Do Relationships Make You Feel Anxious? Read This.

Do Relationships Make You Feel Anxious? Read This.
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Do you constantly check your phone to see if you’ve heard from him?

Do you find yourself ruminating about your relationship status and where it’s going?

Do you feel sick to your stomach when you have to have a difficult conversation?

Do you swallow your feelings because you’re afraid that expressing yourself will lead to a breakup?

If so, you’re not alone. In today’s article, Jill Weber, author of Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now outlines 4 ways to not let anxiety dominate and destroy your romantic relationship. The link above offers her take. Here’s mine:

1. Stop seeking reassurance (or at least cut it down by a third!).

Confidence is the most attractive trait there is – regardless of gender. Without confidence, you’re sunk. With it, you can do anything. Where people struggle is the gap between internal confidence and external validation. We all want our partners to find us smart, funny, sexy, interesting, kind. We all want our partners to love us unconditionally and promise to stay together forever. Confident people assume that our partners DO find us attractive and WILL want to stay together forever. Insecure people assume the opposite. The key is in insecure people realizing that insecurity is unattractive and doesn’t make people want to stay – and recognizing that if he’s your partner, he DOES like you and has every intention of staying. If you don’t feel attractive or validated or safe, it may be a sign of a lack of confidence, but usually it’s a sign that you need a new partner.

2. You are not your thoughts.

My favorite book on this subject is The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. In it, he points out that the negative voice inside your head is meaner than any person you know. You’d never be friends with anyone who says to you what you say to yourself. Realize that this voice is not “you,” but rather, a voice that must be separated from yourself and tuned out. If you ever feel like you’re not good enough, unworthy of love, etc, it is not REAL; it’s just that negative voice of naysayers throughout your life – and you can’t listen to it anymore.

People are NEVER going to do exactly what you want, when you want it, how you want it – yes, even the man who loves you and cares about you.

3. Learn to sit with difficult emotions.

People are NEVER going to do exactly what you want, when you want it, how you want it – yes, even the man who loves you and cares about you. Just because he disagrees with you doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Just because he sees the same situation differently doesn’t mean he’s selfish – no more than you’re selfish for having a different take than he does. And just because you disagree doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed; it just means you need to listen to each other and either agree to disagree or compromise.

4. Communicate.

It’s not whether you will disagree; it’s what you do about it afterward. Listening, validating, not attacking, looking for points of agreement, assuming the best intentions: these are the hallmarks of healthy communication and successful relationships. I wrote about it here (and have an entire week on it in Love U) and there may be nothing more important than learning to communicate. Attraction is easy. Navigating thru life with one person is a lot trickier – especially if you don’t have the skills to do so.

Your thoughts on the original piece – and my two cents – are greatly appreciated.

Join our conversation (291 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jeremy

    What I liked about this post: “You are not your thoughts.” This is so important! You are not your thoughts, you are the thinker of your thoughts. You can change your mind and not be a different person. You are not the sum of your past experiences, you are the narrator of them, the arbiter of their relative importance, the interpreter of their meaning. You are not at the mercy of your emotions, you are the generator of them. Believing otherwise is to abdicate responsibility for ourselves, deny our own role in the creation of our futures.

    Where I disagree somewhat with this post: “Confident people assume that our partners DO find us attractive and WILL want to stay together forever. Insecure people assume the opposite.” Meh. I’ve written before that I think confidence is bullshit and that I much prefer bravery. It’s not that I disagree with Evan that it’s attractive, I just also think it’s bullshit. Better IMHO to say: An OPTIMIST believes his partner finds him attractive and wants to stay together forever, regardless of the truth – and that naivete sets him up to get burned. A PESSIMIST believes the opposite, regardless of the truth, and that anxiety is unattractive. And a REALIST sees the reality of the particular situation, and makes the decision to stay or leave (or alter behavior) based on that. And one can only be a realist and make such decisions if one adopts the attitude of my first paragraph above.

    1. 1.1
      Persephone

      Jeremy, that is a really good post! I agree with your articulation of the difference between confidence and bravery.

      Here is what that bravery means to me. I do not have the confidence to know whether or not my current relationship is going to last. I can get eaten up with anxiety about it, or I can do as they say here in the South, “put on my big-girl panties” and move forward anyway in a relationship with an amazing man.

      Yeah, I do have anxiety that he’s going to leave me. There exists external factors that he and I can’t control, and that causes him anxiety as much as it does me. Sometimes that anxiety gets the better of him, and he’ll back away for a couple weeks until he comes to his senses again. A lot of this is determined by the current political atmosphere, because my boyfriend is an international. My interest and personality are such that someone who doesn’t have that worldliness would not interest me. I could just as well look for someone safe, but I’m not sure a “safe” man would be suited to me, and I feel they would in short time feel lost in my world.

  2. 2
    Lynx

    Ahh, this article reinforces the benefits of possessing the (unhealthy) Avoidant-Dismissive attachment style. I feel no anxiety whatsoever in relationships, other than the part of me that actually wants them to end. In the same way researchers now say the right kind of stress in life is a good thing, maybe the right kind of anxiety in relationships is a good thing?

    1. 2.1
      Jeremy

      Yes. It is. Without that, what is your impetus for prioritizing your partner. You know, outside of doing what you already want to do anyway?

      1. 2.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Kindness and care can make a person prioritise their partner. One doesn’t need anxiety.

        1. Jeremy

          I’d like to think that kindness and care are enough in and of themselves. But life and experience have taught me that they aren’t. That humans are far more loss-averse than we are empathetic. Whole disciplines revolve around our loss aversion. I’ve said this before, but I often wonder how I’d have turned out if I’d been raised differently, had different experiences in my youth. If it had been easy to get what I wanted, – love , friendship, connection. If a lineup of women had queued up such that when I no longer wanted one another would be right along to take her place. Would I be the person I became? I doubt it.

        2. Mrs Happy

          I don’t prioritise my partner out of anxiety. I don’t prioritise my children, friends, or family because of anxiety. I give these people time and effort and love because I care for them and want the best for them. I know I’m a pod person, but surely I cannot be too unusual in this regard.

          Jeremy, I suspect at core you’d still be the same person had you been swamped in love, just perhaps less worried, and more open to new experiences and people.

        3. Lynx

          Jeremy: “If it had been easy to get what I wanted…would I be the person I became? I doubt it.”

          Maybe you wouldn’t have wound up as different as you might think, because we typically want that which is out of our reach — it’s hard to imagine a scenario where you could truly have ANYone you wanted, ANY time you wanted them. You might have walked right past that queue of women and crossed the street to hit on the aloof, truly drop-dead amazeballs chick who was out of your league….because there’s always someone out of our league.

          The difficulty you’d have experienced trying to get her, the rejection you’d likely have faced, well, it might have put you right back on the same old path.

          Did you ever see the film Peggy Sue Got Married? It wasn’t the best movie by a long shot, but the premise always stuck with me — even if you could go back in time and try to change, you can’t, because you are fundamentally you. This thought has helped me to live a largely regret-free life, and forgive myself for my dodgy choices….because if I could do a reset, I would probably just make the same decisions.

        4. Marika

          Mrs Happy

          You aren’t unusual at all. You’re just on the avoidant side of secure (is my guess, probably). Avoidant types don’t get anxious types. At.All. Which is one of the reasons I tried to explain a bit more below in the last comment how we operate, and how you can make it work with someone who is more on the anxious side and thus very willing to let you be the one to prioritise getting your needs met in a relationship.

          If you can try to understand us a bit too.

          Neither type is right or wrong, it’s just one type is more open to trying to understand the other, because it’s in our nature, and we prioritise the relationship over ourselves (as Jeremy pointed out, the anxiety being the driving force to do so).

          Jeremy makes a good point that ‘men with options’ – as has been said over and over her – who are more avoidant just Thank U Next without a care in the world.

        5. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “I tried to explain a bit more below in the last comment how we operate, and how you can make it work with someone who is more on the anxious side and thus very willing to let you be the one to prioritise getting your needs met in a relationship.”
          Don’t get mad, Marika, but I think anxious and avoidant types should … no pun intended … avoid each other. It’s just a bad combination. It’s too much work for two people who are so fundamentally different to try to understand each other.

        6. Marika

          Maybe, Emily, but very often that doesn’t happen. I recall you said two avoidants couldn’t make it work either, as nothing would get off the ground.

          I guess on this site, too, aren’t we here to try to understand each other somewhat and people who don’t think like us in dating? Saying ‘just don’t worry about it’, ‘just move on’ etc is like telling an introvert ‘just don’t feel like you need time alone’, or telling an avoidant explorer ‘just fit in more with what everyone else wants’. People get that *they* need certain things, right? Aren’t they open to understanding other people need other things which are different but just as valid?

        7. Jeremy

          It’s not that you or I prioritize our loved ones solely due to anxiety, Mrs H. Rather, as Marika wrote, it’s that anxiety makes us do so more than we otherwise might.

          How often have you and I gone in circles about your book club women, the ones who’d rather not have sex with their husbands very often? How often have you posited that these women are happy with their life as it is, and the lack of sex is only upsetting to their husbands… And how often have I retorted that the happiness of these women will be short-lived when their marriages collapse? Problem is, if one really doesn’t CARE if one’s marriage collapses, if one isn’t terribly attached to one’s partner, if one has already obtained what one wanted from that partner and so is not terribly loss-averse….. Then one will logically act just like these book club women. These women who, I’d guess, think they do prioritize their husbands (as much as they want to), but whose husbands (I’d guess) don’t feel terribly prioritized.

          You recently wrote a comment to me, stating that our difference of opinion was due to our different reasons for wanting sex.that you don’t want sex as a service or validation but rather just a mutual pleasure. But how would it be otherwise for you? By your own description, men lined up for you. One left, another came. How could sex, of all things, ever be validating in such a case? Gold is only valuable because it’s rare and hard to come-by. When you feel a loss if you lose it because you may not find it again. You don’t feel elation when you find sand, ’cause it’s everywhere. What matter if you lose some?

        8. Jeremy

          Btw, it’s not that I lack openness. It’s that I prioritize the stated opinion of my spouse. Because I understand it, can empathize with why it is what it is. It’s that empathy that I think I’d lack with a different upbringing. Because I developed it as a mechanism to understand the people whose behaviour I found so incomprehensible.

        9. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Aren’t they open to understanding other people need other things which are different but just as valid?”
          Open to understanding it and wanting or being able to provide it are two different things.

      2. 2.1.2
        Marika

        People with anxious tendencies can definitely make wonderful partners. We’ve often grown up with at least one parent who was hard to read. So we became masters at figuring out what those we love need, reading between the lines, picking up on facial expressions, subtle mood changes etc, without rocking the boat too much. I often get told that I have a great memory; meaning I’ve listened to what a loved one/friend has said, even in passing, and remembered it later. (Which apparently is rare!).

        I think the fear is we’ll be needy stalkers. But that’s only if you have a full blown disorder, or other stuff going on. In contrast, we’ll tend to pick up on what is going to work best for you rather than push our own agenda. A person with such tendencies will often ask for something they’d really like once, or twice, then let it go.

        If you as the other non-anxiousy (most likely avoidant) person tries to pick up on those simple requests and tries to mostly acquiesce, that’s a good way to ensure the relationship doesn’t become all about you. Because that’s when the fear, doubt and eventually unhappiness sets in. I’m willing to bet in 9/10 cases with people who end up saying things like ‘oh, she crazy’, actually she was not crazy until she gently asked for things that were constantly disregarded as she didn’t push…and then eventually lost it.

        Some people will say: oh, you need to be more assertive! And yes, that’s better for us…but is it really better for you as the partner? Do you really want two people constantly asserting their needs in a relationship?

  3. 3
    Jeremy

    Sorry to post yet again, but this topic is just so important and (IMHO) so poorly understood. I don’t mean to continually reference Orthodox Judaism, but its examples are just so salient in my mind. Orthodox Jews wake up each morning and, after thanking God for their lives, recite the statement: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” And while I despise the psychological fallout of this statement, I totally understand why the rabbis instituted it as a mantra. Because love and care just aren’t enough. Because contrary to what the spiritual types will tell you, love is not a bottomless well – it is sorely limited by our attention span, our internal RAM. When you have 4 children, you have less to give to each compared to when you only had one.

    How often have I written that the problems I had in my marriage were due to my wife’s lack of fear? She never stopped loving me, never meant to de-prioritize me, but when her attention and love were occupied with kids and minutiae, she had none left for me. And because I’d given her such a strong sense of security, she believed I wouldn’t go anywhere no matter how badly she treated me, how little she gave. And when I altered that perception, instituted just a bit of anxiety, it gave her reason to focus not just on what she wanted to give, but ALSO on what I wanted to receive.

    In relationships, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of loss. Not a pathological fear, not a constant aching worry, but a tiny spark. After all, if there’s nothing you fear to lose, what do you have?

    1. 3.1
      Mrs Happy

      You have comfort and free will.

      1. 3.1.1
        Jeremy

        You have those anyway, with or without a relationship. What else you got? What reason to seek a relationship beyond what one hopes to get? What reason to stay once one gets it?

        1. Jeremy

          And to clarify, the anxiety I’m referring to isn’t a fear of violence, of drunken fighting. It’s the notion that maybe I shouldn’t behave like a selfish asshole or else I might lose something important in my life. SomeONE important in my life. It doesn’t sap me of my free will like an abuser. It informs my free will as to how to make better choices and avoid those I’ll regret.

        2. Marika

          Perhaps Jeremy for those very secure, or those highly avoidant, perhaps the anxiety may not be losing the relationship – that may not be highly motivating enough to affect behaviour or give pause – but perhaps there could be anxiety of altering one’s self-belief/ values around loyalty/ability to commit or stick things out. Perhaps one could fear their children growing up like they did, with fighting parents or only one parent. Or worry what their family or social circle would think. Etc.

          I know currently one of my friends is tempted to cheat (I’ve mentioned her before). She’s certainly not anxious. She’s justified it in her head that he doesn’t care. At this point all that is stopping her is fear of being like her ex (who cheated on her). And fear of hurting her kids.

        3. Lynx

          Marika: “Perhaps Jeremy for those very secure, or those highly avoidant, perhaps the anxiety may not be losing the relationship…”

          Not speaking for every secure/avoidant (securely avoidant?!), but I can tell you what my anxiety is about: I suspect I am incapable of being all-in to any romantic relationship. So, I might as well stick with the one I have.

        4. Mrs Happy

          @J: “What else you got?”

          You have a relationship not predicated or based on anxiety the other may leave. And anxiety is the opposite of comfort – so you do not “have those anyway”.

          @J: “What reason to seek a relationship beyond what one hopes to get? What reason to stay once one gets it?”

          I seek to be in relationships because I enjoy being with the person and having a connection with them. Depending on the person, some combination of, they make me feel good, I have pleasure in their company, I am stimulated by their views, I feel love or like, I want to spend time with them, I want them in my life, the thought of them makes me smile and feel fondness.
          I stay for those reasons too.

          I do not control my partner or friends or adult family members, and nor do they control me. For people used to control, restrictions, and rules, such freedom and free will and choice seems confronting. I’m perplexed by people who submit to control and rules, though I know some personalities like such, and drift towards organised religion/cults/controlling partners/bossy friends etc.

          I hate friendships or partnerships based on uncertainty and anxiety, and cull such interactions from my life when able. I disagree with all major religious inane rules and restrictions. Passivity, lack of logical individual thought, and indecisiveness (all in others) irritates me.

          Jeremy I actually cannot believe you are postulating a type of anxious relationship is a positive, or better than one entered into and stayed in voluntarily sans anxiety.

          I’d hate to think my partner did nice things for me out of fear I’d leave him. I’d hate to think people were friends with me for fear I’d not stay their friend. I can’t even understand wanting such a thing, though I realise some people do live life like this. I’d not purposely induce fear in a partner, family member of friend, that seems an awful thing to do, not my style at all.

          I think the difference here is needs – wants really. This is not the place for me to hypothesize on personal specifics, but some people want more of their partner’s attention and time than others, and feel unloved if they are not getting what they feel/decide is their share, or enough; and this is understandable. But for someone who doesn’t want as much from a partner, or doesn’t want an anxious partner, psychologically manipulating a partner to continue to provide the attention/love/whatever, seems cruel.

        5. Marika

          Lynx

          This has nothing to do with your reply, but I just noticed how many times I used the word ‘perhaps’ in my comment!! Am I in a who-can-use-the-same-word-the most times in a paragraph competition? If so, I win.

          Ah, look, we all have our own motivations for being in relationships and staying. We’re all just doing our best and are equally messed up in our own unique ways.
          PerhapsPerhapsPerhaps.

      2. 3.1.2
        Marika

        I recall Mrs Hap that the motivation for you to lie next to your children at bedtime, rather than letting them call out (even though it is the last thing you feel like at night), was a concern (anxiety) that otherwise they may not be securely attached.

        1. Mrs Happy

          I think the one of best things I can give my children is a secure attachment style, and from their birth, I have done much within my power to optimise that outcome, even when I’d rather do something else (e.g. go to bed myself at 3am instead of hold a crying bub yet again, or at 8pm watch Netflix for an extra 2 hours every night instead of boringly put my now older kids to bed, just for starters.)

          But I treat children differently to adults. I can’t change an adult’s (a partner, a friend) attachment style – or, I could, but I don’t want to, it’s too much work, and not my responsibility. Adults in my social world can manage their own emotions, I’m all spent managing mine and my kids’.

        2. Marika

          I understand your view on this, MH. The point was anxiety can be a motivating factor for going the extra mile or doing more than you feel like for others. I know pretty much every parent relates to this with regard to their kids.

          With adults, it’s not about changing anyone, it’s about understanding. Being mindful of their needs – and not scoffing at them – even if they differ from your own. Otherwise, how does any relationship last?

        3. Mrs Happy

          M – I’m not scoffing at anyone with whom I have a relationship. Why would I?

          BTW your comment above re “perhaps there could be anxiety of altering one’s self-belief/ values around loyalty/ability to commit or stick things out” etc was the absolute fish, really wise.

          Almost midnight, and seeing as I’ve just worked 12 h, and on a Sat no less, I deserve an episode of Lucifer, so goodnight Marika.

        4. Lynx

          No perhaps about it, Marika, you’ve summarized the point beautifully: “…anxiety can be a motivating factor for going the extra mile…for others”.

        5. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Being mindful of their needs – and not scoffing at them – even if they differ from your own. Otherwise, how does any relationship last?”
          True, but sometimes one partner may not be able to provide what the other needs. Often for an avoidant, what an anxious partner wants may seem like too much work.

        6. Emily, to

          Mrs. Happy,
          “I deserve an episode of Lucifer, so goodnight Marika.”
          I LOVE that show. I don’t really pay attention to the plot. I just stare at the male lead the whole time … That he plays a devilish, rogue character just makes it all the better. 🙂

        7. Marika

          I know that, Em, I’m just saying it’s actually in a way the opposite. You don’t have to do much work with someone who’s naturally inclined to make the effort. You just have to be mindful of not taking advantage of them.

