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March 12, 2010

So, What Are Your Major Turnoffs?

This is something I wrote about 5 years ago during an extended hiatus from blogging. I brought it back here to VC because it bears on something I'm going to write about later today.

Good Lord how do I find this stuff? Not writing about politics is going to be the death of me. There ought to be a 12-step program for former bloggers trying to kick the habit. I don't have time to read literature (what I thought I'd be doing with all this glorious free time I don't have). My work schedule is just too hectic right now and my brain is completely fried from editing. That leaves my other major recreational interest...

Well I suppose there is alcohol too, but I fail to see what there is to write about there and Hubris seems to have the whole drunk-blogging metier pretty well covered. At any rate, muddled in with an inordinate amount of psycho-babble, this woman is exploring her control issues:

I used to be a "frigid" wife.

I knew even before I got married that I wouldn't be able to keep up the "schedule" of sex my husband and I had established during our courtship, and once I even warned him that it was going to have to slow down. But I think that went in one ear and out the other at supersonic speed, touching nothing in between.

Sure enough, not long after we got married sex became a battleground for us, and we struggled with the problem like two fish flopping around next to each other in the bottom of an open boat: gasping for a natural breath and injuring ourselves with every pointless, ineffectual spasm. [Ed. note: Lovely metaphor there]

To me it seemed simple: he wanted me to be his sexual appliance, a handy-dandy love machine that could be switched on and off at his command. I felt no desire, and I didn't want to "submit" to being handled and penetrated when I wasn't in the mood. If he really loved me, this sex thing, this "merely physical" part of our lives, wouldn't be such a big freakin' deal. And his pissy, furious responses to my refusals only made me more sure that he didn't really love me. He just wanted to use my vagina.

To him it seemed simple, too. If I loved him -- as I consistently claimed -- why didn't I want to make love?

Actually there probably aren't too many women who haven't had those thoughts at one time or another, but "I wouldn't be able to keep up the "schedule" of sex my husband and I had established during our courtship..."? Good nightshirt... did she pencil him in on her DayTimer right next to having her teeth cleaned and the every-other-week bang trimming at Chez Kenneth? *Not* a good sign.

I don't know what scares me more here: that she had a "sexual renaissance" or that she felt the need to blog about it. Did she discuss it with her husband first? How does he feel about having their bedroom difficulties aired over the Internet? Seems a rather hostile way of working out your problems. In all fairness, however, I'm not sure the issues were all on her side:

My husband had a bad habit in the first decade of our marriage of going to some routine business function or some minor get-together by himself, or just stopping for some after-work drinks with the boys, and "losing all track of time." Not only would he not come home until hours later, reeling, he wouldn't even call to tell me where he was.

Naturally, in the fullness of time came the day when, realizing at 11 p.m. that he was out on another of these toots, I literally packed my bag, put my infant daughter in her carrier and picked up the phone to call a cab.

So why didn't I?

Good question. The first decade???? I could see the first year or two - that seems like pretty normal growing pains for a marriage, but ten years? Here we have the classic WWE marital death match, complete with body-slamming and overwrought trashtalking. She doesn't want to "give in" in the boudoir, so he gets her back by being inconsiderate and acting like he doesn't care (like he wouldn't be at home in a heartbeat, if he could just get laid in the first place). While there's nothing wrong with a little power struggle in bed (keeps life interesting) it ought to be in the spirit of play and not dragging all sorts of outside issues in that have no place there. No wonder she didn't feel like having sex - I'd be exhausted.

I realized (somehow, in the flame-edged haze of my fury) that for all my fussing and fuming about this issue, I must have somehow not been able to get my husband to really understand how deadly serious it was to me. He still didn't Get It, and there had to be a reason for that, a reason I had to fathom.
Bingo. (A) He'd never experienced what you were feeling and (B) there were no negative consequences, or at least none he wasn't willing to put up with. Did it ever occur to you to quit nagging and get a babysitter? Or just get a grip on "the flame-edged haze of your fury"? For Christ's sake - got melodrama? He's having a few beers, not axe-murdering your mother. Why not go out yourself, without telling him where you were going or bothering to come home at a reasonable hour? Try that 4 or 5 times and odds are the behavior would have come to a screaming halt. I've always been amazed at the illustrative power of an object lesson, as long as you don't ruin it by belaboring the point. Don't waste time getting mad - adjust your behavior.

But on to the fun part. Oooh! this is where she proceeds to tell men what they can "fix" about themselves so their wives will leap into bed like deranged minks and drive them mad with desire 4 to 5 times a week! I couldn't wait to read this part to see how well it matched my own experience. Women love this kind of daft psycho-garbage: it's why we find ourselves thumbing through mind-numbingly idiotic puff-pieces of the sort found in Cosmo Grrrrl as we're waiting in the doctor's office (Oh the horror!) as Grandma in the next chair casts prun-y looks at us from atop her issue of People! Magazine.

250 Ways to Drive Your Man Shudderingly, Gaspingly, Heart-Stoppingly Crazy in the Sack

Yeah. Fine. Whatever.

15 Things Your Man Secretly Wishes You'd Do To Him

Let me guess... serve him beer and nachos dressed in only stilettos, black stockings and a devilish smile while the Redskins are executing that play action pass? Been there, done that. Next...

Fill his car up with gas next time you borrow it? (more likely)

What a disappointment. When I read her "fix-it" list, I couldn't even penetrate(!) the dense fog of follow-your-bliss, archetypal "you-too-can-be-a-manly-man-if-you-just-check-your-cojones-at-the-door" blather to see what the heck she wanted the poor guy to do. And if I couldn't understand it, no man on the face of the earth stood a chance in Hell of ever figuring it out:

To recover his marriage sexually (and every other way) [Ed. note: Huh??? Oh nevermind.], a Man will:

1) Face facts (obviously we're already working on that)

2) Fix "little things" first

3) Understand the emotional calculus of Love and Power in his relationship

4) Return to the basics of his own character and masculinity

5) Create his own solutions in his own context.


In my experience there are only so many reasons a woman is not going to want to have sex:

1. She doesn't love the man. Hopefully if you're married, that's not an issue.

2. She's exhausted from work or taking care of small children. Solution: get help for her, help out more at home, and get her away from the house. Easy, easy, easy.

3. She doesn't feel sexy anymore. Sometimes women get so used to sealing off parts of themselves, just to get through the day, that they "forget" what it was like to be a real person. Every time I see a woman in one of those denim tent dresses with one of those putrid plaid apples appliqued on the front, I wonder if she has even a single negligee in her closet? The nicest thing my husband ever did for me when the kids were 8 or so was to start buying me nice lingerie. My neighbors in base housing teased me unmercifully - called me "Victoria" because of the parade of Victoria's Secret packages that used to show up on my doorstep at regular intervals. He'd go to the field and I'd get a package with something divine inside, wrapped in a black satin bow, and I knew he was thinking of me.

