Monday, November 1, 2010

True Wife's Tale #6: Emma, Sex as Negotiation

Sometimes married sex (or lack thereof) is about so much more than sex. Bliss in the marital bed can thwarted by any number of decidedly non-sexy things including, but not limited to: tiredness, quietly nursed bitter grudges, general laziness, the dog is already asleep in the bed, is anyone going to fold that big-ass pile of laundry that's been on the floor for six fucking days?, etc...

For Emma and Jeffrey, having good sex is not the problem. He's a skilled lover and she's very responsive to him--this girl's one of the lucky few who easily has orgasms through intercourse alone. So, yay, hot, satisfying sex with orgasms for all. It's just...all the other stuff. Chores, kids, who's making more money, blah blah blah. Says Emma, "Sometimes at the end of the day, sex just feels like one more thing on the to-do list."

I have no idea what she is talking about because I am usually whistling a merry tune as I mix fresh martinis and press my french maid outfit in preparation for greeting my husband at the door or, you know, giving him mind-melting blow jobs as he smokes his evening pipe and whatnot, but perhaps you might be able to relate to Emma's situation... Click below to read her story.

(A note to latecomers: True Wife's Tales are a recurring In Bed With Married Women feature in which real women tell the damn truth about their sex lives. Sometimes it's hot, sometimes it's not--but it's all true, and that's worth something.)

Emma is 40 and has been with Jeffrey 11 years. They have been married almost 5 years. Emma is an accomplished freelance graphic artist and writer. She has a wide pretty face with big dark eyes, a low-key manner and a dry wit. Her husband is funny, cute and a tad nerdy, the sort of fellow who would display a vintage collection of anime figurines in his living room. They live in a hip suburb of a big city and have a toddler. Emma is pregnant with their second child.

In Bed With Married Women:  Where are you two right now with sex?

Emma: There are times when things are pretty good in the sex department and times when they just are not. I think that now we have so much more going on in our lives, having a child and both being so busy at work. There’s just so much to do--so much for me to do.  Sometimes at the end of the day, sex just feels like one more thing on the list. It’s hard right now. Sometimes Jeffrey approachs me in the afternoon and says, “Hey can we have some time tonight to get naked?” I’m like, “It’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I’ve got 50 things on my Outlook task list. I have no idea what mood I’m going to be in eight hours from now. Don’t fucking bother me with this stuff. Don’t give me one more thing on my plate.”

I could blame some of our problem on what’s going on with our lives right now, but think a lot of the dynamics for our sex life were laid a long time ago. Before we got married and we were living together, we had a big difference in how much money we were making. Neither of us were making much money, but I was shouldering most of the bills. We ended up in a lot of credit card debt just for living expenses. Eventually my parents had to bail me out.  Now that we're about to have two kids to support, it's hard for me to reconcile the fact that I'm the breadwinner with a career path and Jeffrey is still sort of trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. He gets a sense of purpose out of being a dad, and he's a fantastic father, but I still feel that instinctive "He's the man! He's supposed to work hard to feed and clothe his wife and children!" And that's tied to how I view him sexually; I think women are just hard wired evolution-wise to get extra-hot for men who can take care of them. Why am I not extra-hot for a guy who shoulders a full 50% of the parenting duties, allowing me to have a work life too and some actual time to myself? I don't know. I struggle with that every day. It seems like sex and home finances are connected in really yucky ways.

Sometimes sex becomes almost a kind of currency.  If I’m pissed at him for something, that’s what I’m going to take out of the equation. “I’m not going to have sex with you because, when I came home from a day at the office, you were home all day and the house is a mess.” Or the opposite--wow, he’s been really great today.  He took our daughter out for four hours, I could get some writing done. He deserves a reward.

That’s pretty much the norm.  Typically, and I understand this to be pretty normal, when I’m stressed out, sex is the last thing on my mind.  And when he’s stressed out, sex is the first thing on his mind.  I think guys tend to rely on sex as a release and escape when there’s a lot of stuff going on that they can’t deal with.  And I think women check out of that whole area.  It almost feels like everything has to be going really well for them to feel like they want to be close to their husband.