          Ideally in a relationship both people are making a similar effort – like how Evan describes his marriage. But a relationship with mismatched efforts (which let’s face it, is *most* relationships) can still work if the person recognizes the value of the one keeping shit together. Unless you want two ‘meh’ people living parallel lives and sometimes having sex (and no doubt some people are completely fine with that too).

        8. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Ideally in a relationship both people are making a similar effort – like how Evan describes his marriage. But a relationship with mismatched efforts (which let’s face it, is *most* relationships) can still work if the person recognizes the value of the one keeping shit together.”
          Idk. I’m at a point where I won’t do more with anyone. It has to be reciprocal or I move on. I recently had a flirtation/quick makeout session with a co-worker. I was hoping something might get off the ground, but when I ran into him later, he talked to me as if nothing had happened. Like he was ordering a burger at Burger King. He shifted it to casual acquaintance so I followed his example. I’m cordial/businesslike with him but I’m not doing any more.

        9. Marika

          Em

          I know you won’t. I know that’s not you. And early on what you wrote is the only way to go. But later down the track, either one or both people need to keep making consistent effort. Even when the newness of the sex wears off…and you’re stressed from work and someone gets sick….for the more avoidant party they may need someone slightly more anxious, certainly more so than them, to drive that. And it will be easy to take such a person for granted. I feel that would be a mistake.

        10. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “.for the more avoidant party they may need someone slightly more anxious, certainly more so than them, to drive that. And it will be easy to take such a person for granted. I feel that would be a mistake.”
          As I wrote, an anxious and an avoidant are not a good match. An avoidant is never going to be able to give an anxious what she wants. I can almost always immediately tell just by reading a post who is anxious and who is avoidant. (I don’t think we have too many secures on here. :)) And when I read all the elements of a relationship an anxious considers/mulls over, stuff I never even knew existed, I have to be honest … it makes me tired.

        11. Clare

          Em,

          “when I read all the elements of a relationship an anxious considers/mulls over, stuff I never even knew existed, I have to be honest … it makes me tired.”

          Admittedly, I am late to this discussion, but remember that not all anxious people are created equal. And as we have so often observed on this blog, people are at different stages of dealing with/managing their anxiety.

          A self-aware anxious person who is actively working on and takes responsibility for their own issues can make a great partner – perhaps not for an avoidant person because he or she (the anxious person) will never feel as if the avoidant is working as hard as he or she is.

          But my point is, not all anxious people are exhausting. Some certainly are. But I also think there are a number of anxious people who are quietly managing themselves and trying not to burden their partners.

          Mrs Happy,

          When I read about the way you are trying to raise securely attached children, I was fascinated. I agree this is a really great thing to do as a parent. I am fascinated by what causes a child to turn out either securely or anxiously attached. Obviously a stable, loving home with emotionally available parents makes secure attachment more likely.

          But I have a friend who, growing up, was the apple of her parents’ eyes. She wanted for nothing, either materially or emotionally. I think if anything this has caused her to idolise her parents. She is also one of the clingiest people I have ever met and so I would definitely say she is anxiously attached. She seems to live in constant fear that people will leave her. I don’t understand this based on her upbringing.

        12. Mrs Happy

          Clare,
          I suspect you (and probably she) don’t know the whole story about her upbringing. All sorts of things happen in the first 5 years that are barely remembered, but leave a mark.
          And, she may just have a genetic tendency to anxiety.

          Basically I’m no expert as I came to parenting very late in life and disliked and avoided all children before having my own. In my parenting, I make it up as I go; I often think, what would my mother have done, and do the exact opposite.

  4. 4
    Selena

    Jeremy,

    You wrote: “And because I’d given her such a strong sense of security, she believed I wouldn’t go anywhere no matter how badly she treated me, how little she gave. And when I altered that perception, instituted just a bit of anxiety, it gave her reason to focus not just on what she wanted to give, but ALSO on what I wanted to receive.”

    I absolutely mean no disrespect, but I wonder if “instituting just a bit of anxiety” in your wife to focus on what you wanted to receive was a one time thing? Have you had to ‘stir the pot’ from time to time to remind her? I have the impression your wife is a psychologist, if so, did she never “catch on” to this subtle stirring?

    I value your input on this forum Jeremy, I’m just trying to understand how this concept of “creating a little bit of anxiety” would work for partners over the course of time.

    1. 4.1
      Emily, to

      Jeremy,
      “I’m just trying to understand how this concept of “creating a little bit of anxiety” would work for partners over the course of time.”
      And how do you create anxiety in a marriage, when you’re entwined financially, socially, emotionally, etc., when you have a mortgage, kids, a house, etc.? Yeah, you can divorce but it takes a lot of work and it’s a big inconvenience. Most people don’t want to go through that unless they are really unhappy.

    2. 4.2
      Jeremy

      If you have to keep doing it, Selena, then I don’t think there’s a relationship to salvage. I really only had to do it for a very brief time and then not anymore, not for years. Because the problem in my case was not a lack of love, it was a lack of RAM,of bandwidth. I just needed to get her to understand that, contrary to popular advice, telling someone that you love them with your words doesn’t necessarily speak to them the way many women seem to think it “should.”

      Mrs H., I’d totally agree with you that manipulating someone or coercing them isn’t a good thing, has the potential to be an evil thing. That people should be free to make choices. My contention is that sometimes it is helpful to shine a certain light on those choices to help people see where they might lead, especially when it seems obvious that they really have no clue.

      And again, you are misinterpreting what I’m saying about anxiety. I’m definitely NOT saying that relationships should be entered into or maintained due to fear. I’m saying that if one does not think that losing that partner would be detrimental, be a loss, be a negative, then I don’t understand why they’d be in that relationship at all. You act out of love, care, as you wrote. But when your love and care aren’t enough because you’re low on bandwidth, a spark of fear can mean the difference between selfish complacency and altruistic action. Not even necessarily the fear that the partner might leave, but the fear of not living up to one ideals (it pains me to say).

      1. 4.2.1
        Lynx

        Jeremy: “But when your love and care aren’t enough because you’re low on bandwidth, a spark of fear can mean the difference between selfish complacency and altruistic action.”

        True.

        Long story, but I’ve been deprioritizing my boyfriend over the past year due to extremely distracting personal life events. Frankly, he tolerates way too much. I see that I should make a greater effort, but can’t seem to — like when you’re running in a dream and you know you should be able to run faster, but can’t.

        I often wish he would set some boundaries with me, take some kind of action to inspire moving his needs to the top of my list. Not proud of my behavior whatsoever, just an honest example to illustrate your point.

        1. Jeremy

          Why must it come from the outside, lynx? Why is the idea of trying not to be an asshole to a person you care about not enough? Would you be sad if he did leave? Would you regret your behaviour? Regret being that person? Or would you obfuscate that you wouldn’t change anything even if you had a time machine?

          Why do we invent all manner of excuses to justify our behaviour? Whom do we think we’re fooling?

        2. Lynx

          I thought about your questions for a long time, Jeremy, and ithey led me down several rabbit holes, but I will keep my reply more narrowly relevant to the blog’s intent and the immediate topic.

          What happens to me — and I suspect to many women — is I am trying so hard to do/be it all. Stay in great shape, eat healthfully, excel in a lucrative career, raise independent children, be a support to my extended family, create a restorative living space, be a kind pet owner, nurture friendships, invest wisely, foster spirituality, be an informed and engaged citizen, volunteer, dress stylishly, maintain my belongings, get regular checkups, pursue hobbies, floss daily. And make a man feel loved.

          It’s all too much, so it becomes a game of whack-a-mole. And if my boyfriend isn’t popping his head up out of the hole, it frees me to go after all those other moles. So do I mean to be an asshole to him? No. Would I be sad if he left? Yes, but also relieved that there’s one less thing I’m failing at.

          Do I regret being that person? I regret having bought into the lie that I could be a great wife and a great mom and a great home-maker and simultaneously have a successful career.

          Are these invented excuses to justify my behavior? Maybe, but honestly, I don’t think so. This site is targeted toward women whose prioritization of career has negatively impacted romantic challenges — It’s not an easy juggle.

          So why must incentive to work harder at my relationship come from the outside? I tried to write a glib answer to this one, but it didn’t feel right. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to know.

        3. Jeremy

          Sigh. My paternal grandfather was a tailor whose entire life revolved around his work, to the exclusion of all else. I was asked to speak at his funeral and this is what I said: A professor once gave a lecture to his students about how to live a good life. He took a glass jar and poured rocks into it until no more could fit. He asked his students, “Is the jar full?” They replied that it was. He then poured in smaller pebbles, pebbles that filtered between the rocks, and asked whether the jar was full. The students replied that it was. He then poured sand into the jar, sand that filtered between the pebbles, and the students agreed the jar was full. The professor then emptied the jar and remarked to the students that the same would not work if he had ordered the filling differently. He poured the sand into the jar first, and then tried the pebbles and rocks but they wouldn’t fit. “Let this be your lesson for life,” said the professor. “The rocks represent the important things in your life. Your spouse, your children, your family. The pebbles represent the things of intermediate importance in your life – your job, your hobbies, etc. And the sand represents the minutiae of your life. Beware, students, that if you fill your life with the minutiae, the sand, there will be no room for the rocks or pebbles. But if you start with the rocks, then add the pebbles, then the sand, it will somehow all fit.” And, I would add, that even if it doesn’t, the things that won’t fit will be the sand.

          The most important lesson I learned from my grandfather, learned in the negative, was to identify my rocks from my pebbles from my sand. And to not think I can fit them all indiscriminately.

        4. Lynx

          Sometimes, sounds crazy, but it can be hard to distinguish the rocks from the pebbles from the sand. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of return on investment — coldly analytical, I know. I get a huge ROI on exercise, healthy diet, and extended family. I get a pretty good ROI on career and many of the other items on the list.

          In my marriage, I got an abysmally low ROI. I guess I’m more cynical than I realized — I’m hesitant to make the same mistake again.

        5. Jeremy

          You got a low ROI from your marriage. How much of that was due to making a poor choice….and how much was due to what you chose to put in? I don’t mean to be harsh with this question, but it bears consideration – were you a good wife married to a brute of a husband, or were you 2 people who were each, in their way, trying to give the other as little as possible? Of course, there’s a spectrum in between. But if the truth was closer to the latter, abdicating responsibility for it will only complete the circle of self-fulfilling prophesies. The way out of a circle is to strike a straight line.

          My grandfather also had trouble distinguishing rocks from pebbles from sand. Felt his best ROI was from sewing, as at least he earned a living doing it and it kept him from thinking too much about his past. I once asked him whether the best he thought he could hope for was a lessening of pain, whether there wasn’t something better for him, more meaningful. He gave me a haunted look and went back to sewing.

        6. Lynx

          “You got a low ROI from your marriage. How much of that was due to making a poor choice….and how much was due to what you chose to put in?”

          Of course, it takes two to make a marriage fail, and I could have made a different effort. Truly, he is extremely difficult to please and I do not believe I could have made him happy without completely losing myself.

          Your grandfather — was he satisfied with the way he’d led his life? Did he ever lament lost relationships?

        7. Jeremy

          Sigh. I’m such an effing junkie.

          My grandfather had 2 parents, 2 brothers, a sister, aunts, uncles, cousins. He watched his parents and his sister murdered by the Nazis. His entire extended family. He escaped with his 2 brothers to Russia, where he was captured and imprisoned by the KGB. He watched his 2 brothers die of disease and starvation as he starved too. He was put to work in a copper mine, where he and his co-workers (co-slaves) put dynamite into a pit and then ran as fast as they could so they wouldn’t be caught in the explosion. Each day, after the blast, he and the remaining workers returned to collect the copper…and the body parts. Knowing that the next day his parts might be carried out. He was rescued by the officer in charge of the mine – this officer needed new clothes for himself and his family, and had heard that my grandfather was a tailor. He offered my grandfather the option to continue in the mine, or to come to his basement and be his personal slave, sewing clothes. What choice was it? Arbeit macht frei.

          The notion that work was life, work saved life, there was nothing in life but work was BURNED in his psyche as if branded by a red hot iron, by the years he spent working, living while all he loved died.

          He was not able to overcome it. Didn’t have the insight, the wherewithal. I don’t blame him, none of us blamed him, there but by the grace of God go I.

          To answer your question, Lynx, he spent his years sewing so that he wouldn’t lament lost relationships, wouldn’t have to think about it. It was his anesthesia. What’s your excuse?

        8. Lynx

          Jeremy: “I’m such an effing junkie.” Does this mean I’m one of your dealers?

          I cannot imagine what it must have been like for your grandfather — the scope of his loss and terror and deprivation are far beyond my ability to truly comprehend. Sounds like sewing saved his life, but he paid a steep price for it.

          Here’s the thing with me, I’ve got several incredibly strong, enduring relationships in my life (interestingly, one is with my high school boyfriend). So my bar is maybe a little high. I’m thinking about whether I have anything to lament.

        9. Mrs Happy

          Dear Jeremy, you seem tired and burnt out. And angry at yourself. I’d usually suggest the combo of more sleep, good food and drink, less work, and some extra downtime, but I wonder whether you should look a bit deeper into what would help you?
          I wish I could send you a fish.

        10. Evan Marc Katz

          Jeremy is burnt out at being misunderstood in these blog comments. It is why I rarely comment anymore myself. You can explain yourself with painstaking care, nuance and metaphor and the same people will continue to attack and misrepresent your position.

          I write not just to teach but to be understood. My greatest frustration with this blog are those commenters who can’t concede a logical point or step out of their own shoes to learn something. Instead, they repeat their same life philosophies that have resulted in everlasting singlehood.

          When you can run reasonable, articulate, married men such as Jeremy and Karl R and myself off of this comments section, you may want look in the mirror about your ability to communicate in good faith with a partner. There may be multiple sides to every story but not all POVs are equally effective for creating and maintaining a relationship.

        11. Jeremy

          Indeed, lynx, perhaps you have nothing to lament. But tell me, the lovely man you are in a relationship with – the one who thinks you’re the love of his life, the one whom you…like – how does he feel? What do you think he needs to construct happiness in his life, what do you think he construes as his rocks versus pebbles versus sand?

          If love is indeed a verb (as you hoped, as you ideated), then it needs to be done with a view of his perspective and not just yours. If you are a rock to him, you have a responsibility to consider him a rock to you. Or else accomplishing your ideated verb is impossible.

          Funny thing about assholes – unlike eyes, ears, arms and legs, they tend to be found solitary in nature and not in pairs. And seem happy enough as such. And conversely, things that are naturally found in pairs…tend not to be assholes.

        12. Marika

          I don’t see you as a dealer, Lynxy Mynxy, more a fish monger 😉

        13. Adrian

          Hi Jeremy & Evan,

          Very telling comment by Evan (though it seems to have gone unnoticed) but my question is what is the solution? Not just with this blog but with life in general?

          I have noticed this with so many people who think they are great siblings, parents, wives/husbands, friends, co-workers, employees, etc…

          When a person is giving 100% to the relationship but it’s only 100% of how THEY would want to be treated NOT how you want them to treat you, they see no wrong in their actions because again the things they are doing would make them happy and they are giving at 100%… So you must be the problem.

          To me this is what Jeremy is saying?… It’s sad people are missing this and making it a sex thing.

        14. Lynx

          Jeremy: “If you are a rock to him, you have a responsibility to consider him a rock to you.”

          I agree. We are an unusual pair, I think, because we both possess a very rich interior life and can happily spend hours alone. Once, we had gone on a long weekend trip (a rare event due to mutual life circumstances) and one of his fondest memories is a morning where we spent a couple of hours in our unremarkable hotel room — as he read and I did logic puzzles. So I do suspect that what constitutes acting as a rock looks different for us than for many others. Our relationship is completely inexplicable to extroverts.

          Example: during a time we had broken up, he was online dating. One woman that caught his eye insisted on Facetiming for at least one hour as she commuted home, fed her cats, whatever. He hated it. So, one benefit he gets is that I am extremely low maintenance and give him the space to pursue his interests without being made to feel guilty about ignoring pressing practical tasks.

          EMK: Mea culpa.

          Marika: Curiously, my former brother-in-law is a fishmonger, so I have connections. Let me know if you’re craving Chinook salmon.

        15. Clare

          Adrian,

          I’m late to this conversation (as usual), but I also can hardly believe what I read here about sex in marriage and I can hardly believe that Jeremy’s painstakingly articulated message is being missed.

          It was not long ago (about 15 years) that I was in law school being taught about the concept of consortium in South African/Roman Dutch law. In short, consortium consists of a spouses legal obligation to provide sex, affection and emotional support. At the time I was in law school, it was still possible to sue your spouse for loss of consortium (though obviously if you won it would be difficult to enforce). This was South Africa though, which is still so much more traditional when it comes to ideas of gender and sex (for which I am very thankful most of the time).

          Now I read from commenters like Sylvana or Jo (I’m not sure) that the law in the U.S. is swinging so far the other way that not only do spouses not have to provide sex to their partners, but they can be protected from their spouse’s advances as well.

          Like so many other progressive developments in the last few years, I find this emotionally tone deaf in the extreme.

        16. Jeremy

          I’m about as far from an extrovert as they come, lynx. A morning solving logic puzzles sounds great to me. I could spend an hour by myself just watching ice crystals form on a frosty window. But an hour on facetime with a stranger from online dating? I’d wonder if I’d died and gone to hell.

          In my comments above, I’m not suggesting gushiness. How to explain?….ok, this is for you, Ms introvert: To me, the relationship between motivation and action is that of a root and a stem. The motivation is the root of the action, the action stems from the root of the motivation. In this case, it’s not that action is lacking, it’s that motivation is lacking. The motivation is what requires corrective work, and from that work all actions will folliw. Do you follow?

          I act toward my wife, because in loving her I want what’s best for her. Because I want what’s best for her, I trouble myself to learn what she wants, what she needs, and then I do this things. Not any random things, but the things she wants. And in so doing, improve her happiness and so my own. My own improves because of my motivation. Were that motivation lacking, I would not so trouble myself, neither in the learning nor in the action, and the plant would wither, root and stem. And so the question: how important is the plant to me?

        17. Adrian

          Hi Clare,

          It’s not as bad here in the States as some commenter’s paint the sex situation (same thing with men not having friends if you are listening Mrs. Happy).

          I’m finding that most of the people who comment are hurting and crying out; it’s like they use the comments section as therapy/an outlet. I only bring this up because I would hate for people like You, Marika, Malika, Tom10, Mrs.Happy, and any other readers from outside the U.S to think that American dating is as grim as it is sometimes painted on here.