Honestly, I didn't know what to make of it at first - I felt a bit pressured. "I work so hard all day, I can't do anything I want to do with my life, and at night I'm supposed to transmogrify into something out of Odalisque?" But it grew on me. More importantly, it helped me recover a part of who I was before I got married. I just needed to view it the right way - not as an effort to control me, but as a tribute and a way for me to become a bit more adventurous. Now I buy things for myself!

4. Most importantly, she feels disconnected or doesn't feel loved. I don't think men understand this. It used to amuse me somewhat that one of the things that invariably drove me wild when we were first married was watching my husband run the vacuum. But it was because to me, that was a sign that he recognized how tired I was and was willing to help out. It was a sign of commitment, and women are huge on that. Conversely, men always think women "withhold" sex when they're mad at them, but the truth is that when we don't feel emotionally close to a man, sex isn't much fun for us. It's not punishment, it's truly lack of desire. I've never been a big fan of saying 'no' anyway. How much trouble is it to make love, even if you're not particularly in the mood? Even when the earth doesn't move, it's all good. The least that happens is that it brings you closer - at best it's amazing. I've always thought it rather short-sighted when women are always saying "I have a headache". What woman doesn't like to be held in a man's arms? If they weren't so durned touchy, they might find they'd get more affection and attention, which is generally what they really want.

Despite the fact that it failed to inspire me to "drill... down to [my] deeper personal truths, [my] aquifer" (good God - I didn't even know I had an aquifer), I did snort my coffee when she started going on about men finding their "individual masculine mythos...their personal erotic legend, the story of Manhood Your Way". At some point even the author had a glimpse of the very real possibility that she was spouting a bunch of folkloric bullshit, so it was an entertaining read.

It must be hard (no pun intended) to be a man these days. Everyone keeps telling you how to do it, usually by emasculating yourself and becoming more like a woman, which seems somewhat self defeating. Especially in the bedroom. And the thing is, women like men just the way they are. We just want to feel loved and appreciated.

Now is that so hard? Well, maybe the talking part. But there are compensations.

Posted by Cassandra at March 12, 2010 05:16 AM

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1) Face facts (read my mind)
2) Fix "little things" first (see #1)
3) Emotional Calculus. Otay, she lost me here.
I thought relationships were more like algebra.. but that the helk do I know? I guess that since I never took any classes beyond college algebra that that leaves me out in the cold and Not In the Know. My nephew might know. He is in his senior year of calculus at Wa. State, and he is only 19. I'll ask him.
4) Return to the basics of his character and masculinity. Stop right there. #1, 2 & 3 is anything BUT a return to his character and masculinity. She wants the man she fell in love with. Well, then, be the women he loved. I have learned that men do not read minds. Nor are they verbal, and the two are somehow mutually exclusive.

But, surprisingly, the Real Men who value their wives, and the Real Women who value their husbands
manage to work things out by listening and talking, and working together to achieve their
common and individual goals. I thought marriage
was where you were equally yoked and pulled together, not apart.

5) Create his own solutions in his own context?
I guess that we repeated #2 again. What if she
isn't *happy* with his contextual solutions?

Good grief. As I told BillT the other day, the Engineer doesn't get a 'HoneyDo' list. He sees what needs to be done and does it. I am more of
a plodder, but we both somehow have managed to not
only stay together, but work together.

She can't keep up? Sometimes deferred gratification can be uh..well...you know.

But to go on a tear and have her 'honey, if you do
this list' as a one size fits all soloution for
all men is silly as it is wrong. Please tell me
this women is a free-lancer and has no credential
or training in psychology.


Posted by: Cricket at March 12, 2010 07:59 AM

The reason I brought this post back was that to me it shows the almost incredible degree to which people in a troubled relationship refuse to look at how *their* behavior may be contributing to the problems.

It's always the other person who needs to be "fixed" - never them. And they never take responsibility b/c that's too haaaaaaaaaard (and also they're hell bent on "winning" even if that means the end of the marriage - which of course won't be *their* fault either!).


Yeah, I read something upsetting again :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 08:11 AM

And I thought the "emotional calculus of Love and Power" line was hysterical :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 08:12 AM

So, her husband finally discovered how to 'write his own erotic legend'? I suppose that explains that piece yesterday about how some lady got tied naked to a tree....

Posted by: Grim at March 12, 2010 08:28 AM

My wife and I, both USAF officers at the time, got engaged four weeks after we met, and married six weeks after that (and the only reason for that delay was getting a schedule that convened all the needed/desired parties at a common location at one time). Then the USAF sent us to our separate units on a normal assignment rotation. We spent five of the first ten years of our marriage living apart from each other.

We learned to talk to each other. Not talk at each other, but to each other. And it wasn't just "deep conversation;" as often as not, it was frivolous, joking, light-hearted. And we took care of the routine business with which a family--even out "extended" family--must deal in those phone calls and letters. We communicated. And we're still together 36 years later. She's been through a bilateral simple mastectomy, we've both gotten horribly fat and worked to lose the weight, we've been poor, and we've been better off. Our marriage gets better as time progresses.

It's that communication. It's that recognition that we each have warts as well as cool stuff, and we love each other anyway/because of them (love perfection? How?). I want the whole woman for my love, my partner, my life. She wants the whole man for hers. We talk with each other. And we do other stuff together, too.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 12, 2010 08:47 AM

OK Grim...

[tapping foot]

You are in big trouble ;p

Eric, I think that's the biggest secret to staying married. When you stop being willing to talk to each other, there's nothing there. I've never been a big believer that everything has to be discussed. Every marriage has areas where it seems wise to "agree to disagree" and let it go. But on the important stuff, I think it's a negotiation process. No one can go forever without getting any of what they want, and I don't think people can take it for granted that their wishes will always match their spouse's.

That's where the horse trading comes in, or just the willingness to be flexible. Sounds like you have that one down pat.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 09:11 AM

Be careful what you ask for, is all I'm saying. Cut me a check like that and a lady might well find herself tied naked to a tree in some dark forest... hope she cleared the calendar!

Were I free, of course, for such things; as it is, my own calendar is quite full for the rest of my expected life. (Which may be short, if I keep baiting the hostess.)

Posted by: Grim at March 12, 2010 09:38 AM

Which may be short, if I keep baiting the hostess.

Heh :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 09:41 AM

Well, this person told her husband sex wasn't going to be part of their relationship like it was when they were courting.

They got married anyway, and true to her word, she cut him off. The ONLY thing that changed was their union was legitimized.

