thinks she is ugly and everyone is just being polite and don’t really belive what they say. Especially now that she has put on about 20 pounds.

She also gives up on things easy. She has big dreams, and many interest but seldom follows through on anything. It doesn’t take much for her to get discouraged and feel like it’s hopeless or she’s not good enough.

She wants to go to college, and plans to, but everytime it gets serious (take a test, pick out classes, call admissions) she puts it off an eventually gives up.

As far as our marriage, most of our problems seem to stem from her anger and amazing ability to hold a grudge, and her feeling ugly which is completely untrue

I’m sure that her past has a direct affect on alot of these things, but I don’t think it is what keeps her from me.

On another note, she has had many female problems. Troublesome cysts, threat of endometriosis (probably not spelled right, but it’s bad news.) At one time she had an uncurable muscle condition called Fibro Mialsia (again probably not spelled right.)This muscle condidtion made her constantly stressed and irritable and made her not able to sleep which made her more stressed and irritable, but God healed her of that while she prayed at the alter.

And worse of all she has what she calls, “The plague” which is psoriasis. She has it on her head, fortunatly under her hair but still very painful, stressful, due to the large flakes that occasionaly show up. (She hides it very well and most people never know she has it, but she knows and it is a constant worry.)

And she has psoriasis on her genitals, (under the pubic hair above her clit so it’s not actually around her vagina opening or on the clit but more on the pelvic bone, if that’s the right turn.) The condition goes in cycles and gets worse then better then worse, sometimes it gets so dry that it cracks and bleeds which is very painful. During those times there is no sex. I bring this up because of Julia’s Discomfort section. I wonder if it is uncomforable everytime to some degree. She has never said, maybe she doesn’t know any different. I know that alot of times when we are finished she experiences “burning”, and has to “clean up” immediately after EVERY time to avoid the “burning”. If she does experience discomfort everytime I wonder if anything can be done. Most lubricants irritate her, I don’t know why but she says they do. (we’ve never tried KY brand, which is what they use at the genecologist, but I’m alittle embarasses about saying, “Hey can we use lubricant tonight.” 🙂

Any thoughts? Anybody been through something similar?

Birth control makes her sick and doesn’t control her period, condoms make it unenjoyable for her, and pulling out makes it unenjoyable for me although I do it anyway, creams and spermicides are “messy”. And she doesn’t want either of us to get “fixed” right now. So there’s the fear of getting pregnant, again. What do you guys suggest?

Paul • 10/10/03; 11:47:54 AM

You asked for suggestions, but first let me give you a few facts. I also suffer from having Fibromyalgia. No one that I know has every had it cured at the altar. I belong to a website that is a support system for people with it. Alot of what you are describing are symptoms of it.Now, I am going to say something that is going to cause me to get a lot of flack but here goes anyway. Sit her down, tell her your feelings, and ask if it would be possible to open the marriage. I know, that is simple for me to say but as a single woman, I can’t tell you the number of times that I have heard stories just like yours, as the men eventually become fed up, begin to hate the woman that they live with, and are looking for a woman that doesn’t have all the problems.

Before anyone asks, yes, I have had sex with married men. I don’t have a problem with it. But that is neither here nor there. It is a fact that sooner or later the resentment is going to set in and then there will be a real problem.

Lynn • 10/10/03; 4:31:07 PM

It sounds like she has a lot of other issues than just the health ones. Ones where you’re having to cope with the symptoms of, that she doesn’t seem to be taking much personal responsability for. The resulting mess of good intentions and patched frustrations, has made a mess so complicated I’m surprised you’re still around.There is a certain amount of co-dependancy going on, I suspect.

Jeff • 10/10/03; 8:32:05 PM

Wow, Paul, you do have a lot of challenges here.However, I think one place to concentrate might be on the discomfort issue. You say you use lubrication, but have not yet tried KY. That was puzzling to me. What have you used? The reason KY is such a sovereign sexual lubricant is because it is has no additives (like flavors or scents) that might cause irritation.

The “burning” sensation your wife complains of sounds like a combination of friction and a chemical or allergic reaction. Petroleum jelly isn’t good because it “seals in” whatever chemicals are in the mix, it is hard for the body to get rid of afterwards, it destroys condoms, and it just doesn’t feel right (not slippery enough).