          I think both sides of this argument are making some good points while not seeing the perspective of the other.

        18. Lynx

          Jeremy: “In this case, it’s not that action is lacking, it’s that motivation is lacking. The motivation is what requires corrective work, and from that work all actions will folliw. Do you follow?”

          I do, and you’ve done a better job of articulating the issue than I was able to do when I initiated a breakup a while ago. Here’s the gist of the conversation:

          Me: I am not nice enough to you. You deserve someone who is more thoughtful and catering.

          BF: What, are you saying I should want a woman who bakes me cookies? I don’t need cookies.

          (And one point I guess I ought to make, because it’s come up not in our thread but in others. The quality of sex is great, but the quantity is less than either of us believes is ideal due to our mutually odd living situations. So, when I say I am not nice enough, it is not a withholding sex thing.)

      2. 4.2.2
        Selena

        Thank you for replying to my questions Jeremy.

        In theory…I can see how creating anxiety of losing the security of a relationship might serve as motivation for a someone to pay more attention to what that partner wants. I can also see it not working and potentially backfiring – particularly with repetition. There are those who recognize psychological manipulation, especially if their partner tries it more than once.

        Personally…I would much rather have a partner talk honestly with me. “If we can’t do something to change this, we aren’t going to make it.” Rather than try to manipulate me into getting what he wanted.

        I’m glad your and your wife were able to work out your issues.

        1. Jeremy

          Talking it out certainly sounds like the best solution. Would you believe it was the first thing I tried? The first thing most men in such situations try? I recall a story you once told about a time you lost your loving feeling for your bf. Went from initiating sex every 2-3 days to not being interested. And when your bf spoke to you about it, you described your reaction as daring him to have unwilling sex with you if that was what he wanted. He backed off, as most men would. No one wants unwilling sex, we want to be desired. And the problem is, you can’t make someone desire you when that desire is your idea. It has to be her idea. And as much as we’d all like to believe in our capacity for sweet reason, conversation and negotiation will never result in desire.

        2. Selena

          Jeremy: ” I recall a story you once told about a time you lost your loving feeling for your bf. Went from initiating sex every 2-3 days to not being interested. And when your bf spoke to you about it, you described your reaction as daring him to have unwilling sex with you if that was what he wanted. He backed off, as most men would.”

          Too bad you don’t recall the whole story. When my boyfriend spoke to me about it, I didn’t know why my libido had plummeted. I asked him to be patient, it would come back.

          He couldn’t do that. He started bringing up sex every 10-20 minutes, ALL DAY, EVERY DAY getting progressively nastier. At one point I got fed up and said just do it! No foreplay just get it done. It was only then he backed off.

          My drive returned within a week after he knocked off the pressure. Might have returned sooner had he not behaved like a manipulative asshole. All that accomplished was to make me start to dislike him.

          I was in the menopause process at the time, and my temporary dip in drive may have been the result of hormonal fluctuation. Had it continued for more than a couple weeks, it would have been reasonable for my partner to ask about my seeing a doctor. It would have been reasonable for him to talk to me about how important our sexual connection was as part of our relationship and what we could do before we ended up losing each other. And it would have been reasonable for him to leave me if I refused to consider doing anything about it.

          “Dread Game” would not have made me desire him more. It may have had the opposite effect in fact.

        3. Jeremy

          I do remember that. Pestering never works, I agree. But I’ll ask you the same question I asked on Evan’s Aziz Ansari thread when you first told the story – What would have happened if your desire hadn’t returned a week later? I understand your suggestions that you might have sought medical advice (which almost never helps low libido women, btw). That you would have been open to conversation (which might have led to your acquiescing to duty sex, but not to desire). That you would have been open to his leaving you (which would be relatively easy since I assume you had no children or co-mingling of finances or lives together?). But none of these things addresses your loss of desire, none would rekindle it.

          I’ve been very careful to say, in my past comments about this issue, that the solution must be tailored to the problem. Does love remain or doesn’t it? Does the desire to please remain or not? And, if the answers to these are yes, what was the original sexual meta-goal, the reason sex was desired in the first place? If it was for validation, dread game will fail miserably. It will only work of the meta-goal was relationship and children, and the loss of desire was due to having irrevocably obtained these goals. For a validational person, the solution would be entirely other. And different yet for a novelty person, a pleasure person, a domination/submission person, etc.

        4. Selena

          Jeremy: “What would have happened if your desire hadn’t returned a week later? I understand your suggestions that you might have sought medical advice (which almost never helps low libido women, btw).”

          Given that I had a fairly high libido previous to the dip, how can you be certain HRT would not have improved my drive had the drop continued?

          “I’ve been very careful to say, in my past comments about this issue, that the solution must be tailored to the problem.”

          Yes you have, and I can agree. But to know what the root of the problem IS takes a willingness to acknowledge there actually is a problem and a willingness to seek a solution.

          You figured out your wife’s metagoal and tried something that worked. Should her metagoal change, I suppose you will try something else. My curiosity was in if/how ‘Dread’ game is maintained over time. Or if it would even work at all with some personalities. I believe you have answered that.

    3. 4.3
      Jeremy

      Oh, and I like Lucifer too. I don’t know what it is about the female lead, she has this quality that’s hard to define. Almost… Smoky, would be the word? Just kind of a vibe she gives off. The male lead, though…. Always thought he had kind of a gay vibe?

      1. 4.3.1
        Emily, to

        Jeremy,
        “Always thought he had kind of a gay vibe?”
        He’s so hot, no woman would care. I know several women who would climb over a bunch of straight guys to get to Adam Lambert.

        1. Mrs Happy

          The constant eye candy in that show is majorly distracting from the actual interesting long term plot line. What a total bastard God is made out to be, petty, cruel, unforgiving, a really crappy father, …. i.e. like in the whole old testament (that Christians inexplicably near ignore). I really appreciate screenwriters with classical educations.

        2. Jeremy

          LOL. Christians ignore it. Jews make excuses for it. I recently sat through a sermon about the Binding of Isaac and why Abraham was virtuous in his unquestioning service of God, his willingness to kill his son in order to follow Divine instruction. Seriously, did Nuremberg teach us nothing? I get so frustrated with the cognitive dissonance….

        3. Mrs Happy

          CB – You follow archaic laws made long ago by people with less than a primary school education and markedly lower IQs than yours, and you I think believe in a creator, and you’re complaining of cognitive dissonance in others? I’m seriously curious. I figure your reasoning must be suspended to deal with your religion.

        4. Jeremy

          People need comforting illusions, EW, especially when life gets overwhelming. My fish tank is one such illusion. I built it with the motivation of having a place to put my mind in times of emotional chaos. To be a respite, an oasis of beauty, serenity, tranquility, grace….peace. But of course, the ocean is the least peaceful place on earth. Every inch of it, every moment, a Darwinian struggle. Every creature in it fighting during the day to eat and not be eaten by the creatures that would consume it, trembling through the night when the even more frightening things emerge, things full of arms and teeth, devoid of remorse.

          I sometimes look at my fish and wonder if they have any capacity to look back at me. To look at my life as an oasis of serenity. Because, of course, my life is so much better than the life of a fish. So much safer, happier, full of plenty. Do the fish have any sense of irony that I look to their world for peace? Do they shake their heads at me for the sheer ridiculousness of that notion, that illusion? They should.

          I am fairly agnostic about the notion of a personal God, and I have a very live-and-let-live attitude toward those for whom the illusion is comforting, and I simultaneously have scorn for any who would actually rely on that notion for anything tangible. To me, whatever value religion has is not in any objective truth, but rather in the qualities it has evolved, quite by accident, that improve human happiness, that automate those elements required for happiness that we don’t naturally prioritize.

  5. 5
    Gallilee

    Jeremy,
    What you’re saying here is so true, but it’s very very difficult to grasp for some people. A lot of the women posters here have commented that when they’re youngbthey has almost endless access to sex and short term, fun relationships. They never had to prove their own value. They think that’s what life is life for everyone. And that’s the heart of their struggles; they have such issues with compromise because they can’t accept that a 36 year old woman looking for a husband is an a much less powerful position than a 22 year old woman looking for a fun boyfriend. Yes of course they should have standards and self respect, but also realise they’re playing a different game, and their number one asset is compromise and the ability to see things from a man’s perspective.

    1. 5.1
      Mrs Happy

      G: “They never had to prove their own value.”

      For me (and I suspect some other people) my value is not based on whether men want to have sex with me, or the past or present ease of entering into fun relationships. Such is only valuable if one prioritises having those things, and it may be that you and other men want those, much more than the average woman who can easily get them. Turn understanding another around; see it from her perspective.

      G: “They think that’s what life is life for everyone.”

      No they don’t – anyone with observational skills, including young attractive women, realises that many people don’t have near endless access to sex and fun relationships, even if they themselves do. At the very least they’ll have less attractive friends complaining of their relationship desert status quo.

      G: “..their number one asset is compromise and the ability to see things from a man’s perspective.”

      Maybe from where you’re sitting a woman’s main asset is her ability to compromise with you, or do what you want, or appreciate your perspective, but that’s a very limited view of a person, and probably not her actual main asset. It is understandably something you value in her, but probably not what she most values about herself.

      1. 5.1.1
        Gallilee

        You’re just being obtuse for the sake of it, of course when i say value, I’m talking about romantic relationships and how easily they used to come. Virtually every woman will tell you when they reach an age where they decide they want marriage/kids, everything suddenly becomes much trickier.

        And yes women looking for marriage need to above all learn to compromise (see how imdidnt say ‘settle?) This has absolutely nothing to do with me, I’m not even in the market for such a person. I do have numerous female friends in their mid 30s who are seriously struggling though, one in particular to the point where she seems to be really depressed.

        So to claim that for women in this group looking for marriage dating suddenly much much harder, and as Evan often advises, compromise, not ‘not settling’, is going to be necessarily required, is hardly controversial.

        Why twist people’s words to see the worst in everyone?

        1. Emily, to

          Gallilee,
          “I’m talking about romantic relationships and how easily they used to come. Virtually every woman will tell you when they reach an age where they decide they want marriage/kids, everything suddenly becomes much trickier.”
          I don’t think relationships are ever easily come by. I remember being in my 20s and many of my friends and I wanted boyfriends, not just short-term, casual sex, which was, from my perspective at the time, all that the other side was offering, unless you picked a guy who was calling 10 times a day and sending you poetry in the first week. Of course, relationships are harder to find as you get older. It’s the irony of having fewer options but wanting more because the stakes are higher, particularly if you want kids.

        2. Mrs Happy

          Gallilee,
          You led with the idea that your theory was “very very difficult to grasp for some people”, when in fact you were not saying anything new, or anything even slightly difficult to grasp, while inferring attractive women had limited understanding, and you’re attacking me for responding?

          Me replying to your assertions doesn’t make me obtuse.

        3. Marika

          G

          For reasons known best to yourself, you misread or ignore the tone of a thread, and automatically take it to a place of negativity and criticism. Three different threads now and counting.

          Jeremy, to his credit, very rarely talks about age. He also never says a woman should do a specific thing because she’s a woman. He talks about how *people* in a partnership / dating can try to understand each other, relate to each other better and fulfill each other’s needs. You added in the bits about age and gender. Mrs Happy responded with her own views to your comments about women, as a woman. Which is a completely predictable outcome.

          If you want people to respond warmly to you, or agree, write warm, agreeable comments.

  6. 6
    Persephone

    I used to think like Mrs. Happy. I used to think that I could accept a person as they are, and try to reduce the amount of anxiety. I would make sure that he never had to question my sincerity or my loyalty. I thought it was terrible that which has always got the best men and were able to keep them, while me, an extremely nice person who would bend over backwards for my partner, always lost out.

    I believe Jeremy’s onto something good. Because of my failed relationships, I’ve thrown away the thinking that was similar to Mrs Happy’s. Dear lady, I’m not saying that you’re thinking is totally wrong. What I am saying is that I believe it caused me to fail in past relationships where I gave it my all, as I am far too likely to do. I figured if my partner wanted to give it their all in return, it was through their own free will.

    While that last sentence above is still the same with me, I feel they need to have anxiety if they don’t do that. I’ve learned a lot from reading these blogs. At first I would use it only to apply to the dating world. But then I slowly began to realize that these principles don’t end when the dating ins and the long-term relationship or marriage begins. I’m thinking maybe that’s the secret to keeping a relationship together. I’m thinking it’s this push and pull dynamic, instead of people settling into a place that’s more comfortable. There’s something crazy about human nature in that once we become comfortable, and complacent, then we become bored and start looking for greener grass. I think anxiety keeps glue in a relationship. Again, I’ve only learned that gradually since my divorce 3 years ago.

    1. 6.1
      Jeremy

      Please be careful with this, Persephone. The induction of anxiety in another person should be very much the exception, not the rule. The less you do it the better the relationship. Best would be none at all.

      My point about anxiety was not to say that we should induce it in our partners. It was to say that we should feel it in ourselves. When I shone that spotlight on my relationship, letting my wife know in subtle ways that I’d not stick around for more mistreatment and that I had other options, had she not cared then the relationship would have ended. But she did care. She did value the relationship. The fear of loss was a much needed kick in the ass. Since then she has maintained it for herself, as she should. Partners who don’t, tend to act like selfish assholes, and everyone perceives it except themselves and their cronies.

      1. 6.1.1
        Persephone

        Jeremy I agree with you that we shouldn’t keep all relationships to be one round of anxiety after another induced on our partner. But we have to have some means to enforce our boundaries.

        1. sylvana

          Persephone,

          It is somewhat interesting to observe that Jeremy enforced his boundaries by making it clear that he no longer feared the loss. So I guess the way to enforce the boundaries is by doing just that: Not fearing the loss.

          Know that you have other options and that you won’t accept certain things. Your partner can either fall in line or you’ll end things and move on.

    2. 6.2
      ezamuzed

      @Persephone

      What Jeremy seems to be talking about sounds an awful lot like “Dread Game” in the dating and relationship circles. If you do a Google search on “Dread Game” you will find a lot of unfortunate articles from the manosphere. But you will also find some useful ones. You might find this article from marriage coach/therapist Athol Kay, a response to a woman who is asking how she can use dread game useful:

      http://marriedmansexlife.com/2014/02/dread-game-vs-reality-game/

      1. 6.2.1
        Emily, to

        ezamused,
        From the link you provided:
        “This is the difference between going out and seeking to pull attention from the opposite sex in front of your partner (Dread), and simply having the opposite sex respond to you in front front of your partner because you’ve improved your Sex Rank (Reality). The Reality is you’re just hotter now. The Reality is the opposite sex responds to you better.”

        This is actually a much better idea than creating anxiety. Start working out, change you haircut, change your clothes, etc. Trust me, your partner will notice. So you’ve naturally created anxiety simply by doing some self-improvement and you get the added benefit of feeling better about yourself.

        1. Jeremy

          It’s better, Emily, but it’s also worse. Athol Kay himself alludes to this in his first book, “The Married Man Sex Primer.” Worse because it messes with the power balance of the relationship – the power balance that most people claim to know nothing about, yet are sensitive as hell to when it changes.

          Imagine the scenario – couple has been married for a decade or so, has kids. Each has their role. He is the same guy he always was – hasn’t gained weight or lost hair, still providing what he always did, still prioritizing his spouse. But she has lost interest. So now he goes and muscles up at the gym, tweaks his hair, styles his wardrobe, becomes more attractive to women in general……so…..why does he want to stay with his wife anymore? The wife who rejected him while still continuing to take from him? The wife who claimed to love him but only acted upon that love when she sees other women doing so? The world is his oyster now – sure his wife will be more attracted to him, but why should she be his first choice anymore? Athol Kay cautions his male readers that if they follow his advice they will be tempted to cheat, to trade in their wives for newer models. Not out of shallowness, but because these were the same women that rejected them. They are more attractive because they have more power….and that has implications to the marriage.

          It is a case of “be careful of what you wish for.” Because every action has 3 unintended consequences. And this consequence is VERY foreseeable. Power balances in marriages must be handled like nitroglycerin – carefully, or else they explode.

        2. ezamuzed

          @Jeremy

          You paint one bleak picture of marriage and people in general. There doesn’t need to be a power balance relationships. Power balance is the hallmark of an unhealthy relationship. Emotionally healthy people choose to stay in a relationship because they feel it is right for them, not because they fear losing the other person. Part of improving yourself is just realizing you will be okay on your own. And just because a person improves themselves becoming more attractive to others doesn’t mean they have to lose their integrity and start cheating.

        3. Emily, to

          ezamused.
          “You paint one bleak picture of marriage and people in general. There doesn’t need to be a power balance relationships. … Emotionally healthy people choose to stay in a relationship because they feel it is right for them, not because they fear losing the other person. Part of improving yourself is just realizing you will be okay on your own. And just because a person improves themselves becoming more attractive to others doesn’t mean they have to lose their integrity and start cheating.”
          Thank you. It’s not all about not enough power or not enough sex. It just can’t be.

        4. Jeremy

          Who was painting pictures of marriage and humanity in general? I was specifically discussing men who’ve been chronically rejected by their wives, often for years. If you think power balances aren’t important in such cases, we’ve nothing to discuss. And honestly EZ, I’m tired of explaining the difference between what I wrote versus staying in a relationship due to fear.

        5. Marika

          Anyone who knows the full story of Jeremy’s marriage knows he did what he had to do, after trying *everything* else. He didn’t pull away, didn’t cheat, just had to find a way to gently make it clear he wasn’t going to stick around forever being her lowest priority. Jeremy and I have both spoken about how much we hate putting up boundaries with those we love. I’m sure he took no pleasure in it. It was a final attempt to keep his marriage and family together – and it worked. And it’s still working.

          You don’t have to be completely secure and entirely ’emotionally healthy’ (whatever that means) to be a good partner. Some people just need a wake-up call now and then. Moving on, independence, being okay with being alone seems to now be the gold standard. I guess as a blow back to the prior generation’s guilt towards keeping marriages together at any cost. I feel it’s gone too far the other way, personally.

        6. Mrs Happy

          Dear ezamuzed, your
          “Emotionally healthy people choose to stay in a relationship because they feel it is right for them, not because they fear losing the other person.”
          was music to my ears.

          Great relationships are easy. People having great relationships understand this naturally. Having to do too much work seems to me like a death knell.

        7. sylvana

          Marika,

          “I feel it’s gone too far the other way, personally.”

          I agree with you. But the more I read this blog, the more I can see why. Unless men can change their Neanderthal views of sex and relationships, it will only get worse.

          Men have basically lost their buying power when it comes to sex. One could argue that women have equally lost their relationship power, but women no longer want those types of relationships. And therein lies the problem. The relationships that women want nowadays are something altogether different from what they have been throughout history. We no longer care to buy what men are trying to sell for sex.

          And eve those women who would still buy it run into the problem that there are less and less men able to afford it.