So why she would cut him off is beyond me unless that was the only thing that could keep him. She 'felt no desire.' It begs the question of why they bedded each other in the first place. It also begs the question of what being frigid really means. Here is why she decided to blog:
"Being a writer by trade and a blabbermouth by inclination, a blog like this was inevitable."

There are some other items as well; 'Men are angry' and 'you could power the Enterprise with the rage they were feeling.'

No. Really? YA THINK? Women got angry about how men treated them and she is surprised that men
have feelings?


I was right. She is a freelance journalist and has done some research. She knows enough to be dangerous.

Why am I not surprised? She has since 'recovered' from her pissy irritation
at being 'touched' and 'penetrated.'

Yay. She grew up.

Posted by: Cricket at March 12, 2010 10:01 AM

Reading her essay, it sounds as though they both had some growing up to do :p But you're right - she was a piece of work.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 10:06 AM

Cassandra writes, "No one can go forever without getting any of what they want...."

Yes, they can, if it's not the sum total of the relationship. I want to hang glide off Mons Olympus, but I'll never get there in this lifetime. Even if I could, my wife would not even be willing to serve as my witness/fan club or ground crew, much less come fly with me.

More concretely and more to the point of the present thread, in any relationship, the two participants are going to find themselves drifting onto different schedules for the things they want to do. Like having sex (since this is a somewhat genteel blog) and/or making love (and there is a distinction). Occasionally (often?), those schedule drifts become permanent--the physical desires awaken and dampen on schedules not in synchrony, including going to one extreme of the sexual interest being completely gone.

If the only thing holding the two together is that sex, then, yes, the relationship is in trouble. If the relationship is based on things more concrete than the physical, this is a bump in the road, and in this area, the participants are not getting what they want forevermore, and the relationship remains rock solid.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 12, 2010 11:05 AM

When Cass says "No one can go forever without getting any of what they want....", I don't interpret that to mean that there aren't certain things one may want to do you'll never get to do in your lifetime. I interpret it to mean one person can't go forever always being the one to give in to the other in a relationship. If your supposed "partner" always gets their was and never accedes to YOUR wishes, I think the relationship is doomed to failure...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 12, 2010 11:16 AM

They were treating each other like objects. I'm not surprised that she resented being treated as an object to be penetrated on his schedule. I'm also not surprised that he didn't like being treated as an object with unimportant and mystifying needs and desires. Was there actually anything about this guy that she liked? Did she love or respect him at all?

In my experience, the biggest intimacy-killer is the withdrawal that results from trying to avoid fighting about something that's driving me crazy. There's no way around it: you either figure out a way not to let it drive you crazy, or you find a way change it. The withdrawal can avoid conflict for a little while and may be fine for a cooling-off period -- but "cooling" is the operative word. It can get downright chilly. When I find myself thinking of my husband as an object, I know I'm on the wrong track. Nor is he a business customer who has coupons for a certain number of sexual encounters per week. (I'm sorry: you've exceeded your minutes this month. Would you like to discuss upgrading to the PersonalPlus plan?)

It does seem to be hard for a typical man to imagine how closely tied his woman's sex drive is to her emotional connection to him. Not that I'm saying that a breach in that connection is necessarily his fault; in my experience it's as often my doing as his. But it's got to be fixed. If he's causing it, he may as well get to work.

I saw Ray Romano do a mournfully funny stand-up bit once about the infrequency of sex for a married couple with small kids in the house. He said if they had sex, he mailed in his quarterly taxes. If it was oral sex, he renewed his driver's license. Ouch. There but for the grace of God . . . .

Posted by: Texan99 at March 12, 2010 11:19 AM

"I interpret it to mean one person can't go forever always being the one to give in to the other in a relationship."

And yet this is exactly what happens when the sexual interest completely disappears from one of the relationship's participants. There are two alternatives: the other participant always gives in to the one on this aspect of their relationship, or the one must submit to sexual congress regardless of his/her want.

If there are other, more concrete aspects to the relationship, the former allows the relationship to continue to flourish; the latter simply kills the relationship. If there are not more concrete aspects, the relationship is doomed, anyway.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 12, 2010 11:31 AM

I have always enjoyed sex, but I can remember when our boys were small that I was SO tired at night. All I wanted to do was fall into bed and sleep.

Also, there were times when I was tired of being touched. This is a thing men don't understand, and the odd thing is that I am very physical and demonstrative. I like hugs and kisses and I picked up or hugged my boys often. But as a young mother I often felt like my body didn't belong to me any more.

After carrying a baby for 9 months and nursing for a year, you start to feel like you've rented out your body parts. I'll never forget (I know I've told this story before) one day when I just HAD to shut the door to the "executive reading room". All I wanted was to be alone for a moment.

After a few seconds, the beagle started whining, I heard small children pounding on the door and - horror of horrors! - the tiny fingers of a little girl I watched came wiggling under the door.

It does seem to be hard for a typical man to imagine how closely tied his woman's sex drive is to her emotional connection to him. Not that I'm saying that a breach in that connection is necessarily his fault; in my experience it's as often my doing as his. But it's got to be fixed. If he's causing it, he may as well get to work.

Yep. And women have a hard time understanding that if they reject a man in the bedroom he won't generally feel as loved and that results in him not being as nice to her. I've seen it happen innumerable times. Nothing softens a man's heart more than feeling desired by the woman he loves and sex is part of that.

As Eric said, it can't be the ONLY thing. But it does matter to many men and if you love someone, it behooves you to try and understand what is important to them.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 11:36 AM

Oddly enough, the Engineer understood about the 'not being touched' and didn't try to push it.
But, and I say this cautiously (not being a qualified free-lance journalist with a smattering of research cherry-picked to back me up), some men will not see it as rejection.

Frustration? Yes. That is when real communication starts.

What I don't understand is the double standard of 'If you love me, you will leave me alone' after marriage, but not before?

As to major turn offs, well, being tied nekkid to a tree would be a deal killer.

Posted by: Cricket at March 12, 2010 12:42 PM

Fortunately the Spousal Unit has been able to restrain his beautiful and natural desire to tether me to the shrubbery in the altogether.

Although I don't suppose I can count upon that to last forever...


Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 12:48 PM

Harumph. I'm going on 18 years of sexual starvation with my wife. Does she love me? Yes. Do I love her? Yes. So wadaya do? In my case, I KNOW its my wife! (Suggestions always welcome.)

Posted by: Richard at March 12, 2010 01:02 PM


I wasn't just referring to the physical aspects of a relationship. But, I would say you're right. Not that I would know anything about it...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 12, 2010 01:04 PM

Well, I can make a few suggestions but I'm betting you've already tried them. These are just general suggestions - please don't feel that I'm implying anything about you, personally.