Condoms are notorious for causing problems because the rubber creates major internal friction without lots and LOTS of lube. You might be able to use condoms again if you get some KY in there. I don’t really understand why you are asking whether you can use lubrication. It really should be a kind of understood thing that you will, given her discomfort problems.

The note about her finding spermicide “messy” makes me nervous, though, given that using enough lubrication will also prove “messy.” You might want to put a towel under you in the bed so you can just toss the “wet spot” in the hamper afterward.

Hang in there. Don’t lose hope.

Julia Grey • 10/13/03; 7:53:56 AM

Just a quick comment regarding KY – I have experienced the “burning” discomfort with KY, but not with other lubes, such as Astroglide. So KY is not necessarily the best lube – try different ones to find what’s right for both of you.To me, it sounds like she is pushing you away for some reason. It may be entirely due to some shame she clings to, probably because of her physical problems, but on a less conscious level, might also be due to the rape by her brother. Has she ever had counseling? I’m wondering because I’m thinking that maybe some (most?) of her physical problems may be stemming from stress. She should consider going to talk to someone, and try to sort out her feelings about things. Just my .02 cents.

Jim M • 10/13/03; 9:34:47 AM

On the “burning” and lubes, we’ve settled on “Slippery Stuff” as the best compromise of longevity, non-stickiness, and sensitivity. Definitely don’t settle if one is giving you problems, they really are different.

Dan Lyke • 10/13/03; 9:58:19 AM

Fibromyalgia reacts negatively to any sort of stress, stress just causes flareups and as long as the stress is there so is the flareup.My suggestion is to get her to a good rheumotologist as quickly as possible.

Most people with Fibro are sensitive to every drug or most any other substance known to people. We can have very strange reactions to prescription medications.

Lynn • 10/13/03; 2:59:16 PM

A few things are going through my mind and some are frankly speculative.1) Was it rape or consentual incest? She may characterize the one as the other as sort of a defence mechanism against feeling guilty (wholey unnecessary, but it happens). The net effect being that she is highly resistant to engaging in any type of consentual sex.

2) Okay, she is bathing and indicates sex isn’t likely. Rather than discuss it, why not just take that as a maybe. I assume this is a master bathroom, you’re in. What to stop you from kissing her near the bed, looking longingly into her eyes and saying “I know your tired. Just lay back and relax, because I would love to lick your pussy.” Then it’s much more her getting sex then you.

3) Give up. Work out an accomodation either within the marriage or out of it. No reason you can’t live together either way.

Roy Kay • 10/13/03; 4:20:41 PM

“She refuses to expose [her brother] for what he did to her because she dosen’t want to ruin any chance of him being a part of the family, since he has so many other problems. (Drug Abuse, lying, stealing, etc.).”Paul: She needs SERIOUS counseling, either with or without you. Her brother’s mistreatment of her, combined with her total refusal to put her interests first in her life, as implied in the above quote, are probably causing or exacerbating nearly all of her other problems, physical and emotional. I have no doubt that her refusal to confront her brother or what he did to her is increasing her frustration, hopelessness and resentment (as evidenced by her temper, grudge-holding, giving up easily, feelings of ugliness and unworthiness, etc.). These problems MUST be dealt with, sex or no sex, and the LEAST helpful thing you can do, for you or her, is to let her continue to avoid these problems and use you as a punching bag.

Raging Bee • 10/15/03; 11:50:25 AM

Dave may be right, BUT it is sometimes very difficult to find good therapy at a reasonable price, and some forms of therapy can actually enhance a person’s feelings of inadequacy and anger by emphasizing their “failings” and problems, dredging up and dwelling on the past, and encouraging too much talk about how others have let them down.Therapy that de-emphasizes the past, asks the client to see what’s good about his or her life, face up to themselves, and look forward to the future is generally pretty useful, but it is, strangely enough, sometimes actively resisted by some people. It’s as if they would prefer to remain “troubled” and blaming, telling themselves and the therapist a dramatic story about why they have not succeeded in life and why they almost have a “right” to be (and remain) unhappy. For these people therapy that encourages them to dwell on that story is not only unproductive, it’s counter-productive.