      2. 6.2.2
        Persephone

        Ezamuzed, the Dread Game, as described on your link, sounds like something a sociopath would do. If it gets that far, tjey both missed a lot of communication. Anyone with a partner who got on dating websites and threatened to cheat would be a fool to stick around. That is,not the way to create subtle but “healthy” anxiety in a partner. That does not seem to me to what Jeremy is referring.

        I would encourage something more healthy. An example would be him asking to sit down and talk about his loneliness such as, “Honey, I always say yes when you want to go to the Poinsettia Parade every Holiday season, but you always say no to come to boxing events with me. I feel lonely without you.” By saying that she should worry that he will feel discouraged. It is that kind of anxiety. By him never saying anything for fear of her getting mad, be is not expressing his needs for companionship. He is letting her treat him badly, which is a breach of boundaries.

        1. ezamuzed

          @Persephone As the article states, he encourages the reader to work on becoming a better version of themselves instead. And it also assumes that communicating your wants and needs has already been done numerous times but nothing changed.

        2. Persephone

          @ezamuzed you said, “As the article states, he encourages the reader to work on becoming a better version of themselves instead. And it also assumes that communicating your wants and needs has already been done numerous times but nothing changed.”

          No, it does not.

          It encourages them to be an asshole, and to use toxic controlling tactics in a relationship to get what they want. If their partner stays, It is only because they will agree to a toxic relationship, or else is planning their break because they resent what’s been done to them.

          I should have known this came from a Red Pill group. I researched it just now.

          That is not the type of anxiety that should exist in a relationship. There’s a more healthy type anxiety, such as partners being concerned when they find out that the other partner is going through a difficult time, or has needs that can be met in a healthy manner.

        3. ezamuzed

          @Persephone

          Did you read the whole article??? Are we one different planets? Clearly he is suggesting to NOT be a controlling asshole but to work on self improvement instead:

          “There’s a fairly big overlap in what Dread and Reality look like, but with some subtle differences. The most important of which is the change in frame from consciously doing something to try and evoke a positive change in them, to that of making a positive change in yourself, thus creating natural consequences your partner will have no option but to be affected by.”

  7. 7
    Jeremy

    I responded to Emily and Ezamuzed above, but I wanted to expand on why I think Athol Kay’s advice isn’t great. And this will touch on my conversation with Selena and Mrs Happy above.

    To internalize Kay’s advice for a neglected husband to buff up, change wardrobe and hair, and increase his sexual value – is to internalize toxic shame. Toxic shame being the notion that we are unlovable, undesirable, as we are. That we need to fundamentally change in order to earn affection. The person whom we marry should love us, desire us, as we are. It is one thing if we changed from the person they married in a substantive way – gained weight, became apathetic, etc. But if we are essentially the same but our spouse has lost desire for us, we can not assume that the solution is to jump through more and more hoops to try to earn our doggy-biscuit. To expend more time and energy and power to regain….what we had before and no more (and likely less). To make our continued happiness contingent on that hoop-jumping.

    NO. The solution is not to follow Kay’s advice, but rather to show our partner in no uncertain terms that we are desirable exactly as we are. That we are not without options exactly as we are. And this will be the razor to discover whether that person values us or not – if she loved us but assumed we wouldn’t go anywhere, or if she just doesn’t give a shit whether we stay or go, having already gotten what she wanted out of the marriage. If the former, save the marriage. If the latter, dump with prejudice.

    It is not manipulation to make it understood that our partner is no more entitled to a relationship with us than we are to sex with her. If one finds one’s self in a situation where a partner takes sex off the table but still wants all the other things she wants from the marriage, knowing that she will be entitled to continued support and provisioning from you no matter if you stay or leave, who exactly has manipulated whom? And if one’s partner wishes she still had a sex drive, tries to come up with solutions on her own but can’t seem to find one that works, is finding one for her manipulation? The thing that makes it seem so is the fact that it must be done through the psychological back-door….because if you make it seem like your idea it will never be HER idea. And it has to be.

    When my sister started her chemotherapy, her kids were 9 and 11. I knew that the best thing for her family would be to hire a nanny/cleaner so that the kids would be minded when she and her husband were at the hospital or occupied with her illness, that the house would be cleaned and food cooked without their having to do so. But they couldn’t afford to hire anyone, and were too proud to accept gifts. I knew what my sister needed and I knew it wouldn’t work if I just told her, with my words, why it was a good idea. So one night as I spoke to her on the phone, I asked her what the kids would do while she was at chemo. She said that she didn’t know, that she hoped a grandparent would take them. I asked her whether it wouldn’t be best if a grandparent would stay at her house so that the kids wouldn’t have to travel. She said that no grandparent would do that. I asked wasn’t there anyone who WOULD stay at her house and do all the chores while watching the kids. She said no, that person would have to be hired. I latched on to that – “Hired,” I said, “what a great idea! So smart of you to think ahead that the best thing would be to hire someone to do all those things. That’s really the only way you can be sure they’ll be done!” “….I suppose….” she replied. “Great idea,” I replied, appealing to her ego, “and my wife happens to know someone who’s looking for a job – a friend of our nanny’s in fact. Would you like to meet her?” (wasn’t really a friend of our nanny’s, we’d posted the job ad a week prior and already narrowed the candidates). “But how will I pay for this,” my sister asked, “I’m not working.” “My corporation will pay for it,” I lied, knowing full-well that it’s easier to accept a gift from a corporation than a person, even though the person and the corporation are technically the same entitiy. “o..,.kay” she replied. Months later she told me that hiring the nanny/cleaner was the best decision SHE ever made. Was it manipulation? Maybe. Was it wrong? I don’t think so. Not as long as it is done with the perspective of the person in mind.

    1. 7.1
      Emily, to

      Jeremy,
      I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the patience to do all this or even think this much about a relationship. It’s too much.

      1. 7.1.1
        Marika

        As I said, no, that’s not you, Em. But *someone* has to be caretaking the relationship.

        Look at Lynx. Not to pick on her, but to use her good example (I appreciate her honesty). She is really busy. Her boyfriend obviously picked up on this and is giving her space. But now no one is making effort, so it will probably just end if he doesn’t do something. She needs *him* to do something!

        I’ve dated/friended many an avoidant. Most with a long (or short) history of short relationships. When I ask what happened with the last one the answer is usually vague. It’s like they’re not sure. They don’t question it. It just ended. Um they don’t see a pattern?…
        If you know you’re never going to be the one going the extra mile, and it’s too much hassle to be with someone who will…what are you left with?

        1. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “If you know you’re never going to be the one going the extra mile, and it’s too much hassle to be with someone who will…what are you left with?”
          I used to be the one going the extra mile, Marika. I was always nudging things along, with men, friends and family. I simply will not do it anymore. I was trying to force relationships (of any kind), and it shouldn’t be that difficult. Now I think of it as trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Of course, things ebb and flow over time depending on circumstance and sometimes one person needs more support, but one person should not always be responsible for holding things together. You’re trying too hard with the wrong people if you assume you’ll always be the one doing more. Life will not shut down if you aren’t dating someone or in a relationship (the universal you). Better to wait for someone who can both literally and figuratively show up.

        2. Marika

          Emily

          I feel like you’re not listening to me. I said the ideal was both people making equal effort. I think the instances where that happens consistently with both people always for 20 years+ is rare. Unless both are secure, happy, easygoing and you are lucky. And I know being in a relationship isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. But why are we on this blog if we don’t care either way?

        3. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “I feel like you’re not listening to me.”
          Maybe I’m missing your point, but you keep mentioning avoidants and going the extra mile in a relationship. Of course you have to go the extra mile with an avoidant. Having to go the extra mile should be less of an issue with a secure or anxious. Right or wrong, avoidants usually start to pull back because they feel smothered by an anxious. I watched it happen with an avoidant friend of mine with his girlfriend of 2 years. She probably thought she was going the extra mile to keep the relationship together, but the more he pulled back, the more she went in after him. They are not together anymore.

        4. Mrs Happy

          Marika,
          if someone doesn’t “take care” of the relationship, in your opinion, what happens?
          I suppose I’m asking why “the relationship” is an entity at all, when it’s between 2 adults and there aren’t minors to be “taken care of”.
          Why can’t the 2 adults just be nice and considerate to one another, and get on with their lives? Take care of themselves and the other and that’s it.
          Why is all this extra “taking care of” relationship work necessary? In fact, what is this work? Can you give me examples? I’m trying to understand and I hope I’m not coming across as picky or too direct for comfort.

        5. Marika

          Hi Mrs Happy

          That’s hard for me to answer, because I definitely think the relationship is an entity, as in the old truism (for me), ‘the whole is the greater than the sum of its parts’.

          I’ve often heard it said that “if it wasn’t for the kids…”. Your friends in the book club (sorry, you’re probably sick of that being brought up, but it’s an example you can relate to) are probably in that phase of not putting effort in for the sake of the husband, but rather just to keep the family together. So what happens when those kids are teens and need less attention, or move out? What if you’re rich enough to support two homes quite easily, or have no kids? What if you can’t get past thinking your partner’s needs are ‘too much’ or getting on your nerves (nothing excessive, just wanting sex, wanting to talk about stuff etc).

          You obviously do make an effort even in the height of your frustration, and have been married for years, so you’re obviously a success story. I suppose for me, I’m mainly thinking about people I know who have never made a relationship work beyond a year or so and keep saying the same stuff about ‘just knowing’ and they keep dating everyone under the sun thinking someone will magically come along, deal with their (often considerable) baggage/nuances and it will all be effortless (from their end). I think they’re a bit delusional that there is no effort, it’s just that the effort is coming from the other person – or the relationship keeps ending as soon as anything a bit rocky pops up.

          As I said, there are marriages where both people are kind, considerate and giving and it’s relatively drama-free (ie Evan), but I’m not sure those people are on this blog, or certainly not routinely.

        6. Jeremy

          To address your question here, Mrs H, do you remember the list of 33 items you sent your husband? Things you wish he’d do so that you could do less, feel the relationship was more balanced? But things he obviously either doesn’t care about (and hence doesn’t do), or thinks are your job? Why, exactly, do you think he should do them? Why, exactly, do you think he’d ever agree? If for love, why hasn’t he already done them? If laziness is the impediment, why should he overcome it now?

          Taking care of the relationship IS taking care of each other…..when you aren’t necessarily motivated to do so. When you think you’ve done enough and he/she hasn’t. When you think the thing is the other person’s problem and not yours. The ONLY reason he’d ever agree to do anything on that list is to take care of the relationship. Because he values it, and you.

          Oh, and Sylvana, I read your post. And I marvelled a bit about how one could take what I said and extract the meaning you did. And it gave me a bit of a revelation: Avoidants are terrified of being afraid. Not afraid of climbing mountains or snake bites or being kicked by a horse. Terrified of emotional pain. So terrified of it that they spend their lives engineering how to avoid the fear they’re so afraid of. Building a callus on their soul like the one on the side of a runner’s foot.

        7. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “As I said, there are marriages where both people are kind, considerate and giving and it’s relatively drama-free (ie Evan), but I’m not sure those people are on this blog, or certainly not routinely.”
          Agree. This is a blog full of nutballs! 🙂

        8. Lynx

          Marika: Have I mentioned how much I wish we could all meet for a drink? I don’t feel picked on at all.

          You commented: “But now no one is making effort,”
          I forget now who said it, it was either you or Emily, but it was something about how a relatjonship with two passives would never get off the ground because no one would move it forward.

          Bingo.

        9. Emily, to

          Lynxx,
          “I forget now who said it, it was either you or Emily, but it was something about how a relatjonship with two passives would never get off the ground because no one would move it forward.”
          I wrote that 2 avoidants would never get anything off the ground. I’m attracted to avoidants. They are very good at playing it cool in the beginning but it never goes anywhere.

      2. 7.1.2
        sylvana

        Emily,

        Honestly, reading that, I don’t that that is a relationship. That’s a woman paying for being provided for with sex. Not much different from being a kept mistress.

        I guess it works for some women. And they shouldn’t complain when their husbands keep expecting them to whore themselves out. Certainly wouldn’t work for me. If that what it comes down to, I’d just stick to being a mistress to rich men. Might as well make it worth it.

    2. 7.2
      sylvana

      Jeremy,

      Unless it’s a matter of the wife no longer being attracted to her husband, I agree that him making himself more desirable is more likely to cause bigger problems.

      Let me just say quickly that this is not against you, personally, Jeremy. I highly respect you and everything you contribute, and I’ve learned a lot from you. And I think you actually just voiced most men’s view with this. That’s why it set me off.

      Reading this, I think I just figured out why people are having such problems with relationships these days. It explains why women initiate divorces at such higher rates, it explains the manosphere’s complaints. It explains why so many independent women are having such a hard time finding relationships.

      “It is not manipulation to make it understood that our partner is no more entitled to a relationship with us than we are to sex with her.”

      Whoa. Relationships and sex are two different things. Sorry you men are having a much harder time getting regular sex than women. But that doesn’t mean a woman is willing to BUY a relationship with sex. Especially not in this day in age, where she can have all the sex she wants AND provide for herself just fine. She wants affection in exchange for affection. Not affection in exchange for sex. She wants financial support in exchange for all the other ways in which she provides support, not in exchange for sex. Because that would literally reduce her to being no different than a whore, just with a nicer title. She’s no more entitled to sex with you either, you know. Just like you’re no more entitled to have a relationship with her. It’s not a relationship on one side, and sex on the other. This is the 21st century.

      “If one finds one’s self in a situation where a partner takes sex off the table but still wants all the other things she wants from the marriage”

      Of course she still wants all the other things from the marriage. All the other things have nothing to do with sex. Just like she should still be giving all the other things in return. Sex is only one part of a relationship. You don’t get to take away all the things that are NOT sex just because sex was taken away. Once again, what is she? Your whore, your mistress?

      And whatever happened to men being the ones who separate sex from emotions? So, it’s all fun and games until he gets into a relationship, then all of a sudden, sex becomes this end-all to men – desperately needed to fulfill all his emotional, mental, and physical needs? Gee, guys. Make up your minds. And they claim women are complicated. Or are you getting all of your validation from the fact that woman are supposed to be the emotional ones when it comes to sex? And you therefore relate a woman giving you sex with her giving you her emotions? In which case, that would make you guys pretty big POSs for having casual sex, and constantly trying to get casual sex. Or maybe you just want women to be just like you. Emotionless if you just want to get laid, but the moment you enter a relationship, she better associate some feelings with it.

      As I said. This explains the divorce percentages. Woman want an equal exchange of the individual components. Not an exchange of everything for sex. It explains the manosphere complains. Women no longer care to be whores with a better title. And it explains independent women’s problems. The only thing she needs from a man is the emotional. She can get sex, money, and everything else for herself.

      It certainly also explains my problems with relationships. Since it’s guaranteed that I’m always the one with the higher sex drive and the much more sexually demanding partner in a relationship. You’re right when you mention the power dynamics. Because my extremely high sex drive and demand to have my needs fulfilled completely reverses them. It’s puts the man in the position of being the one not providing enough sex (even if he can go twice per day). Likewise, I’m the one who sacrifices more sexually when I enter a relationship. Because I can have both variety and regular sex whenever I want if I’m single (along with a bunch of other things one lone man can’t provide). And let me tell you, men aren’t fans of getting a taste of their own medicine. Not to mention that a relationship I have to pay for with sex holds absolutely zero appeal to me. If I’m gonna use my body to buy things with, it’ll be for a heck of a lot more than a middle or higher middle class paycheck.

      Heck, I think I might have just figured out why women are forever wanting men who make a lot of money…lol

      “And if one’s partner wishes she still had a sex drive, tries to come up with solutions on her own but can’t seem to find one that works, is finding one for her manipulation?”

      That depends on what the solution is. If making her afraid of losing you and you taking away the other 99 out of 100 components to a relationship is your solution, that’s called coercion. And is actually illegal for me to write about in erotica, since it falls under non-consent. It’s forced sex, and has nothing to do with actually improving her sex drive or desire for you. It might work for some women who find anxiety arousing. But for most women, it would simply take away comfort, and with it, trust, and just spiral down from there. Adding to the 70%+ statistics of women filing for divorces.

      Realty also remains that a lot of men do NOT fulfill their women’s sexual needs. Aka – no orgasms, let alone every time. And rarely enough mental stimulation to arouse her or keep sex from getting boring. You men might not want to believe this, but women tell each other the truth. That’s another part that always sets me off. If sex is the end-all for you, then you better start treating it as if it is the end-all to her as well. Even if you do manage to give her an orgasm, you need to start getting her mind involved, otherwise it’ll run down grocery lists while you hump away. Sex needs to be an even exchange as well. Not just something that focuses on everything a man gets out of it.

      As I said, this is not against you, Jeremy. What I’m trying to figure out is what about this attitude about relationships is supposed to be appealing to a woman. Because this attitude seems to be present in the majority of men, not just those who want a stay-at-home mom and housewife. And if a woman doesn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom or can’t be one (if he doesn’t earn enough), said woman would be pulling 80% of the relationship weight.

      Overall, the more I read this blog, the more I’m beginning to think that men and women are completely incompatible. And we’ll probably start seeing an even more drastic decline in relationships, marriages, and birth rates as women become more and more independent.

      The things we do need men for, they’re not willing to provide.
      And, most of all, what does this kind of exchange have to do with love?

      .

      1. 7.2.1
        jo

        Sylvana, thank you. Thank you. ALL of this.

        ‘Of course she still wants all the other things from the marriage. All the other things have nothing to do with sex. Just like she should still be giving all the other things in return. Sex is only one part of a relationship. You don’t get to take away all the things that are NOT sex just because sex was taken away. Once again, what is she? Your whore, your mistress?’

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      2. 7.2.2
        ScottH

        “men do NOT fulfill their women’s sexual needs. Aka – no orgasms,”
        I thought not too long ago a woman said, and many agreed with her, that women were responsible for their own orgasms. Sorry, but putting this responsibility totally on the guy is kinda crazy. What are you supposed to do, just lay back and we’re supposed to magically make you orgasm?
        Having come from a sexless marriage that was not my doing, i have to say that you are completely off the mark with this set of comments. Having your spouse involuntarily impose celibacy on you is a complete breach of the marital commitment. And it’s just plain mean.

        1. sylvana

          ScottH,

          If women are responsible for their own orgasm, so are men. Tell me, why does a man want to have sex, if NOT for the orgasm? Are you trying to tell me that you would be perfectly all right if your significant other would let you have sex with them all the time to the point where you reach about halfway to your orgasm, but then always cut you off at that point? Because she had the attitude that actually anything beyond you getting sexually frustrated is your own responsibility?

          So, with other words, as long as you get yours, she better keep putting out.

          And it’s not just the physical. As Jeremy points out, there are mental and emotional validation at play as well for men. The same goes for women. If she doesn’t get whatever emotional or mental stimulation/validation she needs out of it, she should still keep putting out because the man is getting all the components he needs?