One thing that really changed the way I looked at sex (IOW, that helped me understand how my husband viewed it in a way that made me inclined to want to make him happy) was reading John Gray's Mars and Venus in the Bedroom.

One thing he said was that women need to feel loved in order to get in touch with their more sexual side, but men generally need to have sex in order to get in touch with their more emotional side. I loved that explanation (whether or not it was true). It was a big "AHA!" moment for me b/c it framed what he wanted in terms of me getting what I wanted (if you want him to be more affectionate and open, try being more sexual).

Another suggestion (not sure how old she is) is to have her hormones checked or encourage her to lift weights. I am always more in the mood when I'm exercising/in shape. And women are even more sensitive to hormone levels than men are.

Finally, I'm not saying that you do this, but women whose husbands are always noticing 19 year old Czech supermodels often assume that their husbands don't find them attractive any more. In fact, I'd say based on my experience talking with other women for 3 decades that a LOT of women make that assumption.

I am not terrible looking but I certainly don't look 19, nor do I have surgically enhanced boobs. I see an awful lot of men publicly go on and on about other women's bodies. That has exactly the same effect on a woman that men experience when their wife belittles them in public (and I HATE when women do that). I only mention it b/c so many guys seem oblivious to what they're doing. I don't think they do it on purpose, but it can be very hurtful.

My husband has always been extremely considerate of me. But one thing I've heard women voice over and over is the feeling that they are being "used" in some way. Guys seem to be able to separate love and sex in a way we can't. That is threatening to someone who (in general) doesn't feel desire without love. If you know the one you love can have sex without love, you're less likely to see having sex as a sign of love. And if you don't see having sex as a sign of love, it's hard to see that not having it might make someone else feel bad. You might even see insistence in this area as indifference to your feelings, where if you understood how bad a lot of guys feel when their wives shut them down, you would act differently.

We ladies are "monitorers" - it's kind of our job to watch relationships closely for signs of trouble. Sometimes we see it when it's not there, but that's a sign that we're engaged and value you. IOW, not a bad thing so long as you understand it's no reflection on you! :) Most women, if they love a man, want him to be happy. It's just that sometimes men and women require different things to be happy.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 01:18 PM

After 18 years this is the first time you ever came to me for counsel or for help. I can't remember the last time that you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child. [Work with me.] But let's be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And, uh, you were afraid to be in my debt. Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day – accept this advice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.[HA!]

Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Posted by: Don spdrdrleone at March 12, 2010 01:25 PM

mr rdr....


Posted by: Sister Mary Bag o'Metaphors at March 12, 2010 01:35 PM

I have little experience (or perhaps too much) to comment on sexual desire in or out of the marriage bed. I was married for 8 years, and we did not make whoopee even once during the entire time; not on the wedding night, nor honeymoon. I suppose a sane man would have divorced her after a week, but few people who know me well would accuse me of being sane.

She was never 'in the mood' for one reason or another, and I am a Texas Gentleman: I do not rape. Her reasons for not being 'in the mood' varied from week to week or day to day or even hourly. But she was never in the mood. After a couple of years of rejection in this manner, I wasn't 'in the mood' either--permanently.

It did not take long before we slept in separate beds (she snores: try sleeping with a chainsaw). We were more roommates than husband/wife. She swore to the marriage counselor that she once offered, but I don't remember it.

She defrauded me out of 10's of thousands of dollars: she pissed it away. But worst of all: she defrauded me of my children whom she promised to bear. Now I am too old (52) to make babies and start a family.

I do not believe in divorce. When I said my wedding vows I meant every word of them. I would probably remain married to her if she had not continued her financial depredations. The only way to legally force her to stop her financial outrages was to divorce her. But even that did not stop her: she continued to acquire goods and services in my name long after the divorce was final. Another man might have hit her, yet another would have used firearms. But I am a Christian and do not believe in that sort of things. In all relationships, whether marital or otherwise, belief (faith) is the single most important thing. My marriage was-and is-a test of my faith and will remain so for the rest of my life.

My church teaches that divorce is sin, and I concur with this. Because I divorced her, I was excommunicated from my church. I was asked to leave and not say goodbye to friends I had known for 30+ years.

I still have to pay $31k of the $72k in debt she ran up in my name. I can't even think about sex now...no marriage, no girlfriends until I get this paid down.

So no, I am not qualified to talk of sexual desire in marriage. Or perhaps I am overqualified on the topic.

Posted by: Geekasaurus at March 12, 2010 02:58 PM

I am so sorry.

There are some really lousy people in this world, Geekasaurus. I am sorry that you were unlucky enough to run into one of them but I admire you for trying to stick to your principles.

One of my oldest friends reluctantly divorced her husband of many years. He had a drinking problem, refused to get help, became abusive and essentially quit being a husband in all respects. She blamed herself over and over the the failure of the marriage but I don't think I would have done any differently. In fact, I'm not sure I would have handled it as well as she did.

I hope that someday you find a woman who is worthy of your love and trust. You deserve that.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 03:08 PM

Geekasaurus is far from alone (and that knowledge together with a 5-spot will get him a bad cup of coffee in a Starbucks). I have a friend who was in an abusive marriage, and she was convinced that the Bible did not permit her to leave--to get the divorce.

She was finally convinced to get the divorce, if not for herself, for her two children (they were not targets of the abuse, but they clearly were collateral damage. I could see the older brother treating his sister badly, as that was the example he knew for all of his life, and his sister accepting the poor treatment, as that was the example she knew for all of her life. After this woman got out of the marriage, the behavior of the brother and sister changed immensely for the better, almost overnight.)

It's now 10 years since the divorce, and the woman has developed a lot of backbone, and her kids have thanked her for getting out of the marriage and for getting them out of it.

Much much damage remains, though. Her self confidence still isn't where it should be, and she still is wracked with doubt and self-recrimination over having gotten the divorce.

I guess, to answer the question that titles this thread, a major turnoff for me is abusive husbands. Sexist that I am, abusive wives are less of a bother for me. Men have an easier time dealing with the aftermath of that than do women.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 12, 2010 03:31 PM

I hate to mess around in other people's lives, but I think Geekasaurus ought to meet Miss Ladybug. They are both Texans and are looking for each other, even though they don't know it. But that's just my opinion.

Another opinion I've got is that I'm still in love my wife of 20 years. Last week I went into the place she works part time to get dinner. And just looking in before she saw me,it just struck me how beautiful she was. I love her like a little kid. Which reminds me of this song by John Hiatt.