So I’d suggest that you ask potential therapists about their general approach, and be cautious about those who seem to put too much emphasis on trying to find all the causes of your current problems in the past.

I would also recommend that counseling to address serious personal trauma be INDIVIDUAL counseling, not joint counseling, at least at first.

Again, this is just MY opinion. As I said before, this ain’t the Church of Julia Grey.

Julia Grey • 10/16/03; 9:33:24 AM

Here’s a far more radical suggestion: she could expose both her brother’s past treatment of her and his current misdeeds, announce that she will no longer tolerate them in her life, and judge her family on their reaction. This will benefit her by allowing her to assert her own interests overtly and take back some measure of control of her life. In the long run, it will also benefit her brother, by letting him know that at least one of his family is no longer cutting him any slack, and encouraging (forcing?) him to clean up his act.Narcotics Anonymous is full of people who chose to get sober only when their families tore off the curtains and camouflage nets and said “NO MORE!”

Raging Bee • 10/17/03; 1:40:48 PM

Therapy, therapy. Paying people to be your friend. Sad.

E Lake • 10/18/03; 4:45:49 PM

What is even sadder to me is that here is a man who is at his wit’s end, but yet the apparent woman that he adores is to wrapped up in her world to see what is coming.Ahhh, the stories that I could tell about both. Men at the end of their ropes because of situations like this and the mental health system in the United States.

Lynn • 10/20/03; 2:48:09 AM

What the hell is going on, i just read this while surfing … and i dont even know if this is an old topic or a new one but im gonna post my opinion in the hope that someone might read it and benefit from it.
first of all Paul, your intentions i can understand buddy, but youre going all wrong about it. Here is what i see … shes is interested in sex like anything and she would literally make monkey love to you in a manner that neighbors would complain. The thing is, youre not speaking the language she wants you to speak.

it may be hard to trust a guy on the internet giving you advice on women, but give it a try, since youve tried other things and they dont seem to work, im susre my advice is atleast worth a shot. What i see is that shes already giving you all the signs of what she wants by either telling you what she liked or by doing it herself and what youre doing is trying to please her with other stuff that YOU think she might like.

First of all, dont make excuses for your desire as a man, and no i dont want you to rape or force her into anything. Just be confident that you dont have any issues about having sex. Secondly stop making excuses and apologising for things. Dont say stuff like “im dissappointed” or “i understand” …. you can still be considerate but say stuff like “oh alright”, like it doesnt matter to you, get her out of the loop, make her say “what the fuck, that was unexpected”. So that atleast she sees something out of the ordinary which would defintely catch her attention and get her curious.

Secondly, it seems you really care about your wife a lot, but sometimes saying “youre sexy” is not powerfull cause they would dismiss that by thinking “well hes just trying to make me feel good”. instead i want you to stop saying stuff like that and start doing the following .. which btw is based on stuff that she has already told you in an indirect manner.

“and also she told me about this guy that was “obviously checking her out” at Wal-mart, and it obviously made her feel great to be admired”

– Watch her body up and down as youre talking to her, everything except the face like youre enjoying feasting your eyes on her volumptous figure ….. when she asks you what youre doing… simply hold up your hand and say “wait, im not done yet”. – Reach over and smell her by taking your nose very close to her neck but not touching it. take a long deep whiff and then just act like nothing happened. – Dont compliment her on anything, instead … try to communicate it with your body language. Like the guy at the wal-mart. someone she didnt speak to but he communicated that she looked hot and she “got it”. – Walk more closely to her, keep your arm around her waist but act like you dont know what youre trying to do and its just normal, mix that with wandering off to another part of the grocery store and leaving her to herself (when youre doing grocery) and have her find you. or simply reading a book while shes trying to flirt with you.

Flirt without mercy!!! which is the other thing your wife wants you to do… make her want it so bad that its almost unstoppable and not mundane like you saying “lets do it” and she says “sure”.

“She seems to always be affectionate (flirt, kiss, say sexual things in my ear) when sex is not possible.”