          Fact also remains that you guys are NOT the ones getting penetrated. Being penetrated is uncomfortable at best, painful at worst when a woman isn’t properly aroused. Especially if she has had children. Her muscle tissue (not just certain parts, but her entire core supportive muscle structure) was torn and is permanently scarred, meaning the muscles can no longer properly expand and contract.

          But, once again, who cares, right? As long as you get whatever you need out of sex, who cares what SHE needs. That’s her responsibility.

      3. 7.2.3
        ScottH

        Sylvana- Well this discussion has sure hit a nerve with you.
        Regarding people withholding sex from their SO’s, these are the words I live by, written by Steven Kalas:
        “The deliberate withholding of sex in marriage is no little thing. It’s huge. It’s consequential. I could even make an argument that it
        is hostile. Cruel. To render marriage sexless is to fundamentally change the marriage contract.
        Of course, I would affirm that no one should ever have sex they don’t want to have; but, when you find you don’t want to have sex
        with your spouse, then I would say you have a responsibility to explore that reluctance, to fix it, to bring every effort to the
        goal of healing whatever needs to be healed so that thriving sexual courtship might resume as soon as possible.
        Ten years into a marriage, it’s OK to quit your mate’s bowling team and reveal that you’ve never really liked bowling and to tell your
        mate he/she will henceforth have to enjoy bowling individually. But try to deliver that same speech about sex, and you’ll find it’s a
        little different.”
        Or this one, also from Kalas: ” If my mate asks me for something in the relationship, I should look martyred, oppressed, exasperated, burdened, or maybe even get defensive and combative. Now that’s a Strange Idea. Wow. You’re kidding, right? Here’s how it’s done: When your wife or your husband lay their hearts open before you, eat their pride and reveal their deepest, most naked desires, longings and needs … it is not an invitation to kick ass and deliver the Oy Vey Manifesto. Nope, the right response is to lean back and kiss the sky in gratitude for having a mate this faithful,
        this courageous, this honest. Be grateful, because you’ve just received a high compliment. That is, you’ve been entrusted. Your mate has entrusted something precious to you — themselves! Be grateful, if for no other reason than your mate is talking to you, … and not to the firefighter across town, or the barmaid, or the neighbor.
        Or, perhaps you’d prefer it if they took their needs elsewhere and quit bothering you? Then, when you discover the betrayal, you’ll
        be in a counselor’s office, saying: “Can you believe it!? Can you believe what he/she did to me?”
        And the counselor might furrow the eyebrows, look puzzled and say, “What an … interesting idea.””
        or this one from Kalas: “When love relationships fall into malaise, the temptation is to tell yourself, “I shouldn’t have to work so hard!” Perhaps,
        without knowing it, you begin to embrace the idea that you are entitled to things coming easier in the growing of great
        love. You are convinced that intimacy should just float naturally, that dynamic human connections should just hover
        gladly and constantly before you and between you.
        From there it’s a simple reach to the resentment, to which you also feel entitled, over your mate not doing or being what
        you want them to do or be. The work of great love stops feeling like an inspiration, and starts feeling like another thing you
        have to do.
        Do we have to talk again? Do we have to process that conversation from three days ago? Why should I always have to be willing to
        examine myself, to always be asking if this is the best of myself in this relationship? Why can’t my mate just accept me the way I
        am?
        And now the union moves into the War Room, where you ponder and strategize about your next move. How can I walk down the
        hallway, into the bedroom to ask this question, and get out of there with what I want short of a Long Talk and possibly A Conflict?
        How can you continue to move in the form of a committed relationship, get what you want, defend what needs to be defended, and,
        on a good day, never have to really engage the needs and struggles of your purported beloved, let alone have to engage
        some part of yourself that might be thinking out of ego, fear or smallness?”

        1. Marika

          Totally with the guys on this one. And baffled by some of the female commenters’ lack of appreciation of the importance of sex in marriage.

      4. 7.2.4
        Persephone

        @sylvana, you said, “But that doesn’t mean a woman is willing to BUY a relationship with sex. Especially not in this day in age, where she can have all the sex she wants AND provide for herself just fine.”

        As an attorney in child custody cases, I frequently encounter women have bought the relationship with sex, the guy still wouldn’t marry them, she got pregnant trying to keep him, and the child custody case in court is brutal. Poor kids!

        Both genders have people who are guilty of similar type things.

        Sometimes women who trade sex for a relationship or call Trophy Wives.

    3. 7.3
      Marika

      BTW, Mrs H (and Emily too)

      I’m aware I’m an overthinker. I also think I’ve also had a lot of close exposure (childhood, friends, dating) to sub-par relationships. Of course the ideal is two happy people getting along well in a relationship with no anxiety, push-pull or inequity in effort. But that’s not the topic of this post.

    4. 7.4
      ezamuzed

      @Jeremy I get it, the toxic shame part. I agree we should never change to make someone else happy or to get people to like us better. But one needs to get over that. They should always been improving themselves, striving to be the best version of themselves that is possible. But for selfish reasons. To be healthier and happier themselves. Improving yourself isn’t limited to the physical. You can improve yourself by being more social. By being a better communicator. By being funnier. By being more successful financially. By gaining more skills and hobbies. By being more assertive and confident. A great side effect of all this self work is that people will find you more attractive, including someone you might already be in a relationship with.

      You say “show our partner in no uncertain terms that we are desirable exactly as we are” this sounds like an improvement because you showed confidence and assertiveness where you likely didn’t show it before. It instantly made you more attractive.

  8. 8
    Selena

    “Anyone who knows the full story of Jeremy’s marriage knows he did what he had to do, after trying *everything* else.”

    Is there anyone who DOESN’T know the full story of Jeremy’s marriage? He’s been writing about it here periodically for years.

    1. 8.1
      Marika

      So don’t read his posts, then.

    2. 8.2
      Mrs Happy

      I like it when posters share personal vignettes and examples; I often then find their main point easier to immediately understand, then via theoretical abstract ramblings. I’m really grateful to all the posters who are generous enough to share here.

      Actually I’m sort of fascinated by most of the current regulars. I like picturing Clare in SA who dates the way I did, one man at a time, then falls in love – so old fashioned!, and Emily bored with working life on the east coast, and Noquay off the grid building a roof, and Marika out dancing instead of running the City To Surf last Sunday, and young sometimes Adrian so very curious, and YAG who until he fell in love recently was flirting his way across the country, and ScottH at his mystery location interjecting with reason, and ezamused with his occasional practical wisdom, and Jeremy struggling with banal lunchtime party conversations on Saturdays and a boring car, but enjoying his fish.

      With a cast like this, who needs Netflix?

      1. 8.2.1
        Clare

        Mrs Happy,

        I’m with you. I love the way people share so candidly and vulnerably about their lives on here. Human nature, and the outcomes it brings, absolutely fascinates me.

        I wish people in real life shared with such candor and openness. I get quite frustrated with social media – where you only get snapshots of the best moments, with no confessions or analysis or revealing of deeper thoughts.

      2. 8.2.2
        Lynx

        Yes, MH: “I like it when posters share personal vignettes and examples”

        I do appreciate EMK for allowing readers to share their stories. I feel like I’m learning so much about what people of both genders want and need in relationships…often very different from what I want and need. I really value hearing so many perspectives.

    3. 8.3
      jo

      Selena, FTR, I agree with you. And was pretty disturbed by some of the contributions re: relationships in exchange for sex above. Too cold and contractual – and missing the benefits beyond sex that men get in marriages – for my taste.

  9. 9
    Jeremy

    Sylvana, I was going to leave it at my comment above, but my goal here is to genuinely help those who seek to understand men and relationships. So I’ll explain why I think you misunderstood me. It’s not that men seek to purchase sex with the currency of money or relationships. Not at all.

    Selena wrote that I tell the story of my marriage too often. The reason I tell it is because too many women tell stories like hers, fully believing that it is the men who were the assholes in the story. Failing to understand 2 essential things: 1) That love languages differ and that his is no less important than hers, and 2) that what we mean by “love” – the emotional mix we want to receive by being loved – is not uniform. That while her love language might be words, his might be sex. That while the emotional mix that she perceives as love is primarily about connection, his might be primarily about feeling desired.

    With this in mind, take Selena’s story and flip the genders and the gendered prerogatives. A story told by a man about his GF: We had a good relationship, had a conversation about once every 2-3 days, which she seemed ok with. I even initiated the conversation most times. And then, one day, I didn’t feel like talking. Maybe I had a headache, maybe just tired, whatever. So we didn’t talk. Nor the next day or the day after. And after just a couple of days, she began to pester me. “When will you talk to me? Talk to me, talk to me!” Fuck, why couldn’t she just understand that I didn’t feel like talking but still loved her, still was perfectly willing to have sex with her, I just didn’t want to talk any more often than I felt like. Then one day, she pestered me so much that I shouted at her, “You want to talk so much, go ahead! Talk at me all you want. Talk for hours. But don’t expect me to talk back to you. If that’s how you want it, that’s how it’s going to be!” Hah, she backed down alright. And a week or so later I felt like talking to her again, so I did. What an asshole she was.

    SHE was the asshole? I don’t think you’d find many women who’d agree. They’d just agree when the genders and gendered love languages/contents are reversed. It’s not that men seek to trade money or relationships for sex. It’s that one can’t expect to receive one’s love language while refusing to speak one’s partner’s love language. When you have no regard for how he receives love or what he means when he talks about love – when all you perceive is your own language, your own priorities, and project that they should be all your partner wants too. It’s not that married men tell their wives – “fuck me or I’ll stop giving you money!” It’s that far too many married women tell their husbands “I don’t want to have sex anywhere near as much as I used to, so we won’t be having it. But I’m so happy in our relationship, with our connection, our lifestyle, our kids…..my life is full and my cup runneth over. Yours should run over too, if only you could see what we have and how little sex should matter!” And the husband looks back at her befuddled and replies, ” ‘The fuck?” And she looks at him disgustedly and says, “don’t be an asshole.”

    1. 9.1
      Marika

      To quote my niece: I can’t even!

      If you are in a marriage, with the ideal to be in it forever, part of the ‘deal’ is you are each other’s only sex partner forever. One person can’t unilaterally decide: ‘well, that’s it for me’, because it affects the other person. And the other person can’t get their normal, healthy needs met elsewhere. I’m not talking hassling her for sex 4 days after childbirth or wanting it 4 times a day. But if you have a sex ‘routine’ (for want of a better word), why is one person able to come home one day and just change that, no questions asked? Or more likely gradually, hoping the other won’t notice or just accept it.

      More broadly, how on earth does one partner happily get on with their life and relationship, knowing full well the person they are *meant* to love most in the world is miserable and unfulfilled?? Happens all the time (to both genders), but I will NEVER understand it. In those instances, desperate times call for desperate measures.

      J-m’man, with what you wrote above about pain, do mean cutting and running, finding someone new, being alone again is less painful to the avoidant person than working on what they have? (as you can imagine, for me it’s the opposite).

      1. 9.1.1
        Jeremy

        It happens because of confidence, my friend. The confidence Evan mentioned in his post and the part I disagreed with. Either the confidence that “you can’t do the wrong thing with the right person” (ie. he won’t leave me no matter what I do), or the confidence that she/’he will be unfazed if the relationship does end.

        You ABSOLUTELY CAN do the wrong thing with the right person. You ABSOLUTELY should not feel confident in your relationship persisting no matter how much of a shit you are. You ABSOLUTELY should not feel confident that the 99% of things you perceive that relationships should be about (with sex being 1% according to you) is the same pie chart your partner has. Or that your pie chart is the one that matters. That is the way to be an asshole.

        1. Marika

          I think ‘you can’t do the wrong thing with the right person’ refers to the early stages of dating. Meaning you can sort of throw all the rules out about doing nothing etc and the person won’t disappear. It’s reassuring to those of us more anxiously inclined who sort of believe (subconsciously) we have to be perfect to be loved.

        2. Marika

          PS Jeremy, I would imagine Evan modifies his advice based on the client. Most letters tend to be from anxious-Annie’s. Clients I guess are either Annies or self-important Sarah’s. The last exercise in Love U is powerful regardless, but is mainly designed for the Sarah’s (helps you get over yourself and *not* be an arsehole).

          Either way, being an arsehole is not the fish.

        3. Clare

          Jeremy,

          Yes, I agree with you that you can certainly do the wrong thing with the right person. It is entirely possible to drive the right person away. It’s a bit like that awful quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe:
          “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”

          What an absolute load of bollocks. The people we love deserve our effort, our care and consideration, our loyalty; they do not deserve to be treated like a veritable punching bag just because they won’t leave us.

          However, in the other post, I think Evan was referring to the dating “rules” which are out there and which the LW was afraid she had broken. It’s not exactly that you can do *anything* with the right person, but high compatibility gives you quite a bit of leeway as far as the dating rules are concerned. In other words, if the rules say that it’s his turn to reach out, if you reach out instead, you will not drive him away.

          I don’t think Evan meant literally anything goes as far as behaviour is concerned.

          I was once in a relationship with a guy I was deeply in love with to begin with. Over the course of our relationship, he was so controlling and jealous and emotionally unstable that it killed my love for him stone dead. He could certainly do the wrong thing with me.

      2. 9.1.2
        sylvana

        Marika,

        “One person can’t unilaterally decide”.

        I disagree. The person being penetrated absolutely CAN. Being penetrated is NOT a physically pleasant thing if you’re not aroused or not feeling desire, or if your body isn’t relaxing properly. Neither is performing sexual acts you’re not in the mood to perform – for whatever reason that may be.

        1. Marika

          So if, for example one member of the couple decided they didn’t want their body to be used for sex ever again, what is the other member supposed to do?

          Again, the example was never regarding illness or anything other than desire dropping off because one person was complacent in the relationship.

          I’m wondering if those who can’t seem to get this understand what it’s like to be with a selfish partner – or one who’s acting selfishly over something – and refuses to see it. It’s hell.

    2. 9.2
      Emily, to

      Jeremy,
      “It’s that far too many married women tell their husbands “I don’t want to have sex anywhere near as much as I used to, so we won’t be having it. But I’m so happy in our relationship, with our connection, our lifestyle, our kids…..my life is full and my cup runneth over. Yours should run over too, if only you could see what we have and how little sex should matter!”
      I’ve asked this before and you ignored the question. HOW MUCH SEX IS ENOUGH VERSUS HOW MUCH ARE YOU GETTING? You. Not your friends or people in a survey or your father or grandfather. YOU. And the answer should be in a sentence or two at most. You don’t need a story or parable to answer this one. I ask because these continued posts about inadequate amounts of sex don’t mean anything unless you start attaching numbers to them. Otherwise, they’re too vague.
      I have a friend whose husband wanted more sex and they compromised on twice a week. Seems reasonable to me. Especially given the fact they’ve been together for 20 years and both work and have 2 kids.

      1. 9.2.1
        Jeremy

        Why on earth would the answer to this question mean anything to you, Emily? Why would you even be curious about it? This is a question you ask YOUR BF. My whole point about this is that it shouldn’t matter to you what I want, what I think is normal, what your girlfriends think is normal, what the magazines say is normal. What matters is what the 2 people in the couple, BOTH of them, want.

      2. 9.2.2
        Jeremy

        I’m also feeling kind of dejected at the responses on this thread. So I think I’ll take a break for a while. I will end by saying that none of my posts here have been about sex, inadequate or otherwise, Emily. Sex was the concrete example for an abstract concept. The posts have been about perspective, about willingness to take a perspective other than one’s own. A willingness, an ability, that I think comes from a bit of anxiety. The tiniest bit of anxiety everyone in a relationship should have.

        1. Emily, to

          Jeremy,
          You write about sex a lot. If you’re getting it several times a week, that means a lot less then if you’re getting it once a month. I suspect you may not want to quantify it because the amount you’re getting is actually reasonable.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Don’t leave, buddy. Ignore the people who don’t understand marriage and nuance but continue to criticize those who do. That’s what I do.

        3. Marika

          That’s not fair, Emily. He explained his wife completely pulled away from sex. Said she was tired: he got her a nanny and rubbed her feet. Said she was busy: but she had time for the gym, FB and her friends. There’s only one person (who was) being unreasonable here.

        4. Paula

          Emily – how on earth are you qualified to deem what is reasonable for another person?

        5. Allison

          So we have Jeremy a married man who spoke of one rough part of his marriage years ago which he solved and is now in a great long running happy marriage, being run off for the THIRD time by over 40 year old commetors who have been either perpetually single, divorced & perpetually single, or struggling in mediocre/unhappy relationships.

          The fact that they disagree with you should be a sign that you are doing something right. They treat the comments section like a social club, they are not here to grow or change but a LOT of people who don’t normally comment LOVE what you bring to the blog.

        6. P is for _

          Allison: “…but a LOT of people who don’t normally comment LOVE what you bring to the blog.”

          Jeremy, for what it is worth, I am one of those people. I always read your comments and missed you last time you took a break.

        7. Paula

          ‘Treat the comments section like a social club.’

          Absolutely spot-on.

        8. Tilly S.

          Allison: “…They treat the comments section like a social club”

          Oh My God!.. This!!!

          I had been hoping that someone would bring this up or that Evan would address this.

        9. Marika

          Wow, girls, bitchy much?

          You don’t see any irony in telling people off for being nasty/disagreeable …whilst being nasty yourselves?

          Tilly, I’m wondering what you would like Evan to say? Stop enjoying yourselves in the comments section? Stop getting to know each other? Stop asking about each other’s lives? Stop sharing? Stop forming connections? Stop joking? Naughty naughty.

          Oh and PS, Jeremy is part of the (non-existent) social club. You’re welcome to join too. If you can pop down off your high horses.

        10. Paula

          A real girl’s girl, aren’t you? Women who refer to other women as some form of the word bitch is not the circle I run with.

        11. Marika

          Yes, you seem amazing Paula. Not at all reactive, condescending or funny about other people forming a bond.

    3. 9.3
      sylvana

      Jeremy,

      Thanks for answering. I understand what you are saying about love languages. I understood that before.

      My problem with this is that when you’re talking about sex, you’re not just talking about a love language, but about desire and arousal. Desire and arousal are not something that you can just conjure up. They depend on physical, emotional, and mental components. And they have to be induced by your partner. It’s not something you can do for your partner, or a gesture you can make. It’s basically an involuntary reaction, and therefore, cannot be compared to something that you actually have control over (such as talking, holding hands, support, etc.).

      So if your love language is to be desired, you need to ensure that you give the woman whatever she needs to FEEL desire/arousal. And this tends to be where this whole thing falters. You might be speaking her love langue. But are you speaking her desire/arousal language?

      If you’re only speaking her love language, but not her arousal/desire language, then she will not feel arousal or desire. Because the two are two different things.