Same Old Man

Truth is I never was young
Shot like a bullet from a rusty old gun
I could never find the straight and true
Honey, baby till I found you

I ain't saying I ever grown up girl
Oh I'm the biggest baby in the world
I know you can say a lot about that
But you're so sweet you keep it under your hat

Honey I'm still the same old man
That you married way back when
A few less brain cells a lot less hair
Honey tell me do you still care

I love you more than I ever did
I love you just like a little kid
Guess I'll always be your biggest fan
Honey I'm still the same old man

We been down a rough road or two
This is another one we'll get through
Don't ask me how I know
I'm just saying baby please don't go

Cause I can still sparkle up your eyes
You can still cut me down to size
Please take me as I am
Honey I'm still the same old man

Honey I'm still the same old man
That you married way back when
A few less brain a lot less hair
Honey tell me do you still care

I love you more than I ever did
I love you just like a little kid
I guess I'll always be your biggest fan
Honey I'm still the same old man

You start out trying to change everything
You wind up dancing with who you bring
I loved you then and my love still stands
Honey I'm still the same old man

When I peer into the mirror every morming to shave, and this old man peers back, I wonder what happened, and where the years went. And I think I'm pretty lucky, after all.

Does the Unit really have size 12 shoes? That man has big feet. I betcha he's big in other places, too. :)

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 12, 2010 05:47 PM

I am seething with rage over this. There are some truly horrible people out there that give marriage a bad name. That is why I have to believe in a just God.

I can tell you that my sons are gentlemen, but they would never live under those conditions.
Nor would they allow their sister to be abused or neglected.

Geekasaurus, I am truly sorry for what you were cheated of. Eric, your friend did the right thing.

Posted by: Cricket at March 12, 2010 07:24 PM

"I can tell you that my sons are gentlemen, but they would never live under those conditions."

Neither would this woman's children live that way. Today. At the time, they were 10 years old and 6 years. They knew no better.

I have another friend who could not understand why a woman would live under such conditions for any length of time. I had to explain to her the frog in the cooking pot and the Stockholm Syndrome.

It's insidious, deadly, and much harder to recognize--and then to accept that recognition--than would seem apparent. And by the time it is recognized, it's extremely difficult to act against.

My friend knows, intellectually, that she did the right thing. It's still a hard struggle to accept emotionally.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 12, 2010 07:40 PM

Oh Don.

I know I've told you a million times, but I always look forward to your comments. How many years has it been?

My husband isn't a huge guy. 6 feet even and he has kept his weight down so he's probably 180 or 185. Pretty much all muscle. He's always had that athletic build like me but if he's not careful with what he eats, he puts on weight (like me).

I just got off the phone with his oldest friend. They've known each other since 1st grade. I can't even imagine having a friend that long - my oldest friend is from 8th grade, but luckily for me she lives about 20 minutes away. Unluckily, we are both so busy that we don't get together as often as we should.

Anyway, he came down to visit the kids when I was down in GA. It was so nice seeing him. He is my son's godfather and they've always been close, but The BurritoFather hadn't seen him in 3 1/2 years.

I have been sorting through family pictures. I'm making an album for both my boys - starting with pics of the house we lived in when they were born and shots of me when I was pregnant and their Dad, all the way through getting married.

My God. We were so young. Where did the time go?

Your wife is so lucky to have you, Don. And I feel blessed when you comment every now and then :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 12, 2010 08:14 PM

With regard to it emotionally...HECK YEAH she would have a rough time with it. This man that she trusted hurt her. She believed that if she was good he would change. He didn't. In the New Testament, Christ talks about divorce...but I can't remember the exact wording. I consider the Almighty and His Son gentlemen, and they would never allow a lady to remain in such a condition. What is my evidence? I dunno...the woman accused of adultery and He tells her to sin no more.

Or the fact that He had one of His disciples take His mother from the foot of the cross so she wouldn't see Him suffer. The woman who touched His robe and was healed. The Samaritan woman whom He affectionately referred to as the beloved family dog...and she told him even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the table...

There are many instances in Scripture of the regard Our Lord has for women. After all, it was women He first appeared to on the occasion of His resurrection.

It is just ugly, selfish men like that who give men a black eye.

Posted by: Cricket at March 12, 2010 10:27 PM

"It is just ugly, selfish men like that who give men a black eye. "

Yeah. I would have handled the situation differently. My friend is more forgiving than I am, though.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 12, 2010 11:19 PM

I would comment more except:

1) big computer watches me at work now
2) by the time I read what you write and think up something, Grim or BillT or YAG/Masked Menace (ha!) or spd rdr or somebody has already said it sooner and better. I could just say "yup!", but that's pretty dumb.
3) I am supposed to working for a "green" company and I am conserving photons.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 12, 2010 11:45 PM

I dunno... I sort of like the "fix little things first" part. Or rather, fix them while they are little things. Maintenance, ya know?

I've been married 20 years. My 2nd husband. I divorced the first because he was alcoholic and abusive and the children did become targets. I've often wondered how long I might have stayed if they hadn't.

Seven years ago, we found out that I didn't have something we both thought I did. It was something that my husband could have then (and still could) fix with about $50 and 2 hours of his time.

He said he would. But he didn't. I didn't want to bring it up again, fearing I would appear selfish or ungrateful for all the things I did have. So, I didn't for 3, maybe 4 years.

Anyway, he asked me what I wanted for my birthday one year and I told him that what I really wanted, what would really make me happy was for him to fix this little thing. He said he would, but he didn't.

The same thing happened at Christmas and our anniversary over the next year or so. I think maybe I specifically asked for this one thing 6 or 7 times. He always cheerfully agreed to do it, but never did.

The last time I asked, he told me he didn't know "how" to do it. I explained the steps in the process and reminded him that he had a friend who was an expert of sort in these matters who would also help him. Again, he agreed to do it.

Well, it's not done yet. And I figure it never will be. This past Christmas, he asked what I wanted again. I then asked, "Don't you know?" and he replied, "No. You'll have to tell me."

At that point, I just sighed and said "Nothing." And that's what I got. Finally, after all these years I got what I asked for. The real trick is in knowing what to ask for, I suppose.

What's really really funny is that just 4 months before Christmas there was a bit of a crisis that occurred because I did not have this one thing I'd asked for. If not for the intervention of a kind 3rd party, this could have cost us several hundred dollars. At no time during this little drama, did my husband ever offer to fix the problem.

Now this little thing is a big thing. To my discredit, I'm letting it work like a floodlight illuminating lots of other little things that I might not have noticed otherwise.

Posted by: Donna B. at March 13, 2010 01:42 AM


I am glad that you are green :)

I wasn't complaining or suggesting you need to comment more. I just wanted you to know how much I like it when you do.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2010 09:15 AM

Donna, I hear you.