– While she moves forward to kiss you , move back … look her in the eyes and give her a naughty smile … say something like “i dont think you can kiss me (like its a challenge)” – or say “id rather do this” and move over and flick your tongue on her ear lobe (or wherever shes sensitive), just a light butterfly stroke and move back. – for super points, if you can pull this off …. keep looking her in the eyes and say … “well i was thinking, you know what i really enjoy about your kiss? its not the part where our lips meet, its the part just before that (move closer as to kiss her, stop right at her lips) simply here, when you have your eyes closed and i can smell you. even feel the warm breathe on my face anticipating that my lips would touch yours (give a slight touch to her lips with yours ) its such a bitter sweet place, dont you agree ? but i love it. (move back to make eye contact, give her the naughty smile as if youre in control and shes wet like anything) and ofcourse… dont kiss her if you do this.

the idea ofcourse is to increase sexual tension so its actually a great idea to do it when she think you cant do it. when its awkward, where she would be concious of whats going on. she is simply craving for this kind of fun. please make her dreams come true cause i know you want to.

Hope it helps.

Hassun Mujeeb • 10/23/06; 7:30:51 PM


13 Responses to “Paul’s Dilemma”

  1. ToppHogg Says:

    I know this column is intended to be good advice, but the solutions offered aren’t going to work in some instances. I can attest that when a psychologist discusses relationship scripts that it isn’t BS. My thirty-plus years of living through marital hell provides me with plenty of data to write them.

    My wife of over thirty years only wants sex about twice a month. Like Paul’s wife, she begins to make suggestive comments and touches me intimately – but only when there cannot be any possibility of real sex. She won’t – no, refuses! – to take any such action when there is a possibility, because her head is full of “Good Girls Don’t”. But it doesn’t end there.

    I have learned over the years that unless I get specific cues from her regarding her interest when there is a possibility of sex, no amount of preparation or awareness of her obligations is going to get me anywhere. She always has an excuse, no matter what. She’s tired, she has to get up early, she doesn’t feel good, she can’t relax, she didn’t sleep well last night… Even on date nights when sex is intended in advance to be a part of the action, she gets it all out of the way as fast as possible so that she can concentrate on whatever discussion of my shortcomings she has scheduled.

    But damn! If I don’t deliver the orgasm on the intended date, don’t I hear about THAT! Then, I’m cheating on her with someone else, or I would have been expressing interest in sex by now. And don’t suggest counseling! We have gone that route, and she will lie about our relationship the moment it begins to look like she is the problem.

    I have decided that I will not be the pursuer anymore. I do not find the relationship satisfying in any way. I really no longer care to crawl through the obstacle course of over an hour of foreplay for five minutes of mediocre sex. I will provide that when she decides she wants it, but I can not consider her the fulfillment of my own needs. I would rather do without. It’s much easier to live with than living the frustrated and unsatisfied life.

    Why do I stay, you ask? It is the only way I can keep some kind of a relationship with my kids. They side with their mother in almost everything, and I have to be good to her if they are willing to include me in their lives. It’s a good thing I’m getting old. I won’t have to live like this too much longer.

    • Marialatin Says:

      It’s interesting that you consider foreplay as “crawl through the obstacle course of over an hour of foreplay for five minutes of mediocre sex”. I would imagine she knows that you consider pleasing her a chore so, I am sure you can understand why she considers having sex with you a chore.
      So you both have arrived at the same place in your lives albeit on parallel paths. She is as miserable as you, she is stuck with a husband regards her with distain because of sex. She has given you children that you love but she is still not enough because see expects to derive as many orgasm as you get when you use her body.
      You should leave and see if some other woman would want a longterm relationship with someone who regards his pleasure as paramount. Try it and see maybe you’ll get the physical sexual release you crave for a while but not for long.
      Any relationship is an exchange of satisfactions – a selfish man is destined to be constantly frustrated because he does not understand this basic premise. A women’s body does not exist for a man’s pleasure. After all, it is her body and she has a right to do as she pleases with it. if she gets noting for having him use her body for his orgasms then she will stop, it’s human nature.

      • max Says:


        I cannot help but read your replies with a great deal of amusement. You respond to posts with a clear prejudice based on your own stereotype of how husbands are all at fault for their sexless marriages. I think most of the men on this forum share their experiences hoping for advice, not blame. Maybe you could take the time to learn the difference.


      • Marialatin Says:

        Max you are right I was going through a very bad time when I wrote these things. When I read them over I cringe and wish I could make the disappear. The situation i found myself in with my relationship left me very angry, hurt and hateful towards men. It was a time of very wartpted thinking having no basis in reality.