  10. 10
    Marika

    I’ll miss you Big J. I’ll think of you every time I come across a pun – especially one I need to imagine an accent to get!

    I look forward to all the new Dad jokes you will gather in your absence 🙂

  11. 11
    Selena

    Last week I read a comment from an older thread than made me chuckle:

    “This blog is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

    Not sure who wrote it, maybe Emily? Sparkling Emerald?

  12. 12
    jo

    Ultimately Evan is the one who decides, since this is his blog, but what’s with the comments that imply that only certain people’s views are valid and others are not? – e.g., that married people’s comments are worth more, that people who complain or ‘socialise’ should get off, or whether in this case, they’re pro-Jeremy or anti-Jeremy. 😉 The reason there is such a diversity of comments is because so many different types of people benefit from reading this blog. Even if Evan’s business is for women who want marriage, there are married people of both genders who like commenting here, people who don’t want a relationship, and people who want to know if it’s worth it to dip a toe into the pond.

    Personally I think this whole thread has been enlightening, because it started with simple social anxiety but then became something more serious. It highlights something women talk about with me but are scared to share with their SOs: worthwhile for the men reading here to understand. Wives feel threatened when husbands imply that they’ll take away affection or leave the marriage if they are not getting enough sex. No one should feel threatened in a safe relationship, which hopefully is what marriage is. Aside from the fact that you shouldn’t be threatening your spouse, doing so isn’t a turn-on, so it’s counterproductive. They may act like it is to save the marriage, but too often it’s not real. Do you want to live your lives together with a lie? Countless wives feel this way. Even those who put out more than they want say they have husbands who still think it isn’t enough.

    So maybe what Sylvana says is right: men and women aren’t meant to be in relationships where the basis is sex. Or maybe monogamy is an unrealistic constraint, going into the future. Or maybe that’s just one area where at least one party stays dissatisfied.

    In other threads, people have commented that women are evolving faster than men, and some men took offense to this. But what I see happening is that law, rather than either gender exclusively, is evolving to protect women who don’t want sex at men’s bidding. Hence relatively new laws against marital rape and coercion, and much more attention to sexual harassment and abuse. I think we all need to recognize that this is the reality, which affects power dynamics in marriages. Added to women’s growing financial empowerment over 50 years, it means that marriages must evolve, or they’ll be on the way out.

    It will be interesting to see how this all goes in generations to come. The discussions we have here are part of figuring it out.

    1. 12.1
      Marika

      jo

      That’s really interesting to read. I’m glad to have your contributions and it’s nice to know not everyone is threatened by long term commenters ‘socialising’.

      In terms of the sex bit, though, I think that’s missing the point. At the risk of incurring some wrath from a few ladies for making an in-joke, sex is not the fish.

      This is the fish: some of us are naturally inclined or were taught to be givers in a relationship. Unless our partner is very generous, very self-aware (or, say, a dating coach!), sometimes after a while that gets taken for granted. Our partner slacks off. Stops prioritising us.

      So we give more. They say they are stressed. We try to help with the stress. Be more patient. More loving. Whatever will help with their stated reasons for being distant. You know what: it doesn’t work. So we stumble on something that *does* work. Pulling away. Creating distance and a tiny bit of anxiety. We don’t enjoy it at all. It goes against our very nature. But it works.

      This is not a gender thing. And it’s definitely not a sex thing.

      1. 12.1.1
        sylvana

        Marika,

        I agree. This goes for everything that a person actually has control over. And that’s where the problem with sex comes in: Feeling desire or arousal are not something a person has any control over. It’s not something we can just conjure up to please our partners. It’s not something you can “do”.

      2. 12.1.2
        jo

        Hi Marika – You’re right, I’m definitely not threatened if people like to socialise on blogs! It is a nice way to can communicate all over the world and learn new viewpoints. I wonder if some of the ladies who commented on this above felt jealous at not being included, and would like to be. Maybe that is what drove the snide comments rather than anything wrong with socialising.

        It is interesting that you call that distancing anxiety-provoking. It could be that, but it could also be attraction-provoking. Evan and others have discussed on this blog before, and you can read it in so many other books (including Rules) that distance can generate not anxiety, but attraction. If they don’t chase as much, we become more curious and interested in them – what they’re thinking, what’s going on in their lives, etc. We have time to step back and think, ‘oh, they’re hot or cute’. I’ve been on both ends of this, not always on purpose, and it’s funny how it works!

    2. 12.2
      Jeremy

      Hello, waiter? I’d like an order of frozen toast with a side of ice-water, extra hot.
      I want a marriage that is a safe space where my husband will love me and never leave me no matter how much of a shit I am, and the freedom to divorce my husband for any reason I choose. I’d like the ability to accuse him of coercion if he wants to leave me for his unmet needs, and the ability to accuse him of emotional abuse if he neglects any of my needs. I’d like to remind him both of the laws protecting me from doing anything I don’t want to do, and laws demanding that he pay me should the marriage dissolve, no matter what he wants. And finally, I’d like to remind him that the important thing in love and relationships is whatever I say it is, and if he can’t see that then he’s a Neanderthal.

      No one should be coerced into sex, it should be mutual. As should the desire to remain in a relationship be. You can’t have it both ways.

      1. 12.2.1
        sylvana

        Jeremy,

        don’t get married. Have all the sex you want. That simple. I fully agree with you when it comes to everything other than sex. But not sex itself. Can she treat you like shit? Of course not. But if she treats you well otherwise, she’s not a shit just because she won’t have sex with you. In general, these comments were not directed at you personally or your particular situation. It’s a general observation of men’s attitudes, you just happened to open that can of worms.

        Do you think a 40 year old man can keep up with me? Let alone a 50 year old? Lord forbid when he’s 60. All the blue pills in the world won’t help him. So I’m stuck with having to make a decision. Relationship/marriage or sex. Which one is more important to me?

        And if you don’t want to pay for the mother of your children, who tore her body to shreds, sacrificed her physical well-being permanently in order to bear your children, then don’t have kids. She paid the price with her body and physical well-being. Sorry you have to pay it with money.

        This is what I don’t understand: I put a huge emphasis on sex — and no, definitely not just for the physical. But if I enter a relationship, I do so fully understanding that there is a chance that his dick might go limp and that my sex-life with him might be over. The older he gets, the higher the chances of that happening, but, realistically, it could happen at any point for any reason. I find it abhorrent to threaten the man I supposedly love with leaving if he doesn’t fix his shit. Then again, if my only love language was to be physically desired, I would look inside of me to see why that is. Because relying on someone else’s bodily function for a love language is bound to end up in disappointment. Also, since I do prioritize sex so much, I made the deliberate choice NOT to have children. If I did want children, and someone was willing to sustain the extreme physical damages and pain and suffering of pregnancy and childbirth, I would gladly pay that person’s bills for the rest of their lives. Because there is no price high enough for ME to sustain those injuries.

        As I said, if she doesn’t prioritize you in other ways, or treats you badly in other ways, it absolutely needs to be fixed. But if sex is the only problem, the biggest issue does not lie with the partner not wanting it.

        1. Jeremy

          If you were married to a man and he began experiencing ED, there are 2 ways he could react. He could say, “I know how much sex matters to you, physical closeness matters to you, and it pains me that I can’t do everything we both might like. So let’s put our heads together and come up with something that I CAN do that would make us both happy.” Or, he could say “Well, I’m done with that, fuck you. Oh, and a bill is due tomorrow, please pay it.”

          Other than that, Sylvana, I think I’m done with this convo.

      2. 12.2.2
        Jeremy

        Sigh (again). It’s not that anyone should feel obligated to do anything they don’t want to do in a marriage, that she has to have sex when she doesn’t want to, that he has to talk to her if he doesn’t feel like it. It’s that in a good relationship, rather than standing on our prerogatives we acquiesce to our partners….and are happy to do so as long as they reciprocate occasionally.

        Last night my wife was uncomfortable with cramps. She will likely remain so for some days yet. As we lay in bed, I rubbed her lower back – she didn’t have to ask me to do so. The grimace on her face turned to contentment, then to a smile that made me smile. It went on for some time. Before she fell asleep, she murmured an apology to me, “sorry I didn’t do anything for you tonight.” I told her that I loved her and that no apology was necessary, I’m happy to do it. And after she fell asleep, I did too, both of us happy. I didn’t give her a “duty” massage, nor did I massage her because I was rarin’ for a massage-giving. I did it for love, as an act of service with the emotional goal of connection which both she and I interpret as love to differing extents. I will likely do the same tonight, regardless of the fact that I’m working all day and she is not, regardless of the fact that I have a colonoscopy tomorrow and am doing an unpleasant prep tonight, regardless of the fact that she will not reciprocate tonight. Because it’s not about what our rights are, our prerogatives. It’s about being good to each other. And it goes both ways.

      3. 12.2.3
        jo

        Jeremy, there’s no reason to get angry. I’m sharing what I hear from married friends, sharing the reality of the way laws are changing in the developed world, and sharing the notion that the power balance has changed enormously in marriages as a result of modernisation.

        So it will be curious to see how marriages evolve – if they can – in response to these changes from within and without. You may not like it, but it is worth discussing. People understand that they don’t owe each other anything. So the question is whether to expand outside the marriage to get those things they want, or whether fewer marriages may result from systemic changes, or other solutions.

        1. Jeremy

          I recently finished reading a book that Evan recommended to me. It’s called “Fleishman is in trouble.” It was written by a female journalist, telling the story of a love-lorn man going through a divorce…and then telling the story of the female narrator and finally the wife. Very worth a read.

          The theme of the book, the notion that the author was trying to convey, was the opacity of the “other.” The notion that we can’t know what’s going on in anyone else’s head, that their problems are more often about themselves than about us, that we are all just people living in parallel. I smiled at the author in my mind, and asked her non-present self the question: “Is it that the other is unknowable, or is it simply that most of us don’t put in the effort to know?”

          I know what I think, what experience has shown me. The answer is the root of almost all the relationship quandaries that I’ve noticed on this blog and elsewhere.

      4. 12.2.4
        Yet Another Guy

        @sylvana

        “Do you think a 40 year old man can keep up with me? Let alone a 50 year old? Lord forbid when he’s 60. All the blue pills in the world won’t help him.”

        It is not about blue pills. Blue pills do not give a man sexual desire and stamina. They help him overcome vasodilation problems due to arterial plaque build up. The blue pill belongs to a class of drugs known as phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra are all PDE5 inhibitors). PDE5 inhibitors were originally developed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH); therefore, they are all sold under two brand names (i.e., Viagra, erectile dysfunction, and Revatio, PAH, are the same drug; namely, sildenafil, and Cialis, erectile dysfunction, and Adcirca, PAH, are the same drug; namely, tadalafil). Their use in treating erectile dysfunction was originally an identified positive side effect for which the drug companies applied for second use efficacy with the FDA and equivalent agencies in other countries (They also applied for two different patents for each drug). The key take away is that PDE5 inhibitors do not give a man an erection. They merely remove an impediment to achieving an erection by allowing the arteries to dilate like they do in younger healthy vascular systems.

        The reality is than an erection is a hydraulic event that starts in the brain. Libido decline and loss of stamina are due to testosterone (T) decline coupled with a rise in estradiol (E2), resulting a lower T/E ratio (i.e., it is a hormonal problem). T/E decline is completely treatable with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Women experience the opposite effect as they age. Their estrogen levels decline faster than their testosterone level, resulting in a rise in T/E ratio. That is why women see a libido spike in their 40s as they approach menopause.

      5. 12.2.5
        Mrs Happy

        Re Jeremy – “As should the desire to remain in a relationship be.”

        In what follows, I’m only commenting on the personal because you have shared it, and to do so clarifies my points most easily. I do not want to hurt your feelings in doing so.

        Jeremy, your wife did desire to remain in a relationship. But that wasn’t enough for you. You wanted her to sexually desire you, intensely, for years and years, no matter what else was on her plate, and just like she did at the beginning when all the love and desire she had to give could be directed just towards you.

        In my opinion, she is not being a ‘shit’ if her desire falls, she is being a completely normal adult female.

        The intensity of sexual desire for one’s partner lessens over time in all/most long-term relationships. To pin 90% of your sense of feeling loved, on your partner experiencing high levels of desire for you for 50+ years, is far from wise, because it just won’t happen. Self worth has more resilience if more of it comes from within. Surely relying so much on one thing (sexual desire) from another (long term partner) makes your emotional equilibrium dangerously fragile? Surely a wise person would seek to alter that 90% (instead of staying trapped in the unhappy fishbowl)?

        1. Jeremy

          Re: this, see my response to Sylvana at 12.2.1, Mrs H. It is not that I expected unrealistic levels of desire. It’s that I expected (and continue to expect, and expect of myself) a prioritization of what it is each of us needs to be happy, rather than the selfishness of one’s own priorities in isolation. She was being a “shit” because she thought that her list of 33 items was universal as opposed to simply hers….and ignoring the possibility that my list was also important.

        2. Jeremy

          Oh, and self-worth should definitely come from within. But one does not enter into relationships for self-worth. One enters into them for relationships. Relationships….which form a major key-stone to human happiness, without which most of us remain unfulfilled.

        3. Mrs Happy

          Hmm, Jeremy, with all the care in the world, I’d say there’s some denial going on here m’dear.

          You wanted and want your wife to desire you physically, to really want to have sex with you, and to do so (and feel so) much more often than she did. You’ve railed against “duty sex” and the despair of not feeling desired, and that’s fine to have as a preference.

          I suspect you did actually expect “unrealistic levels of desire”, given all the things she had going on, including managing a family of 6, a career and job, a house, and all the non-Jeremy social outlets she wanted as part of her life. You were sad she didn’t prioritise you as much as you thought you did her, and you manipulated things to get what you wanted out of the marriage.

          It was she changing something fundamental about her to keep the marriage going, not you. You threatened her security (just a little, you insist) and she had to alter her preferred behaviours to accommodate you.

          Speaking in general, it is just not possible that anyone desire their saggy baggy greying less toned less beautiful 40, 50, 60+ year old partner, like they did when that partner was 20 – 30 and hotter. It just doesn’t happen.

          You weren’t wanting the possible (more sex). You were asking for the impossible (“I really want her to want want want me, and only that way do I feel loved in my love language, which she should prioritise”). As you know I think it inane to pin your sense of worth and love on how much your partner madly physically desires you, because they (no-one) will keep doing so as age occurs. And your worth, for a variety of reasons, is entwined with others’ desire for you.

        4. Jeremy

          You mistake me, my friend. The desire you speak of is not the desire I seek, not how I interpret love. How to explain?

          To love someone….is to want to make them smile. To smile when they are smiling BECAUSE you made them smile. Their happiness is your motivation because it is the key to your own, because you love them. This desire, the knowing of a person, the loving of a person, the desire to make that person happy – that is the desire I speak of, the desire that I interpret as love, the way that I show love and receive it. And while lust will fade with time as you say, this desire can withstand wrinkles, age, and time. There is no reason at all that it should fade….unless we let it.

          It is not that I needed my wife to be wildly attracted to me, to have her desire to jump my bones override her kids, her job, her hobbies, and everything else she legitimately had going on in her life. It’s that I needed to MATTER to her at least somewhat – not to feel self-worth, Mrs Happy, but to feel LOVED. I needed my happiness to register somewhere on the list of things she should care about. To matter enough to occasionally take some sort of action, and not to obfuscate as so many people do, that “you can’t make someone else happy,” and that “we are each responsible for our own emotion-state.” These statements are both true and false, which is why they are so very dangerous. You CAN’T make someone else happy when they aren’t so inclined, and we ARE each responsible for our emotion-state……but we CAN make someone happier when they are attuned to us, and we are ALSO responsible for the emotion-state of our partner – and we have a responsibility to do so! Else why are we in a relationship with them? Only to get what we each want? To have our kids and leave, to have a partner for social events, to have a roommate for vacations? To love is to be happy to make someone else happy. And the antithesis of love is to take from them to make ourselves happy regardless of their own happiness.

          And that is why I get my back up so much, Mrs H, when you suggest that my wife was happy in our relationship. WHAT RELATIONSHIP? Our “relationship,” as far as she was concerned at the time, transpired mostly with myself in absentia. She lived her life, powered by the actions and things I provided, happily chugging along in spite of my telling her repeatedly that I was miserable. And she was happy? How can you be happy when the person you claim to love is miserable? Had she come to me and said, “I’m miserable in this relationship, this is what I need…” I’d not have said, “well fuck you, I’m totally happy and your misery is your own problem.” I’d have moved heaven and earth to do whatever I could to make things better. Because that is what love is….and that other is its antithesis.

          It is not that sex=love, it’s that there was no love in our discussion about sex.

          It is not that I was afraid she’d take all my money and leave, it’s that I was devastated that money and service was all she seemed to want from me and had no regard for my wants.

          It is not that I was unhappy and she wasn’t in our relationship. It’s that if one partner in a relationship is unhappy and the other doesn’t care, there IS no relationship. The notion that the miserable one can’t end it or else he is coercing the other is laughable….and disgusting.

          It is funny to me that this should not be obvious. And yet, I see from my dealings in the world and on this blog, that so many people legitimately have no understanding of what love actually is. Have no interest in it, are terrified of it, of the power it would give someone else over themselves. That when they talk about relationships all the conversation is about me me me and hardly anything about the other……almost as if the other doesn’t exist except to serve their needs….and yet are terrified that the other should see them that way.

        5. Adrian

          Hi Jeremy,

          You said, “And she was happy? How can you be happy when the person you claim to love is miserable?”

          If a person “is” giving 100% how much can you fault them if YOU are unhappy? I agree with you that they are giving love in the way they THEMSELVES want to receive it and not how you need to receive it but that does not mean that you can say they are wrong or that you can deny that they are putting forth effort towards the relationship. And just because you bring it to their attention that you receive love differently doesn’t mean that they can easily transition to an entirely new way of giving/showing love; especially when that way is alien to them.

          .

        6. Selena

          Mrs. H:
          “I suspect you did actually expect “unrealistic levels of desire”, given all the things she had going on, including managing a family of 6, a career and job, a house, and all the non-Jeremy social outlets she wanted as part of her life. You were sad she didn’t prioritise you as much as you thought you did her, and you manipulated things to get what you wanted out of the marriage.
          It was she changing something fundamental about her to keep the marriage going, not you. You threatened her security (just a little, you insist) and she had to alter her preferred behaviours to accommodate you.”

          Well done Mrs. H.

          @Jeremy
          You have been writing about your wife’s previous lack of sexual interest and how you used ‘dread game’ to correct that on this blog for a few years now. It worked you assert, because of her underlying metagoal.

          Jeremy, do you re-read your comments? Have you noticed how your language has changed regarding this past issue from time to time?

          In most recent posts you claim it wasn’t about sex per se, it was about prioritizing you. In this particular thread, you made a claim that your wife mistreated you. Did she mistreat you Jeremy? Do you really think she did, even unintentionally?