Between raising two boys (and boy! are they different from girls) and learning to live with my husband, I've thought and read a lot about how guys behave.

Without a doubt, one of the most frustrating things guys do is something I call call stonewalling or avoidance. If I had to name one single issue that probably causes women to walk away from a marriage, it's this behavior and the things women unintentionally do to compound the problem. We literally give up on the relationship b/c we become convinced that he isn't listening/doesn't care/refuses to participate. That's not a relationship b/c all the effort and communication are unidirectional.

When an uncomfortable situation arises, a woman typically wants to talk it out or confront it (as you say, solve small problems while they're still small).

But men, I've found, often react in exactly the opposite fashion. That resulted in more than one blowup when I was raising my sons. I just could not understand their behavior and it frustrated and hurt me to no end.

From the woman's perspective, she starts out with a simple request to do something or discuss an issue. In her mind, she has a good reason - if it's an issue, it's not going away on its own. If it's a task, it needs doing and she needs help. IOW, she's not bringing it up to be a pest or to control him. She's trying to gain his cooperation so they can solve the problem together.

But when she does bring it up, she is met with stony silence (worst reaction ever), some offhand remark that implies that her concern is unimportant, or empty promises. Well, if someone doesn't understand that a request is important to you or isn't listening, you wonder if maybe you didn't explain it right. So what is the logical response?

Try again. Try harder. So she does.

But if she brings the still-unresolved matter up again, now she's nagging! Or trying to control him.

If she gets upset, she's being over emotional.

If, after several unsuccessful tries, she controls her emotions (and consequently retreats into hurt silence), she has "turned cold". She's withholding affection/sex.

Yikes. It often seems that there is nothing she CAN do that doesn't land her in the doghouse. She doesn't understand why - if he's genuinely unwilling to cooperate, he doesn't just say so straight out. How do you work out a problem (and every relationship has problem areas) with someone who throws up a stone wall every time there's a problem?

And to make it worse, what happens when someone runs away? Yeah. You either chase them or give up.

It took me a long time to realize how differently men and women approach any kind of conflict. Women tend to approach problems head on. They actually raise issues far more often than men do, and even this can become a source of conflict when the woman starts to feel like she always has to be the "bad guy" or that all of the responsibility for maintaining the relationship is on her shoulders. If she's dealing with a son, she wants him to learn to face problems squarely instead of passively shifting the burden to someone else.

If she's dealing with a lover or husband, she wants to be his partner - his ally, not his mother. Either way, what initially started out as a small matter becomes just another symptom of her inability to talk to him in a way that he will respond to.

But the guy sees it differently. This took me a long time to understand and to be honest, it's still hard for me because to me it makes absolutely no sense. But feelings and human behavior don't always MAKE sense - you just have to deal with them.

When the woman originally brings "whatever it is" up, men often hear something very different than from what comes out of our mouths. They hear blame. Sometimes they feel guilty even BEFORE they've done anything to piss her off.

The thing I didn't understand about guys is the degree to which they often have a sense of... I don't know what to call it. Obligation? They see it as their role to take care of a woman and make her happy. They also find conflict far more upsetting than women do. You may think, 'Oh a small spat is no big deal' but to him, it is (just like he thought your request was 'no big deal', but to you it is).

So when you bring up some task that needs doing, to you it's (at least initially) a completely neutral request. But to him it may sound more like, "She's unhappy because I didn't take care of this. I didn't do my job and it's my fault and eventually there's going to be unpleasantness or too much talking about feeeeeelings :p"

Now in a perfect world, the guy would head all of this off by saying, "Oh gosh! I'm so sorry! I forget - let me do that right away." But that's not what happens a lot of the time because he doesn't understand how you feel and frankly doesn't want to :p

So they avoid the source of the discomfort (which unfortunately is you and whatever you tried to get them to do) and the longer whatever it is is put off, the more the discomfort grows and the deeper it gets pushed in his mind. It almost seemed with my sons that they had gotten themselves into a jam and didn't know how to extricate themselves.

What worked with them was one of two things: either I had to find an opportunity for them to be "the good guy" again (this worked really well) and then - while they were still basking in the glow of motherly adoration, reintroduce the request - or try to strip the request of all emotion and any shred of recrimination (this worked less well b/c as I've already said, men often hear these things even if you're not thinking them yet).

I have been down this road at least 28 million times in my life. I tend to retreat into silence because I don't want to nag, nor do I want to assume responsibility over another adult. If I've communicated a request, I expect a straightforward response:

1. Sure, I'll do it now.
2. Ok, can't do it now because I'm busy but I'll do it on Tuesday.
3. No, I can't do that at all.
4. Why is this important? Can you explain and then I'll think about it.

And once I've communicated a request, I don't want to have to keep bringing it up. The purpose of communication is to convey information. Once I've conveyed the information I completely understand that the other person has no duty to comply with my wishes, but there is no purpose in re-conveying the same information except to make both of us feel bad.

I want information to flow back to me so I can move on: Yes, No, Maybe, We need to discuss this more. Don't care what it is, but nothing aggravates me more than being deflected. And I don't appreciate being cast in a role I have no desire to play: Mother, nag, whatever. I've done my job and I want to move on.

I suspect this is the cause of your irritation - I know that's how I feel in the same situation. It's just one of the aggravating things about male-female communication.

I have found it helpful to remember that when a guy refuses to listen or cooperate, that doesnt' always mean he doesn't care or respect me. Sometimes it just means the situation is more uncomfortable for him than it is for me. And then I choose my battles with this in mind.

All of which makes me sound much smarter and more reasonable than I actually am :p Hindsight is 20/20, but I'm working on it!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2010 10:39 AM

One more thing that I just thought of.

I have been experimenting with things I can do that won't make a problem worse.

When I was teaching we had a thing called "wait time". We found that when a teacher asks a question, the teacher doesn't wait long enough for students to think about an answer and stick their hand up. They jump right back in after a few seconds.

But if you wait - sometimes until it becomes uncomfortable - people will eventually chime in.

I think women (and me in particular) sometimes talk too much. We do it to fill uncomfortable silences, or because we fear we haven't made ourselves clear, or in desperation when we feel the entire burden of communication rests on our shoulders. And that is a burden b/c I've never seen a conversation that doesn't require two people. We literally can't do it by ourselves.

For me, the hardest thing in the world is to throttle back on the words. When I've been successful in doing that, I've been surprised to see the guys I love be more willing to tell me what they think.

Sometimes what they tell me makes me temporarily unhappy (and I think this is one reason guys don't speak up) but that is not the end of the world. In the long run I'm SO much happier to know what they truly think b/c then I can address things I might have been doing that were misunderstood or aren't helpful.