        These blogs and forums are sometimes targets for troubled people to pick fights and say things that could not be said in real life. That was my state of being at that time. It is more a reflection of my sorry state and not a representative sample of what people really feel and do.

        My recovery has been slow, the fact that I am disturbed ny most of the things I wrote is a good thing but the writings are still there to disturb others. It might be helpful to look at what I wrote as an extream example of what some women may be thinking and the misunderstanding that is so common in relationships. I viewed all men as self-centered, sexually exploitative, animals at that time and I was to angry to see that sex can be another way of expressing love in a mono committed relationship. Feeling desperate enough to talk about how I felt and being heard finally did the trick. I am very slow to state what bothers me, I let the situation ride thinking that I should be able to manage or that what I feel is not valid.

        Holding my feeling in even if they are unreasonable is counterproductive better to air out those feelings before they become entrenched and find out early that they are crazy. That what I learned in this unfortunate time in my life, my view is distorted due to my experiences not the reality of my life at present. I think there may be many women and men who have similar distorted views that they don’t reveal. The feedback that I got from many people convinced me that I was wrong about the angry things I wrote.
        I can only give you my sincere apology for anything that I said of a disturbing nature – but just remember the source and the situation and consider the opinions I expressed as comming from a hurt and angry woman. Maybe there are elements in my missives that you may find useful I don’t think the distortion are uncommon for some women although they might not express it.

  2. max Says:


    No apology necessary. It seems to be a free forum for all, regardless of where we are at in our struggles. And, quite honestly, I should have taken the time last night (while, I will admit, I was going through some bitter moments) to say that seeing a woman’s perspective is certainly something that is missing on this board, and I read your posts with interest, finding some insights into my own relationship. It’s good to see that some of us find a path to resolving some of the issues in our relationships.


  3. Lisa Lynne Says:

    I don’t see anyone else noticing this…. she is emotionally abusive and controlling. She may have issues from childhood and with her own body image that contribute to the current status quo, but the plain fact is, she is taking advantage of you, Paul. Of your patience and attempts to placate, sooth, be “understanding” and all your continuous efforts to find the chink in her armor.

    This discussion revolves around your sexual relationship, but what about other aspects? Are you a great provider, setting her up with a lifestyle she doesn’t want to give up, for instance? What is she really in this for, I wonder?

    Definitely more to the story than the sexual aspects.

  4. SentWest Says:

    Re: The flirting when it’s impossible to have sex thing:

    I had this exact issue with my ex-husband. He would take me out to dinner, we would flirt back and forth, and be having fun with each other, I would be all warmed up to get some action…… then we would get home….

    …and he would immediately go to his computer, and I would not exist for the next few hours. Then, after I had cooled off considerably and was no longer interested, he would suddenly want to proceed straight to the banging.

    Which, of course, I would find too aggressive and intrusive, and wouldn’t be interested. Being totally ignored and only grunted at for several hours is not a turn on. From his perspective though, we *Went Out to Dinner*, and *Flirted*, so therefore I should be *Hot And Bothered*. The interim treatment did not show up on his cognitive radar whatsoever. He was not being mean, just absolutely clueless that his behavior could conceviably have an effect on my emotional state.

    I tend to believe that, at least in women like myself, our sex drive has a big old flywheel. Going from 0-60 with a giant thousand ton flywheel at full rest is not going to happen. However, if small amounts of energy are consistantly applied, the thing keeps spinning and is more ready to be spun up with less energy at the right time.

    I hate to tell you guys, but you have to apply the little bits of energy, like I already said, consistantly, and FOREVER. Marriage or commitment doesn’t give the sex drive flywheel some sort of frictionless perpetual motion bonus.

    My ex could not understand that putting energy in 30 minutes prior to wanting to get some doesn’t work, and putting in a bunch of energy, then taking it all back by yelling at me or biting my head off or treating me like I was an imbicile also doesn’t work.