          So many of your posts make it about “her” or women in general. I think Mrs. Happy rather nailed it, you are really writing about yourself. The me, me, me, as you have been repeating on this thread.

        7. Jeremy

          You are gaslighting, Selena. Neither my posts nor my attitude were about me me me. In fact, it was years before I gave myself permission to allow anything to be about me at all, having thoroughly absorbed the notion that from pregnancy onward the duty of the man is to fulfill the needs of his wife no matter what. There is an entire world of difference between being all about me me me versus needing SOMETHING, something small and occasional, to be about me. To turn around and accuse such a man in such circumstances of selfishness is to deny his basic humanity, and I will have none of it.

          Adrian, the fact that my wife believed that she was contributing to the relationship and just misunderstood how to do that is what cleared the path for me to turn things around. It was not that she was malicious, it was that she was clueless, having absorbed terrible and ubiquitous advice.

        8. Marika

          Hi Jer Jer

          On a somewhat related note, I was interested to read that you became smitten with a woman who couldn’t appropriately show love and managed to extricate yourself from that relationship, even though you were smitten and had gone to great lengths to be with her. How did you do that (specifically, if you don’t mind elaborating?).

          It sounds like with your wife you again fell into the trap of thinking you were undeserving of love and affection *as is* , but again managed to rid yourself of that belief. Now fully recognizing you don’t need to change, rather she needs to see how valuable you are. This is quite a challenging mindset shift.

        9. Jeremy

          The difference between the two, Marika, was that with the girlfriend I never had the love. I extricated myself (painfully) from that relationship when it became obvious that I would NEVER be shown meaningful love by her, even though she might have felt some version of love for men in the confines of her mind.

          My marriage was a completely different story. We had been in love, had loved each other for years, prioritized each other for years. We were not 2 people living in parallel, each one furiously masturbating their own needs and assuming the other would do the same. What happened was a shock. Her attitude was a shock. And it came on gradually. Began during the first pregnancy when nausea and discomfort understandably sapped her of her libido, and I spent months doing physical and emotional errands for her with no expectation of reciprocation….and then that pattern just never went away. Just established itself, became the normal. It wasn’t that I thought myself unworthy of love, it was that I didn’t fully know whether what was happening was normal. Whether I was being the asshole. Whether this is just what happens with all women, whether I should have just foreseen this, whether this was just my lot, the lot of every man. It isn’t.

          It was not that I felt unworthy of love. It was that I wasn’t completely sure I wasn’t being an asshole.

        10. Marika

          Thanks J.

          I shouldn’t have muddied the waters by mentioning your wife, I understand the difference.

          I was more responding to the bit about the gf, where you believed the ultimate would be to win someone over who was a bit avoidant and get them to love you. In the end you did win her over, but were still able to somehow get the wisdom and strength to see it wasn’t right and move on…how?

        11. Jeremy

          Because, Marika, much as I hate to say it, it’s much easier to realize you don’t want something once you already have it. Can see it clearly without the haze of unrequited want, the dopamine-itch. What I learned from that relationship was to try to see the truth earlier, learned what to look for and what red flags to avoid in prospect. Easier on everyone that way.

          If you have to win their love by jumping through hoops, their love (such as it is) is not worth having.

    3. 12.3
      sylvana

      jo,

      very well put. I was born with an extreme, and out of control sex drive. I literally spent twenty years of my live pestering all the women I met to try to figure out why in the world most other women don’t feel the same. Turns out, there are really only a handful or reasons, if not less — the same things always come up.

      Jeremy, brilliant as he is, keep speaking about love languages.What most men don’t realize is that women have an arousal/desire language. And most men don’t know how to speak it. Heck, a lot of women don’t even know they have one until someone shows them what it is.

      In ways, sex is still a very taboo subject for women. And men still get very prickly when you mention that women also have needs (physical, emotional, and mental) that need to get met when it comes to sex. It’s still very much a “he receives, she gives” scenario, especially when it comes to the non-physical aspects of sex.

      I am somewhat getting a kick out of the fact that the certified nympho is the one defending women who don’t want to have sex much. Oh, the irony…lol

      1. 12.3.1
        jo

        Okay Sylvana, you can’t leave us with a story like that and not tell us more. 🙂 What are those handful of reasons women bring up? I can probably guess at two of them – societal shaming and PTSD from personal or others’ abuses – but not others.

        It really puzzles me that, as you say, men seem so uncomfortable knowing that women have these same drives and want to be fulfilled. Why? If it’s so important for them, don’t they want to meet our needs as well so it’s a *mutually* fulfilling experience every time? Instead, too many men act as if the focus should be on their pleasure, with the woman’s being something she should take care of herself if it even matters at all. Talk about a counterproductive attitude.

        I appreciate your defending women who don’t want it much, but I’m wondering if it’s really true that we don’t want it much, as that collectively, we’ve had limited luck finding that specific fulfillment in partnership.

        1. Sandra

          Jo -” men seem so uncomfortable knowing that women have these same drives and want to be fulfilled. ”

          I think the above could be for a variety of reasons, with the madonna/whore complex the most common.
          Other reasons could be just plain cluelessness or clumsiness. Fear that he cannot fulfill her desires and she will seek satisfaction elsewhere or that he is insufficient. That he is just lazy and has very simple/basic needs himself. A fear that she is someone he does not really know. A general terror of female sexuality in general and that her desires are uncontrollable and/or indiscriminate.

        2. Emily, to

          Jo,
          “I appreciate your defending women who don’t want it much, but I’m wondering if it’s really true that we don’t want it much, as that collectively, we’ve had limited luck finding that specific fulfillment in partnership.”
          I’m wondering that, too. Beyond the idea of fulfillment, maybe the sex they’ve had hasn’t been all that great from a physical perspective. Maybe not bad, but not great. So 5, 10 or 15 years into a relationship, these women just aren’t that excited to keep doing it.

        3. MilkyMae

          I can come up with a few reasons some choose less over more. Higher risk of HIV, HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, scabies, herpes, lice, hepatitis, PID, antibiotic resistant infections…. Also, higher risk of heart disease and stroke from long term use on the pill. Higher risk of osteoporosis with long term depo-provera. Male and female condoms are cumbersome and they dull the senses. Higher likelihood of being scammed or a victim of violence. Not enough hours in the day. Too much alcohol/recreational drug use in the sex scene. Not wanting to teach new men how I like it. Not enough willing men. Men get attached. Horndogs on tinder lie like rugs. Too expensive. Too awkward. Too exhausting. A fun toy can hold you over. FWB relations are a less reliable source of intercourse….

      2. 12.3.2
        Mrs Happy

        Sylvana, re
        “when it comes to sex. It’s still very much a “he receives, she gives” scenario”:

        Only as I’ve become older have I realised how skewed the average bog-standard heterosexual sexual encounter is, towards just …. men ejaculating. For many couples, many encounters, that’s the end point and the aim. Which for a woman, can be boring.

        I have married-for-20-years girlfriends who have never ever had an orgasm via sex with their husband. They keep having sex a few times a week, don’t get any physical enjoyment from it at all, … it’s astounding to what extent their sexual needs are just not addressed.

        1. Jeremy

          Question: (legit question, because I really don’t know) – do they not get their sexual needs addressed because their husbands are selfish, or do they not get them addressed because they never let their opinions be known? Are never open to mutual exploration, relying on their partner to just know….getting frustrated when he doesn’t and just hoping it ends?

          I’m currently slightly giddy, recovering from my colonoscopy anesthesia. If I’d relied on having my endoscopist simply know what to do without training, he’d probably have stuck the camera in my belly button. Thankfully, he’s had years of instruction, and wasn’t simply expected to intuit, with the notion that instruction can improve colonoscopy skills to some extent, but only to a small degree 😉

        2. jo

          Mrs Happy – a-freaking-men. That’s the point Sylvana and I have repeatedly tried making here, which then gets twisted to ‘why wouldn’t you do this for the man you love?’ Because it’s our bodies, so it’s deeply personal to us, men haven’t as a whole shown equal care whether we get sexual pleasure (and we’re not asking THEM whether they love us despite their selfishness in sex), and because it hurts when we’re not aroused, which is the sad reality for many, many women.

          It’s about time we discuss this! Without getting emotionally bullied into ‘you don’t love men, you’re selfish to even bring this up.’ Women have put up with it for long enough.

          Funny I hadn’t thought of it this way before, but women entering the workforce was first met by men emotionally twisting their arms into saying they didn’t love them, aren’t their needs being met, why take away from men’s jobs, etc. – and now it is the same discussion, just with sex and mutual fulfillment of each other’s sexual needs. Let’s take love off the table, because it’s used too often as a means to twist women’s arms and make them feel guilty for demanding equality.

        3. Mrs Happy

          Jeremy, re your legit q:
          they’ve tried to orgasm with their husbands for years, to no avail, so I’m sure they’ve tried numerous things, they’re not idiots or uncomfortable about stating their needs. I don’t think their husbands are sexually selfish, but what seems to have happened is, the couple try for a while, then they just give up and the sexual act is just for the husband to enjoy himself with and ejaculate.

          I hear that a certain percentage of women just do not orgasm via the average standard heterosexual act. I assume those women are in that group. I think it’s common and not discussed much. Only really close friends have divulged this to me, and only after years of friendship. I think there are a lot of sexually frustrated women out there, and sex is just agitating and dysphoric for them.

          One similarity (it’s a small group so don’t be tempted to go getting on your statistics lecturer high horse) between the friends with this problem, is, they all married relatively early, to one of their first boyfriends, or their first.

          My experience in the sexual realms is admittedly limited compared with the average millennial who has lived a different age and set of rules, but I have found that each person generally has a fairly standard set of….. moves and repertoire, for want of a better phrase. So if you are only ever with 1 or 2 or so men, and you’re a young woman who doesn’t watch porn, your experience will be limited to what those men and you do, and that might easily not see you reach orgasm.

          I myself would never marry a man I couldn’t orgasm with. But obviously many women do (or don’t get a choice in many cultures, marrying before sex occurs). Also, Jeremy, I’m assuming you’ve never had sex with a man, so you may not know this, but there is significant skill variability.

          Re your doctor’s years of instruction allowing skill development, your gastroenterologist wasn’t judged for getting training and practise in endoscopies, he didn’t see his practise market value diminish for having too much endoscopy experience, or for doing procedures with some patients sooner than with others, he didn’t have years of religious laws and societal judgement weighing him down while he learnt, he couldn’t get pregnant, assaulted or sick from doing endoscopies, and he wasn’t fed the “love = endoscopy allowance = your worth” tale all women are from the time they’re young girls.

          Plus, it really saps desire for the average woman to have to teach a man what to do in bed; they don’t want to instruct. (Unfair but true.) The pervasive myth is “he’ll know what to do”. Seriously, I was taught that in Catholic school. It’s not right but it enters your mind, and then when a man doesn’t know what to do, he seems a bit lesser.

        4. Jeremy

          And if what you wrote is true, EW, (and I believe it is, especially your last paragraph), then these women are their own worst enemies. The essence of their problem is their own mindset. When you write, “It is astounding to what extent their sexual needs are just not addressed,” you MUST mean addressed…by themselves…must you not? Because the notion that they couldn’t achieve orgasms with their willing husbands with the help of some instruction is total bullshit. Because their feeling that offering such instruction should lessen their desire is masochistic. Because their expectation that men should “just get it” is nonsense, in the EXACT same way it would be to expect my endoscopist to just get it. For the exact same reasons.

          If “the average heterosexual encounter is toward just….men ejaculating, for many couples” as you wrote, is this because that is what MEN want? Why then, in porn, are the women screaming in pleasure while the men are strangely silent? Why then do men judge their sexual prowess by their ability to pleasure women and not themselves? Could it be that women’s opinion on the problem here is a fundamental misappropriation of causation?

          What is astounding to me is the way so many women are their own worst enemies. Not for choosing the wrong men, necessarily, but for adopting mindsets that hurt themselves when they have partners who are totally willing to help them be otherwise. It’s like they’ve spent their lives kicking themselves in the ass and complain to their friends how their haemorrhoids are their husbands’ fault.

        5. Emily, to

          Jeremy,
          “Why then do men judge their sexual prowess by their ability to pleasure women and not themselves? ”
          Therein lies the problem. Whereas both parties should be willing to do what he/she can to help the other have a good time (it is a MUTUAL experience, after all) no one wants their enjoyment of the situation to be almost entirely the reason the other party leaves satisfied. Why do you think women fake it? They know that if they don’t get off the man will think he failed. How fun do you think that is for the woman? It’s too much pressure and it sucks the joy and spontaneity of sex. So even if the whole thing isn’t about the man getting off, it’s still all about him and how she’s supposed to respond to what he does.

        6. Jeremy

          That is undoubtedly true, Emily, but I agree with Mrs Happy that women faking it is counterproductive. Because it just ensures that they will continue to not enjoy it into the future, their partners thinking they (the women) are having a good time. It is a vicious cycle – women not enjoying the initial encounters, so believing that enjoyment is impossible. And so coming to resent their partners’ enjoyment at their expense, and so coming to despise the sexually act as an onerous burden for which they need to be compensated, and so feeling that the compensation is lacking, and so feeling that they no longer want sex at all, and so making their spouses feel deprioritized, leading to the clusterf–k that so many marriages experience.

          Jeez, all they had to do was figure out how to enjoy something that is very possible to enjoy, to kick a false belief that is not just false, its falsifiable.

        7. Emily, to

          Jeremy,
          “Jeez, all they had to do was figure out how to enjoy something that is very possible to enjoy, to kick a false belief that is not just false, its falsifiable.”
          I don’t agree. Sometimes the sex is just lackluster. Sometimes two people just don’t click sexually. I’m sure you’ve read Helen Fisher. She says sex and love are in 2 separate parts of the brain, which is why it’s possible to have mediocre sex with someone you are madly in love with. I think (I’m not sure) this may be true for some other women, but it is often difficult for women to get into sex if they don’t like the way a man kisses. A lot of men … way too much tongue. As in, I can’t breathe. I need a respirator. (I’m not trying to be funny.) I had a friend who told me she experienced the same thing with her boyfriend. She would literally pull back when they were kissing and tell him it was too much … and it didn’t change. I don’t know how she could have been anymore direct.

        8. Paula

          Perhaps I’m in the minority but when I’ve been deeply in love with a partner I’ve let him know explicitly that I won’t ever turn him down just because I’m not in the mood. Assuming the sex is good overall and my needs are being met, I don’t ever view sex as a burden. If I’m not revved up physically it is still deeply pleasurable to me for just the emotional intimacy. And often much to my pleasant surprise, I find myself more into it than I initially thought I would, so win-win.

        9. Marika

          On this point, Paula, re the sex thing, I completely agree. I suppose we may be in the minority, but you’re not alone.

          It is true what Jeremy says, though, if I ended up in a relationship where comfort was overriding, I would be less mindful of this. Love is enduring, but there are days you’re stressed or pissed off, or he’s farted in bed etc….just that tiny bit of ‘maybe this won’t last forever’ now and then, from an otherwise highly ethical and loving man works wonders in keeping arousal up there.

          All rings true for me.

        10. Selena

          @Paula:”Assuming the sex is good overall and my needs are being met, I don’t ever view sex as a burden.”

          I had a partner at one time where we joked about having sex when not really in the mood a “mercy fuck”. I looked at giving him “a mercy” as a loving gesture. And more often than not, once we got started, I got into it. I think the key to this was however, that our sex life was very good overall.

          For me, being in the mood or not is sometimes influenced by what else has been going on that day. Example: partner is in a bad mood all day and taking it out on me with periodic verbal swipes. Come bedtime he wants sex. I say no because after of day of this I am not feeling loving towards him and I’m not going to pretend.

          Another example is a partner who liked to have sex when he wasn’t feeling well – for him it was a temporary distraction. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want sex when I was feeling nauseous, or had back pain. He would insist it would make me feel better, when I knew it would only make me feel worse.

          I see a difference between compromising (seeing sex as a loving act you do for your partner when you are not particularly in the mood) and being compromised (your partner wants to use your body regardless of how you feel).

    4. 12.4
      Yet Another Guy

      @jo

      ” Added to women’s growing financial empowerment over 50 years, it means that marriages must evolve, or they’ll be on the way out.”

      I believe that you already know the answer to that question. If things continue on the current tradjectory, marriage will become an obsolete institution.

      “Wives feel threatened when husbands imply that they’ll take away affection or leave the marriage if they are not getting enough sex. No one should feel threatened in a safe relationship, which hopefully is what marriage is.”

      Here you have hit on a big difference in basic primal needs. Women marry for the security that marriage provides (i.e., women experience fear much more often and intensely then men). Men marry because they are traditional and desire to have a family or they are part of the unlucky 80% and desire steady sex. Both men and women are discovering that they do not have to get married to have children, so that leaves us with security on the female side and steady sex on the male side. I read something recently where the author stated that women fear the loss of their relationships the whereas men fear the loss of their jobs (status) the most. Most men do not fear the loss of their relationship. They fear the financial ramifications that come with being on the hook for child and/or spousal support. That should be crystal clear by Jeremy’s comments. Most men could give a rat’s behind about the security provided by a relationship. That should also by crystal clear by how men versus women approach online dating. Most women approach online dating with the goal of a long-term relationship. Most men approach online dating for fun and sex, which is why the most desirable men on dating sites often find themselves being labeled as being a player (more than one woman attempted to affix that label to me just because I wanted to keep my options open). A relationship is kind of a side effect of dating, not the reason for it with men. Very few men are willing to announce that reality up front because it would kill their chances with most women. Nine out of ten times when a man drops a woman he has dated more than couple times immediately after sex, it is because he found the sex to not be worth the loss of his freedom, even if he likes her company. If a man has fun with a woman and likes the sex, he will stick around. If he likes her, but not the sex, she is headed for the friend zone, that is, if she is okay with being friend-zoned.

      1. 12.4.1
        Jeremy

        Where is love in your comment, YAG? The happiness in marriage of waking up beside the woman you love and have built a life with? Men TOTALLY fear the loss of the relationship in divorce, particularly because it’s often the only relationship they have. Men benefit in marriage from having that relationship, and it has been found to be the best predictor of male happiness in old age. Perhaps not for you or for everyone, but for many. Men ALSO fear the financial ramifications of divorce, since they are usually the ones who bear that brunt. But if all I had to lose in a divorce was money, YAG, then my marriage wouldn’t have been worth keeping. Money was not my anxiety. I have enough of it.

        1. Marika

          Yes!! The ‘unlucky 80%’ bit was BS too. What’s luckier than marrying a woman you love, valuing that relationship and not constantly worrying about what you’re missing out on or thinking of trading up.