I'm not saying that you talk too much Donna :)

Only that men and women see talking SO very differently. I have been working on cutting my communication down and making it simpler and more direct when I encounter a problem. For the most part it has worked pretty well.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2010 10:57 AM

Cassandra, you've described what I've come to think of as the central communication drama in practically every marriage: the deflection and mystification gambit that's used to avoid choosing either (a) "yes," (b) "yes, but later," (c) "no," or (d) "maybe, after I think about it and/or get more information from you." The huge problem seems to be when the answer should be "no," but he (it seems that it's more often "he") believes that the world will end if he says "no."

Of course, sometimes there WILL be a nuclear blast if he says "no" (no, I won't stop shtupping the babysitter). Sometimes the poor guy may have learned that answering "no" to the least little thing will buy him a world of undeserved crap. But honestly, lots of times it would all go so much better if he'd just say, "No, sorry, that's not important to me, and I'm not willing to do it." The worst thing probably is when the true answer is "no" but the words are an endless dancing game of changing the subject, leaving the room, pretending later not to remember that the request was made, and on and on until she's ready to set the bed on fire once he's gone to sleep.

Recognizing how big a problem this is for me has got me looking at the equivalent behavior in my own life. We do all so hate saying "no," even when there's no rational reason to avoid it. As in, "No, I'm not willing to serve on that committee." It's amazing how much trouble it avoids when we just speak the truth about what we're willing to do. Because when we say "yes," we really ought to mean it. Saying "yes" when we mean "no" drains the meaning out of "yes." It's just another of those many situations where there's no substitute for having a spine!

Geekosaurus -- what a truly horrible story. I'm so sorry that happened to you.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 13, 2010 12:54 PM

I read somewhere that women expect minor conflicts in a relationship, and so the prospect of one doesn't trouble us.

And the truth is that we're mostly better equipped to handle them - more verbal, more able to pick up on nuances/body language. I think guys duck a lot of stuff b/c of the accumulated weight of prior confrontations that either didn't go well or ones where they said something that backfired.

I think the solution is for the woman to try and be less "reactive" and the man to try and be more pro-active. The hardest part of this for me was to realize that even though I thought my behavior was eminently reasonable, it was contributing to the problem.

I have learned to let certain things go. Not every problem has to be solved. Some you just have to live with. But also I am trying to learn that if a situation keeps repeating itself, *I* need to stop and say, "Hmmmm.... am I part of the problem? Obviously whatever I'm doing isn't working b/c this keeps happening. Maybe I need to try a new tack."

I am so far from perfect.


But then most of this stuff is trial and error anyway.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2010 01:09 PM

Cassandra, I think you're stereotyping a bit. This male has never been afraid of conflict. I grew up in a household--three boys, one father, one mother (poor mom, even though she was the most argumentative of the lot of us)--where argument was de rigeur. Dad, on the other hand, was the strong, silent type. But not because he was avoiding conflict--he'd had three ships shot out from under him by kamikazes in WWII; he knew the value both of conflict and of avoiding it, and at the personal level, too. Us three brothers, at varying degrees of maturity, argued, debated, used words as weapons, or physically fought.

My wife and I talk all the time and argue occasionally. And we're silent all the time, too--it runs about 50-50 in our waking hours when we're together. Neither of us is afraid of the silence between us, and neither of us is afraid to discuss things--light, frivolous, in between--at the time they need to be discussed, no putting-off.

My friend, however (an admittedly unusual situation), needed to be taught that she could push back. She is a very successful professional woman, and was during her ugly marriage. But the work environment created her authority; she could not create her own authority. Eventually, after her escape, I began creating situations where she had to push back, and she learned she could disagree with a man, she could push to get what she wanted/needed outside of work, and the world would not crash down around her head.

I've seen marriages--loving marriages--where both are strong, silent types. I have no idea how those two communicate in such environments, but the situation clearly works for them. I've seen successful marriages where the woman is silent and the man loquacious.

In none of those cases was the onus solely on the woman to adapt to the man. Each had--and must continue--to adapt to the other.

You've pointed out before that communication is key. And so it is, but not one particular kind of communication, with the adjustments all done by one side and not the other.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 13, 2010 03:48 PM

Eric, you had brothers. My daughter had four.
She not only pushes back (I have seen three of them cowering in fear...two of them are 6 feet tall), but she also knows when she is being baited and won't rise to it. Her oldest brother, after upsetting her, made chocolate-covered strawberries for her by way of an apology.

She is very aware of the fact that she is a great influence on her brothers. She will fix them breakfast, sit down and chat with them and just have a grand old time. This morning, she made french toast for the youngest, and he hugged her and said thanks. She did his hair for the Pinewood Derby. Heh. He looked good too.

When my sons have guests over, she makes herself scarce. Not because she doesn't like their friends, but because they *are* older than she is and a few of them don't have sisters.

The Engineer (aka my husband) and I do talk to one another. It is how we have managed to stay together after all these years...this year will be 25. We like to think that we have tried to teach our children by example, how to love and care for one another, as well as disagree and work out solutions. I don't know that they will end up with spouses who have had the same kind of upbringing. I hope they do. I would love for them to be as happy as we have been.

Posted by: Cricket at March 13, 2010 05:10 PM

Cricket, you've taught your children, and shown them by example, a modus operandi that works very well.

The odds are they will select wisely. The past is no guarantor of the future, but it is a very strong prologue.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 13, 2010 05:45 PM

"Is this the hill you want to die on?" is a common question asked in the military. Its a good question to ask in marriage relationships also. I would re-phrase it as "is this battle worth fighting". Because all too often, the answer is not merely 'no', but 'hell no'.

You mention that men are passive and tend to avoid conflict. Perhaps I am guilty of this myself. But more often, my response is because it is a battle that is not worth fighting. I have found that in any marital conflict, if either side 'wins' an argument/discussion, then the other side 'loses'. And if EITHER side wins, the relationship itself LOSES. My (now) ex- confused my desire to avoid conflict and the moral decision to NOT fight a battle with either cowardice or apathy.

A memorable example of this is when she wanted to redecorate the bathroom. I really did not (and never shall) care whether she buys the Ivy Green or the Spruce Green. Because I would not conflict with her over this minor detail (to her; a major detail) that I did not care whether or not she paid $8 per towel or $40 per towel. Of course she chose the more expensive, and put it on a credit card that I did not even know I had. Since she had access to the mailbox before I did, she was able to hide this purchase from me. Since I did not control her as one would control a child, she mistook this for complete apathy on my part.

It takes a lot of maturity for both parties to make every situation a 'win/win'. I feel sorry for every marital relationship where the spouses are in competition, or where there are winners and losers. I have determined that, should I ever marry again (if, in fact, I was ever married in the first place) I will find a woman who tries to make EVERY conflict a 'win/win'--or not have conflict at all.