We also have a lot of negotiations.  Like: “I’m way way too tired to actually make love to you.”  “Well, can we do something else?  Can you just give me some oral sex?”  It’s really hard when you get into that negotiation area because then you’re like, “Well, should I give a little bit or is that going to make me feel even worse? Am I giving it with resentment?”

In Bed: “I’ll give you a blow job, but it’s not going to be a very good one.”

Emma: (Laughs) Exactly. “I’ll give you a blow job, but I’m going to look at the clock the entire time, timing you.” Or “I’ll give you a hand job, but I’m going to get up immediately and wash my hands.”  It’s very easy to get passive aggressive about that stuff.

Another dynamic of our sex life is that Jeffrey thinks that I’m the sexiest person on the face of the earth.  He claims that he only fantasizes about me and that I am a huge turn-on. That’s always been a weird disconnect for me. Here he is adoring me even though I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my life.  I’ve never had great physical self-esteem, so instead of feeling flattered and lucky, I think, “This guy must be crazy.” He has this fantasy about me doing a strip tease for him.  He’s always talking about it and saying, “For my birthday, I want you to do a strip tease.”  I say, “I’m never going to do a strip tease for you.  That’s not who I am.  I just can’t do it.”

In Bed: Why can’t you do it?

Emma: I don’t know.  I would just feel too stupid. It’s just so not me. The fact that he sees that possibility in me is very weird.   I mean, “Do you really know me?  Look at me.  Just think about it for about three minutes.”  And sometimes he wants me to talk dirty.  It just makes me feel dumb.  I’ve tried to do it a few times and I start cracking up.  It completely ruins it and he gets pissed.

It’s funny, I think that he has a very unrealistic view of what other people are doing.  Since every relationship exists in its own little vacuum, it’s very hard to compare what other couples go through.  One of my playgroup friends, who I’ve known for years, when we were all trying to get pregnant again, just happened to drop casually, “Well we don’t have to worry about timing because we have sex every other day anyway.”  When she told me that, I was like “Oh my God!  Wow!  That is an interesting piece of information to have about someone you know very well.”  That changed my perception about her whole life, that she has sex with her husband every other day.

In Bed:  Are there things you’d like to do that you haven’t told Jeffrey?

Emma:  No.  Pretty much anything I could want to do, he’d be onboard for. In previous relationships, I’d always been way too inhibited to request certain things. One thing we do a lot is that he has a set of handcuffs and I like him to handcuff me to the bed.  It’s almost more relaxing.  That kind of stuff he’s always game for.  Sometimes for the fun of it, we talk about going to a swingers party or something like that.  That might be interesting in the future, but again, I have so many self-image issues that it’s not an option right now   I’m sure he would like me to come up with more things that I’d want.  But really all I want is to be close to him and have sex and have an orgasm and have it feel good together.  It’s pretty simple for me....(sound of water in the background)  Sorry, I’m peeing.  I know that’s tacky.  I guess I could have said I was washing my hands.

In Bed:  Yeah, you could have said that.

Emma:  I figured after everything I just told you, I could certainly pee.  Anyway, it sounds like we have a horrible sex life and I don’t think we do.  I have to say that when we do have sex, it’s fantastic.

In Bed:  What’s so fantastic about it?

Emma: He just knows what I like. I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this, but I’ve always been able to have an orgasm during sex.

In Bed:  No way. You are so lucky.

Emma:  Yeah.  I understand that that is not super-common.  We can usually finish together, if he times things right.  That’s really great.  It’s funny because sometimes I resist it but then when we do it, I’ll enjoy it.  So I try to push through that resistance.  I find that when we’re having a lot of sex--for us, having a lot of sex is maybe twice a week--then things tend to be better.  He’s happier and things tend to be much less tense between us.  Even knowing that, why do I still kind of put up that wall sometimes?  I guess sometimes I need to hang on to my little weapons--my little “no sex” weapons.

In Bed:  I’m still back on the fact that you can have an orgasm from intercourse only.  For most women, there a hole in one place and then the part that could help you is sort of near, but not quite near enough.

