My wife's a successful, assertive businesswoman. I'm thrilled that she is fulfilled in her work, but she brings that same driven mindset home. I can handle the way she manages the household, but not the way she dictates the terms of our sex life. She schedules our sex, as if it's part of her agenda to be completed between the weather report and "Nightline." Her driven nature may work great in the business world, but it fails miserably in bed. What should I do?
Melissa: Sex should be driven primarily by your relationship, not a production quota. If either partner makes sex a control issue, intimacy goes off the bottom of the profit chart. Your wife's controlling style has worked well for her on the job, and it's hard for her to relinquish it once she gets home. These same controlling behaviors also protect her from relational and emotional issues that are less comfortable for her.
It might be a good idea to borrow the terms and methods of relating in the business world, where your wife feels comfortable. Start "speaking her language" by making an appointment with her, through her support staff. When you get together, have a written proposal for her to consider. Begin by affirming her as a successful executive, telling her the things you mention in your letter to us. Next, assure her of your support and love (you're not staging a walk-out).
Then ask her to consider your point of view. Make this statement appropriately clear: You want to have a closer relationship with more emotional and sexual intimacy. Let her know you feel unfulfilled, disregarded and relegated to the status of just one more agenda item. Tell her you want a sense of mutuality in your sex life. Finally, propose a new "contract agreement" that would restore romance and warmth into your partnership. That may require some lunch meetings or weekend conferences!
At the same time, get your wife's input about how she'd like for you to be as a husband. She's an assertive person used to taking control. She may be waiting for you to exercise more strength. Even strong women like to be able to lean on their men.
I have a problem with premature ejaculation. I can't last more than five or ten minutes during intercourse. My wife is kind about it, but I feel disappointed and embarrassed. How can I last longer?
Louis: Unlike the olden days, now that we're familiar with the orgasmic potential of women, there is far greater pressure on husbands to bring their wives to climax. This creates dramatic anxiety to perform, which has triggered an epidemic of premature ejaculation. But anxiety during sex is not the only factor.
Sometimes a man has a history of hurried experiences, either from masturbating or from rushing sex for fear of being caught in premarital relations. Some genetic theorists explain that earlier ejaculations often have a better success rate for impregnation (in other words: not as much satisfaction, but great for conceiving children). But there's no question that performance anxiety undoubtedly turns up the speed, and there's no doubt that the male response time is inherently different from the female's. Your experience is typical: Five or ten minutes of direct stimulation will usually be adequate for ejaculation.
So the issue really gets down to mutual marital satisfaction. The definition used clinically for premature ejaculation rests on the percentage of times the wife is left disappointed (50% being the arbitrary number). Rather than perceiving the speed of a man's response as a biological deficiency, it's preferable for couples to see their teamwork in pleasurable sex as a delightful challenge. It helps to remember that simultaneous orgasm is not the only satisfactory conclusion to sexual play. Also, foreplay can speed up a wife's response to become more in sync with her husband's, and a husband's stimulus time before ejaculation can be lengthened.
You and your spouse can decondition your quick response by using the effective "squeeze technique" described in most books on sex. A woman masturbates her husband to the point just before ejaculation, then applies firm symmetrical pressure to the shaft of the penis just below the glans (the head of the penis). The pressure of this "squeeze" is maintained for several seconds until the feeling of ejaculatory inevitability goes away. After a pause, stimulation is resumed until climax is imminent again; then the squeeze is reapplied.
This technique can be practiced for several minutes at each setting, ending with intercourse or ejaculation by manual stimulation. These adjustments take time and practice, but over a period of months you should develop a noticeable increase in stimulus time before ejaculation.
Melissa: Working through this kind of problem can be great for your marriage. It encourages me that your wife is kind. That is an essential ingredient. As you focus on giving your wife pleasure and meeting her needs, your premature ejaculations may not matter so much anymore. Try the squeeze technique, but also practice relaxing, since tension aggravates the problem.
My husband and I have a one-year-old son, and for months my husband has had no interest in sex. I am always the initiator, and he turns me down with excuses about being tired or having financial worries. I wonder what it would be like to be married to someone who made me feel wanted and beautiful. What do you suggest?
Louis: There are lots of reasons a husband might lose interest in sex. Fatigue and financial worries are legitimate causes for many men. But you also seem to connect his disinterest with the birth of your baby.
Pregnancy and delivery of a baby cause more than just abdominal stretch marks and post-partum depression for the mother. New dads get their own set of psychological stretch marks that can make sex less appealing.
A father often reacts to the invasion of his space by a competitor. Suddenly he doesn't have you all to himself. Here's this other little male getting time at your breast. The baby puts new time constraints on both of you. Your focus of attention and affection may have shifted toward your son. And your husband knows that, as a father, he's not supposed to feel jealous of his own baby. But subtle resentment can develop.
Another factor can be a husband's unconscious compartmentalization of "mothers" versus "sexual playmates." As a mother, you've moved onto a sort of sacred, revered pedestal outside the category of women who are sexually stimulating. You may have encouraged this attitude if you wanted a break from sexual play after childbirth.
Remember how you felt about the changes in your body during pregnancy? Your husband may have had some strong reactions, too. Men can be squeamish about earthy stuff like labor and delivery, episiotomies and lactation. The idea of getting you pregnant again may have cooled him on intercourse.
Talking these things through is best, but if he refuses, there are other things you can do. First, try to decrease his life pressures and financial demands, since these are the excuses he gives. Second, try to find out if he has emotional needs that have been left unmet since the baby came. Third, work toward regaining your figure and your playful availability. Fourth, make babysitting arrangements, kidnap him to some romantic spot and seduce him. Finally, let him know he's still your hero.
Melissa: If you are wondering what it would be like to be married to someone "who made you feel wanted and beautiful," you could be vulnerable to an affair. Please, please be careful! Don't make the mistake of thinking you can listen to someone say how beautiful you are and not be lured into trouble. Read Proverbs; the good advice to young men about prostitutes goes for young women, too. Make a firm decision ahead of time that you will not let your vulnerability trap you into a compromising situation.
I hope you and your husband can get some professional Christian counseling.
Copyright © 1997 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.