Posted by: Geekasaurus at March 13, 2010 09:11 PM

A few comments:

1. Yes Eric, I was definitely stereotyping. Not all men behave the same and not all women do either. That's something I've said many, many times.

But still, there are certain behaviors that are more "stereotypically" female (Can you imagine a guy asking his wife, "Does this outfit make my butt look big", or "We need to talk about my feeeeelings"? :) Not saying it doesn't happen, but the vast majority of times it does happen, it's the woman who does this kind of thing.

Likewise, there are certain behavior patterns that are more typically male than female. Stonewalling and avoiding conflict are two I can think of.

2. Geekasaurus:

There is a way to fight without turning everything into "I win/you lose". In fact, I've always thought that negotiating a 'win-win' solution is the only way to go. That's why I picked the quote in the next post about negotiation and barter.

Over time, if one person feels like he or she is always the loser, that's not a positive thing. It doesn't have to be equal all the time but things do need to balance out somewhat.

Just because I cite a particular tactic as more typically male doesn't mean I think every man does it, or that women *don't* pull the same thing from time to time. My comment was, I think, a bad idea. I worried about that at the time, but sometimes I should listen to that little voice that says, "Keep your opinions to yourself."

Posted by: Cassandra at March 14, 2010 03:59 PM

Cass: Please feel free to NOT keep your opinions to yourself. If we were uninterested in them, we wouldn't read your blog. You're one of the more literate, thoughtful bloggers on the 'net and the things you write do inspire thoughtful responses.

Your joke about the black bra made me laugh. But had a situation even remotely like that had happened in my "marriage" I would have taken the opportunity to keep my pie-hole sealed SHUT and just pretended not to notice. Early in the relationship I learned that anything even approaching marital intimacy was lose/lose.

So Cass: though your man is away, your love for him remains a shining example for others to aspire to. I suppose that you don't see this, but the rest of us do. Even if I shall never experience the form of human love that you share with your husband, its nice to know that SOMEONE is experiencing it. Please continue to show this in your blog and especially show it to your husband...........and thank GOD that He has given you so great a gift.

Remember that a great marriage--a great spouse of either gender is a great blessing from God--a true gift of love. He is unobligated to give any gift; much less one so wonderful as a good spouse and thriving marriage. If He were obligated it would not be a gift. So whatever your faith, may I suggest that you drop to your knees for a moment and thank Him for the wonderful husband and marriage that He has given you. Thank Him in all humbleness: as your marriage is an example of how love/marriage SHOULD be, think of mine as an example of how it COULD be.

If this doesn't bring you to tears, your tear-making mechanism is broken.

Posted by: Geekasaurus at March 14, 2010 08:08 PM

I know I'm coming late to the party, Cass, but last time I checked you were supposedly quitting blogging for a while. I didn't know you were back in action.

Anyway, the original nutty woman of this post was apparently fine meeting her intended's sexual needs during "courtship", but downshifted once she got married. As I have argued many times, too many people view a marital ring as a "gotcha" game. In other words, I will do what it takes to get you, but once I have you I will stop doing so. This is a prescription for unhappiness if I've ever heard one.

The woman should have asked herself, if she was so opposed to his sexual needs, why didn't she cut him off prior to marriage? The obvious answer was that she didn't want to take the risk of him dumping her. Once that ring was on her finger, though, then the real person came out. She had landed her catch, so no more "bait" was needed.

My ex-wife's very elderly grandmother was one of those plain, bluntspoken, down home gals. I always thought her pearls of wisdom were a hoot. She always said "what it took to get a man, is what it takes to keep a man". When one of her daughters complained that her husband liked to go out drinking with his friends, she replied "so did your father, but I made sure I gave him a reason to come home. I could set the clock by when he got home everyday!" Then she gave grandpa a big wink to underscore her meaning.

This isn't rocket science. Maybe people ought to lighten up on the melodrama and oh-so-frilly metaphors, and listen to grandma a little more.

Posted by: a former european at March 18, 2010 12:46 AM

I'm with AFE. It's way too easy to take a long-term partner for granted, and the idea that a man can treat his wife badly, or a wife treat her husband badly, just because it's difficult to dissolve the marriage, strikes me as a recipe for marital disaster. It's a problem that has led a lot of people to conclude that we should make it easier to dissolve a marriage. I'd argue instead for less complacence in keeping our marriage partners happy. You can't make a marriage work by always standing by the door, making it clear you can be out of here in a moment if your demands aren't met. But you also can't make it work by saying, in effect, "I don't care what you want, because you're basically trapped with me."

Posted by: Texan99 at March 18, 2010 12:25 PM

I'm not so sure that people view marriage as "gotcha" so much as it is that your priorities change once you're married in ways that are hard to foresee (and are perhaps misguided).

For instance, men think that women need too much reassurance that they are loved. But during courtship, men provide constant reassurance because if they didn't, the woman would find someone else.

I don't really see this as any different from the sex issue - men want physical intimacy, women want emotional intimacy. Many male readers here have pointed out that men have a tendency to rest upon their laurels after marriage. IOW, they view the fact that they are staying as "enough" in the affection department even though that would not have been enough during courtship.

Women do the same thing. Because sex isn't as important to us, when we step back and look at the whole "package", we're providing more "services" after marriage than during courtship (just as men generally assume the lion's share of the wage earning and do things like change the oil on the car). Men don't understand why these things aren't "enough": why does she need all that and flowers and a "I love you" every once in a while too?

Similarly, a woman looks at all the things she does as "proof" that she loves the guy. Why isn't he happy? Why does he need all this sex nonsense? :)

It all comes down to what afe said. If "what it takes" to get a man is what it takes to keep him, then doesn't it make sense that "what it took" to win a woman is what it will take to keep her?

There are very good reasons why our priority scheme changes after marriage. That doesn't mean we should forget to factor in the danger of losing what we worked so hard to gain, whether we're male OR female.

IOW, afe's right... but what he said goes both ways.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2010 12:37 PM

One more note: this is where I really have to give full credit to my husband.

In many ways he is by far the more romantic of the two of us. He has never stopped "wooing" me - not in 30 years of marriage, through thick and thin (literally!)

And because he has always treated me as a prize worth having, I make more effort than I would normally be inclined to make in areas that are important to him. I like sex, but it has a very different meaning and role in my life. I think not taking the other person's love and interest for granted is huge in whether a relationship works well or not.

We're all more forgiving if we feel secure and confident that our lapses will be forgiven as well. In the long haul, that extra measure of grace is very much needed since none of us is perfect.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2010 12:41 PM