  5. Sask Man Says:

    I truly dont Understand so much of what I have read here , My wife does not work she has a maid come in once a week I am doing at least 50% with our kids wich are really at quite an independant stage her biggest consumption of time is talking about her “problems” with her girlfriends whose lives too are littered with “problems” . She uses the same bullshit excuses that a working mother uses. When are we just going to accept that women do not like sex as much as men and would rather talk to a girlfriend about you than talk to you . I have been demasculated , humiliated and embaressed by my wife if we did not have kids i would vamoose. I would have sex with another woman if i knew i would not get caught (and therefore divorced) and if 90% of men would be honest they would do the same. The fragility of the male ego does not allow me to accept that my wife will not hold up her end of the deal yet does not hesitate to call me out l if she feels I have not done my part or held up my end of the deal . So in short if your wife works do your half if she does not , do not , the end result is the same their tired , you dont do your part , you dont show compassion , You ate her Turkey sandwich 1997 and she is still hurt you will not change her or make her hornier by vacuming , listining to her or well……. there is nothing you can do find a good website and get wacking or find a little on the side.

  6. Catie Says:

    My husband is the perfect husband, works hard does the laundry, etc etc. and I still can’t give it up. We’re both 32 and we have sex maybe 1 a month. I would rather hug my pillow than have sex. It’s another chore to me. When I offer pity sex he gets angry. WHAT???! Men don’t seem to understand that sex sometimes is about as interesting to women as shoe shopping is for men. We don’t care for it like you do (not all women of course). Things were different when we first met but then so were the raging chemicals in our bodies fueling the attraction and passion-which are now gone. And Sask Man: I would probably have sex with another man if I knew I wouldn’t get caught as would many other women. Women crave the passion and excitement of first meeting their lover…which usually disappears after being married for a while. It goes both ways.

    • Don Says:

      Hi Catie,

      I’m curious to know: have you ever actually told your husband these thoughts? If so, what did he have to say? If not, then why not? I’m not trying to have a dig at you, I’m genuinely interested.

    • Jim Says:


      • George H. Says:

        Jim: That’s an easy one. Because Catie wanted/wants a human ATM MACHINE! Only in this case, she never has to deposit any cash into the account. What a deal! America – WHAT A COUNTRY! I’d like to see the women in non-USA/Canada/UK/Australia get away with THAT neat little scam!

  7. Helgan Says:

    George H. Truer words have never been written ! Its this country, I’ve been a host in Vegas and here goes my bit of proof that what you say is true. American couple of any color/race comes to the ropes, I inform them you must have ID , he replies ok ,she states I left mine in the room, husband says I told you to bring it. She says she forgot or what ever. ( heres the clincher ) He has to walk/ take a cab back to the room while she waits here. Now the couple from UK europe, portugal or what other country. Same scenario she goes back by herself or with the other women of the group without a problem, no attitude or the you’ll never see me naked again look. I did this gig for 3 years straight and NEVER did an american couple have the woman go back. Even when he said I told you to bring your ID. What does that say about american relationships ? I love my wife and would go the extra mile for her but there is such a double standard for women in america. They want equal rights but only when its to their benefit. Hence we have these marital problems. The man/woman role in america has become so convoluted. Now I dont think women are less than but I do believe we each have specific roles but when the roles are constantly being rerouted or revised it creates the problems we have here. Especially with this Happily Ever After lie that movies and cartoons push on us. So now when reality hits us and the wife isn’t happy its now the mans fault. Then man became a punching bag in america in the mid ’80s on tv and it has spiraled out of control. Women are disappointed in their relationships and its our fault however as a man you cant voice your disappointment or it becomes a personal attack. A woman only want to hear she is the wind beneath your wings. Other wise your an abusive jerk. Ever notice if a man voices his disappointment in position in life to his wife she instantly goes to ‘ so you’re not happy being with me ?’ never listening to what his issue is. She doesn’t care because as long as she is content well, you should shut up and soldier up. Its my opinion that american women have been raised to be self centered. Now yes there are crappy men out there but for those of us who truly love our wives seek out these sites trying to make things right and yet still she refuses to see the effort he makes and the other women I’ve seen on this site chime in say things like ‘I cant believe this is all you men do is plot on how to bed your wives’ and ‘ I’ll raise my daughter to be independent and not have to count on a man.’ These examples truly lead me to believe that things have to change in america from not allowing boys to fight in school, to the everybody deserves a trophy in child sports to these baseless reality TV shows where the more shameless you are and the less moral fiber you have the more successful you are.

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