Emma: I have to tell you that I was an unintentional masturbator when I was a child.  I know that sounds weird.  There was a street sign at our bus stop that I used to climb it while we were waiting.  I discovered that if I climbed high enough, I got a really good feeling.  I thought it was my reward for climbing so high!  I had no clue what it was.  I used to do it all the time.  In middle school, one of my friends pointed out exactly what I was doing.  I was like “What!?  It’s my reward!  It’s the good feeling I get when climb high enough?  If you climb high enough, you’ll get it too.”  Maybe it helped to have that level of stimulation so young.  My husband loves the idea of me being a 7 year old and climbing the pole every morning.   I think that’s the part of me that he likes to hang on to.


CA Heaven said...

Painting by Anders Zorn? Nice >:)

Cold As Heaven

Jill Hamilton said...

It IS Anders Zorn, Cold As Heaven--I am impressed. I defaced Mr. Zorn's piece by cropping out a naked person on the right leaning over a boat. For me, the whole bending over, naked butt thing detracted from this gorgeous chick and her prodigious bush.
(prodigious, adj., colossal: so great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe.)

Jill Hamilton said...

ps was not implying that YOU didn't know the meaning of prodigious, CAH. I was thinking more of the people looking for pictures of "penices" and such. May as well give 'em some new vocabulary words while they're trying to get their sexy on.

CkretsGalore said...

Definite Envy! I'm a very sexual person but I and/or we really really have to work to get my O face on.
The using sex as a weapon thing. I can't stand that personally nor can I do it as I'm too selfish...meaning I gots to get laid!

The Beaver said...

LMAO @ the pole story. I am not even married nor that old but i certainly understand the whole to-do list and not having the energy. I also understand the whole "breadwinner" concept. I am going through this right now with my bf. No job and dirty house when I get home immediately put me in a foul mood. After dealing with a 4 yr old, by the time I get her to bed, I literally sit down for about 30min before I pass out on the couch. The thought of sex or anything close to it seems like too much. I really just want him to drape his arm around me when he sleeps most of the time.

CA Heaven said...

No reason to be impressed. I have seen a couple of Zorn exhibitions, and even visited the Zorn farm, with the house where he lived and worked. Zorn's paintings are very characteristic, and when you have seen some you easily recognize them.

I like Zorn's chubby women (after today's standards. I call them normal) with nice big bushes. I think they're alot more sexy than the supermodels that are the ideal now. If a woman insists on having hair only one place, I think a shaved head is the more sexy >:)

Cold As Heaven

deeman said...

Emma's story sounds not at all unusual. People have different sex drives, and those drives change over time with age or different living conditions or health. Occasionally -- happy days -- the drives of two people will coincide for a while.

With a one night stand there is only one thing on the agenda. Marriage is totally different, and of course negotiations are necessary, as they are in much of life. That's where love really counts. It keeps the negotiations within a fairly manageable frame.

My wife at times has wanted more sex than I wanted or was capable of, say after bashing my ribs in--even breathing hurt. But most of the time I want sex more than she does. I should hedge that: as a busy professional woman she has a lot on her mind other than sex. If I can get her to think about sex, even a little bit, her interest goes up.

We've raised a child together. As a freelancer, I had the freedom to be a house-husband while she worked in an office. In that sense I can see the marriage issue from both sides. I was home cooking dinner and waiting for her to come home thinking about having sex with me, while she was thinking of the things she didn't get finished at work and preparing for the next meeting with the partners. Sex was (is)the last thing on her mind--no, it isn't on her mind at all. A listen to her problems, a glass of wine, and a back rub can change that. That is a negotiation, stated or not.

Emma shouldn't worry too much. It is all part of living together and it will work out. Handcuffs--now I hadn't considered that!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the whole "sex is currency" is accurate. What I've noticed is my husband's actions can raise or lower my oxytocin. When the deposits raise my oxytocin, he is much more sexually attractive to me. Unfortunately, the withdrawals have outweighed the deposits for about 3 years.......

Anonymous said...

Paragraph after paragraph about what you want from him; or what he does for you that you like; or how he periodically fails to deliver, at which point sex goes off the menu in retribution; or how the List of Things That Are More Important Than Sex is never-ending; or the various ways in which you have lost basic respect for him; or how you inexplicably need to control the situation. Not one word about how you find him...desirable.

I give it about two more years before you'll be writing in again, saying, "That worthless, miserable, ungrateful wretch cheated on me, and I haven't the foggiest idea why he would do such a thing."