          Btw…it’s Friday.. 😉

        2. Jeremy

          🙂

          Interviewer: So where do you see yourself in five years ‘ time, Mr Jefferies?

          Mr Jefferies: Well, personally, I think me biggest weakness is in listening.

          🙂

          A pirate walks in to a bar with a steering wheel hanging from his crotch. The bar tender asks what the hell is that? And the pirate replies “I don’t know, but it’s drivin’ me nuts!”

        3. Yet Another Guy

          @Marika

          “What’s luckier than marrying a woman you love, valuing that relationship and not constantly worrying about what you’re missing out on or thinking of trading up.”

          I know that women who post to this forum believe that all men marry the women that they love; however, the reality is that that is very rare here in the U.S. American woman tend to be over the top selective. More men than not marry because they are pressured into it by their girlfriend, or worse, their family. That is why most marriages fail. Sure, women initiate more divorces than men, but that is because their men lose interest in meeting their needs. If men married the women they loved, the divorce rate would be much lower in the U.S. than it is today.

          As far as to the unlucky 80% comment, I do not know how it is for men in Australia, but at least 80% of American men struggle with women, so they settle into bad relationships in order to have access to regular sex. I have witnessed it with my own two eyes. I know that is not what American women want to hear, but it is true more often than not.

        4. Yet Another Guy

          @Jeremy

          How many divorced men have you spoken to in your life? Have you taken the time to get to really know them, to listen to their life stories? I am willing to bet that most of your friends are married. That vantage point gives a man a bad case of relationship myopia. Spend a couple of weeks in a support group for divorced or divorcing men, listen to them discuss the crap they have to endure while navigating the court system, and you will agree with what I wrote. Plus, you comment incessantly about the risk of a man having to pay child and/or spousal support. You say that you love your wife, but complain about the fact that she did not want to give you sex while you provided material support. You cannot have it both ways. I, for one, was relieved when I finally moved out of the house. I have never missed the relationship that I had with my wife, not for one day. My current relationship is very good, but if it evaporated, I would still be good because I do not need a relationship to feel secure or know my place in the world. I would keep on keeping on.

        5. Marika

          I knew you were going to say something like that YAG.

          You’ve certainly been MUCH happier since being in a relationship with one woman compared to sleeping & dating around. My point was having endless ‘options’ doesn’t equate to happiness.

        6. Jeremy

          I talk with lots of divorced men, YAG. I see a lot of people every day through my work, talk with a lot of people. The common denominator among most of the divorced men is sadness and loneliness. With a smattering of anger, resentment, and desperation. Most wish they were married again, most are afraid because they’ve been burned.

          You are a bit of an outlier, YAG. A guy who, by his own description, probably should never have got married in the first place. Marriage isn’t for everyone, as I’m seeing more and more from my dealings on this blog. I can describe love and selflessness and acts of kindness….. And receive blank looks and bot-like responses of “yeah, but me me me me me” We see what we want to see. What we hope to see, what we are afraid to see. It colours our reality.

        7. Mrs Happy

          @ J: “particularly because it’s often the only relationship they have” –
          Hearing about how emotionally lonely men are can make me simultaneously sympathetic and irritated – quite a feat really.

          I want to say to most socially-able men:
          It is in men’s control to form relationships with people other than the woman you are boning. Go join some local clubs, play a sport, umpire one of your kid’s teams, volunteer at a school, connect at the synagogue/church, make more friends, actually reach out to people and it may have to be repeatedly, build up a network, protect yourself from loneliness, unburden your wife (she may not relish being your only social outlet), put some actual effort into connecting with someone apart from just for i) sex or ii) making money.

          Seriously, it’s like men are running a blinkered horse race and can’t see the many side options of life.

        8. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “I knew you were going to say something like that YAG.”
          But after a while on this blog, don’t you pretty much know what all long-timer posters are going to write? I can read a post and know the “trigger topics” for various long-time posters and can predict that’s a post they’ll respond to. Everyone has about 3 topics they write about over and over again. New posters think the material is fresh but old posters know it’s a rerun. (And, yes, I include myself in this description.)

        9. Marika

          Jeremy

          Driving me nuts! Haha. I also notice you’re putting the ‘u’ in words like colour. Nice! 😉

          ‘U’s are the fish.

          Recall on another post Evan talked about how few men (and probably women too, but that wasn’t the point of the post) make good partners. The number was depressingly low, and hopefully a slight under-estimation, but there’s clearly some truth to it.

          Marriage perhaps shouldn’t be quite as widespread as it is. Maybe. Everyone I know at some stage says something like ‘when I get married’. It probably should be ‘if’. One of the few things Catholics do well – and maybe other religions too – is that you can’t married without doing a ‘marriage preparation’ course first. They are usually run by priests, which is a bit ridiculous, so I found an ex-priest who had left and gotten married many years ago. We filled out questionnaires and discussed our answers, particularly where we differed in our answers, over the course of several weeks. I also called that guy when things were going badly in my marriage, for help and support. Obviously it’s no guarantee of anything, but people entering marriages need *something*, some ‘training’ or preparation and definitely some support. My understanding is that rabbi’s do something similar.

          Not to spark a religious debate, I just think it’s useful for people to be aware that marriage requires forethought, self-reflection and definitely humility. Not just ‘well, I love you and we’ve been together a while, how ’bout it?’

      2. 12.4.2
        jo

        YAG, while I believe you’re speaking truthfully from your own experience, you’re extrapolating from that to the general, which by Jeremy, Marika, and Mrs. Happy’s comments is shown to be NOT universally true. Personally I find bits of truth in what all of you have said.

        What we agree on is that marriage has to evolve or it will be on the way out. It already IS on the way out in Japan (and parts of Europe). 2 weeks ago, New York Times ran an article about how Japanese women increasingly don’t want to get married, resulting in a steep population decline. The reason for their reluctance is not just unfulfilling sex (someone else wrote, and I agree, that this thread has focused too much on sex), but all the unpaid work they’re expected to do as wives, which hinder not just their careers but their hobbies and happiness. Many female readers commented that this wasn’t unique to Japan, but that women feel this way all over the world. A few men, in turn, commented that this made women ‘selfish.’ Other men supported the women.

        So my next comment isn’t a feminist rahrah, but an observation of where this is all going. Men have to give women more incentive to marry, or it will be a thing of the past. Right now married men get sex, the ability to pursue their careers, most of the housework done for them, children who bear their name but for whom they don’t have to do the bulk of childcare, someone to look after them when they get sick or old or both, etc. YAG, you say women want security from marriage, but increasingly we (especially younger women) question that. We have friends, jobs, financial know-how, confidence to live and travel and love on our own – we don’t need marriage for these.

        No one in the New York Times article and comments disputed that men get more from being married than women, all over the world. And now women have increasing means to be independent. So will marriage evolve to make it more of a good choice for women? Or will both sides say that they don’t want this institution anymore in the future?

        1. Lynx

          jo: “Or will both sides say that they don’t want this institution anymore in the future?”

          Isn’t it simply evolving, the way everything does? Marriage began, presumably, because it improved survival odds for parents and children against various threats: starvation, disease, hostile natural environments, invading tribes.

          For middle class and higher income brackets, the threats are different now: depression, loneliness, purposelessness, (in the U.S. where there is little in the way of a social safety net) fear of bankruptcy/homelessness in the event of a major physical or psychiatric illness, or loss of adequate employment.

          Perhaps what is happening is that the nuclear family (which is a fairly recent phenomenon, anyway) is the wrong structure to protect against today’s threats. Perhaps while men and women are pointing fingers at one another, accusing the opposite gender of being at fault for the demise of marriage, perhaps we’re all failing to see the forest for the trees.

  13. 13
    Jeremy

    Selena, I was harsher with you in my last comment than I should have been, and I apologize for that.

    I was particularly angered by your comment because when all this was going down, the question I’d ask myself over and over again is, “Am I the one being an asshole?” If I was faced with a decision whether or not to prioritize my wife, if I ever felt resentment clouding my decision making, I’d ask myself that question. I’d ask myself whether there was another perspective I was not seeing, then try to see that perspective. And almost invariably I’d end up acquiescing, prioritizing that other perspective, trying ever so hard to not be an asshole, to remember love and banish resentment. For days and months and years. Asking myself whether I could just give more, whether there was something I was missing, whether there was something I wasn’t doing. I assumed that the fault was mine, Selena, it was my base-assumption. But there’s only so long you can assume you’re the asshole when it becomes obvious that the scales have tipped overwhelmingly the other way. It reached a point where not even I could still operate under the mea culpa assumption. I was angered by your comment accusing me of being the one who was the asshole in the end…..because that was the assumption that held me in a cage all those years. And it was wrong.

    I agree with your latest comment, that there is a difference between compromising and being compromised. Totally. But I’d caution you (and the readers) about what you wrote about your daytime interactions affecting your night-time sexual decisions. It is very understandable to not want sex when you feel your partner has been short with you during the day. But there is a cycle that propagates here – he is short with her during the day in her love language (conversation), so she is short with him during the night in his love language (sex), so….how do you think he’ll feel the next morning? Positively inclined to you, or entrenched in a spiralling cycle of negativity? Who’s going to break the cycle? Will you hold the sex over his head until he says uncle, or will you show him love and hope he reciprocates? I don’t claim to know the right answer in all cases….but IMHO the second is more likely to result in positive outcomes in an otherwise good relationship.

    1. 13.1
      Selena

      Jeremy, apology accepted and I hope further conversations between us will be less prickly.

      Re your last paragraph; Jeremy have you ever been in a bad mood, been the recipient of someone else’s? I’m not talking about someone being *short* or not wanting to have a conversation, I’m talking about someone who wakes up irritable, continues to be irritable and takes it out on the person close by via little digs, subtle put-downs, general crankiness. As the partner in the line of fire -so to speak-, you have some options on how to deal with this. You ask what is wrong today? Either they don’t want to talk about it, or perhaps they can’t articulate it, or they deny they are in a bad mood and carry on. Do you call them on their behavior, sparking a stupid fight OVER NOTHING? Or do you let it ride – believing we all have a bad day sometimes and it will pass? I pick my battles.

      The next day the squall has blown over. The mood has lifted. And there is no residual negativity or retaliation for the day before. That has been my experience Jeremy. I’m not talking about long standing issues that never quite get a resolution. I’m not talking about a pattern of behavior that becomes a cyclic. I’m only talking about not wanting to have sex with someone who has spent the day taking their bad mood out on you.

      1. 13.1.1
        Jeremy

        Ah. I misunderstood you. If you are with someone who is prone to mood swings that naturally blow over, I’d agree to let them blow over. When Mrs Happy writes that you can’t be responsible for the mood-state of another and you can’t make someone else happy, that’s where I agree with her. You can try, but you won’t always succeed – because it’s not about you, it’s about them. Have I experienced it, Selena? Why yes. As has my wife….and when she has experienced it with me, I generally agree, during or after, that I’m the one being an asshole 🙂

  14. 14
    Mrs Happy

    Coercion and manipulation are behaviours that I think all boys and men socially imbibe – it’s often standard the guy initially set the pace physically, and the usual pattern is that the male pushes things physically until the female says stop. I think there’s a grey area, a habit develops between that front running action initially, and future in-the-relationship pressuring for male physical pleasure. The grey area sits just fine with some/most men, it’s their life.

    The grey area ethically concerns me, and I’ll explain why. At risk of being attacked as when I’ve previously written about this topic, here I go, and only because it’s important.

    Coercion and manipulation exist on a spectrum.

    At one end we have Spreadsheet Guy, repeatedly hassling his wife for sexual acts, becoming increasingly irritating and less attractive to her doing so. Most long term marriages have some form of Spreadsheet Guy behaviour sometimes, and many, a lot of the time. Previous posters have written about this. It’s fairly standard in conversations with a group of married women, to hear from a portion of them, about how often their husband annoyingly hassles them for sex, and how they sometimes have sex, not because they want to, or like/love him, but just to stop him being ‘at them’ for a day or so. Thus, Spreadsheet Hassle Technique works to give the positive reward of occasional sex, and thus men persist with it, even as it undermines their wife’s respect/feelings of love/wanting to spend time together.

    A bit further along, a more sophisticated barter if you will, certainly less whiny than SHT, but still a manipulation, is the above mentioned Dread Game. Here a married man coerces more sex out of his partner under threat of “I’m leaving if not given more sex” or something, any threat. Also really common, less spoken about among women, probably because it’s so shameful to be bartering one’s body for the persistence of a father for the kids and his income; and maybe because it has historically been such a standard barter in terms of the marriage contract, and it makes women feel like feminism has yielded little for them personally. This is still coercion and manipulation, it’s psychological and emotional, it plays on women wanting the best for their kids, and to retain social standing and economic advantage and security.

    Here’s where the flames may start. My big concern with manipulation and coercion is the slide to the other side of the spectrum, which is, that paedophiles, people traffickers and rapists routinely use psychological manipulation and coercion. Paedophiles groom children over a period then start their sexual abuse using a combination of coercion – ‘I’ll give you x if you do this’ – and manipulation based on fear – ‘I’ll kill your mother or sister if you tell/don’t do y’. Rapists – ‘stay still or I’ll kill/hurt you’. All the way to forced trafficking of girls and women for prostitution – ‘earn us z per week or you won’t get your passport back in 3 years, and we’ll go back to your village and get your 10 year old sister too’.

    All the manipulation and coercion via any of the above, are men trying to get more sex. That is the entire aim. When a man who is not breaking any laws (e.g. forcing sex on kids or on a physically completely unwilling adult woman) uses psychological manipulation to get the sex, or coerces the sex from his partner in any threatening way, it exists in my mind upon this spectrum of horror. Unless one wants to argue that manipulation and coercion are okay in some situations, i.e. forcing a woman to have sex with you is fine given the parameters a/b/c, but not fine if d/e/f, and I can’t think of a reasonable argument there. Thus I conclude all coercion and manipulation is distasteful. Some of it is horrific. It’s not right to lose sight of how wrong it is to do this to another human, to force sex from them via their conscious or subconscious fear. I think it’s easy for males, brought up learning sexual pleasure via that grey zone of asked permissiveness, to cross a line without realising.

    1. 14.1
      Marika

      So are you saying MH the person who wants to feel closer to their partner through sex, misses sex, is starting to feel unattractive or unloved should just grin and bear it? Stay that way until the other party graciously decides to have sex? You don’t see any downsides to that? Any danger? (eg cute co-worker asks what’s wrong, you seem so stressed and unhappy…).

      1. 14.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        I’m not saying anything other than, coercion and manipulation to obtain sex, does not sit well with me personally.
        I do a lot of things in life I’m not proud of, but I don’t coerce people in this way, and I personally find it quite horrid, and my post above explains why.

        I think some people can regard some coercion as okay. I disagree with that. I agree with complete autonomy over one’s own body, and not in any way threatening my loved ones. I am allowed to have that moral compass for myself.

        Also, me disagreeing with the people who manipulate or coerce, does not mean I have a solution to every person’s individual difficulties, or don’t feel sympathy for them. It just means I disagree with methods used, and wanted to explain why.

    2. 14.2
      Jeremy

      Ummm…..the blindness her is staggering. Just staggering. I wrote a great long point-for-point gender-flipped rebuttal. But I erased it. There was just no point to it. There is no arguing with blindness. The complete and total failure to see the other side.

      I think, Mrs H, that the problem is that “asshole” is a masculine noun. That although women everywhere admit that it is entirely possible for women to BE assholes, they picture such women as acting like men who are assholes do. And they don’t. Female assholery looks completely different than male. Female coercion looks completely different than male. Is more insidious and FAR more common. Because there are laws and social stigmas against the male form in western society. Not so with the female forms. Male assholery is considered coercion. Female assholery is considered…..normal. Expected. Earned. SMH.

      1. 14.2.1
        Adrian

        Hi Jeremy,

        You said, “the blindness here is staggering. Just staggering.”

        This is what irritates me about you and I say this as a person who highly respects you. But Jeremy it’s like you don’t see the pattern that’s been here since you first commented. When you say things they like you are praised as the greatest male commenter, but when you say things they don’t like you are a misogynist who ONLY talks bad about what the woman in relationships doesn’t do…

        That’s why I made the comment about people who give 100% to the relationship. They only see what they are giving and don’t care that what they are giving isn’t making their partner happy because to them that can’t be right if they are giving 100% so he/she must be the problem.

        I’ve said this to you so many times Jeremy but how can you expect people like this to be so self aware towards you a stranger when they aren’t even aware of their own partners needs?

        .

        1. Jeremy

          I can’t expect it. I can hope they find the ability and try to help them do so. It’s why I comment here. I get frustrated sometimes, though, when I see that I have failed. That I’ve spent time and energy trying to dent a memory foam pillow. . Sometimes the myopia and entitlement makes my eyeballs bleed and I feel for these people’s partners…. And then Evan reminds me that their partners are likely at least as myopic in their own way.

      2. 14.2.2
        Mrs Happy

        Jeremy,
        if you have logical rebuttals to my point of, ‘people should not physically or psychologically coerce or manipulate others into sexual acts’, I’d like to hear them.

        If all you have is “you’re blind” it’s not enough to sway opinion. If all you have is “flipping genders with some random example of how a man, woman, child or mountain goat in some other way manipulates or coerces someone regarding something else”, it doesn’t answer my actual point.

        Everyone else,
        To anyone else expressing umbrage or failing intentionally or purposely to comprehend my point, don’t come back at me with things I haven’t in fact said. Don’t come back at me with “all men are/aren’t rapists” or “all men are/aren’t assholes” or “people deserve sex/or not/or whatever”, or anything else I did not write. And perhaps stop the personal attacks, I’m certainly not attacking any individual.

        Instead, may I request you absorb and understand my actual straightforward point, which for clarification purposes is: “people should not physically or psychologically coerce or manipulate others into sexual acts”, and if you do NOT agree with it, tell us why; the floor is yours for reasoned counter arguments and debate. That is, explain why it is okay to coerce and manipulate others sexually. I would seriously be interested in understanding why some people think this is ethically okay. I will read with attention.

    3. 14.3
      Selena

      Powerful post Mrs.

      And for me a little triggering.

      Made me think of two different men when I was younger saying “You owe me” when we were making out after only dating for a week. I was shocked, offended, and all I could say was “For what?” Maybe it was the look on my face, but they backed off. Neither of these situations ever evolved into a relationship.

      “It’s fairly standard in conversations with a group of married women, to hear from a portion of them, about how often their husband annoyingly hassles them for sex, and how they sometimes have sex, not because they want to, or like/love him, but just to stop him being ‘at them’ for a day or so.”

      Not married, this is an an experience I’ve written about on this blog about a co-habitating partner.

      What I have not written about him-until now- is a remark he once made about his ex-wife to me about sex.

      “We are married! I don’t care if you don’t like it, I need it!” Said with emphasis and complete sense entitlement.

      I found it a creepy thing for him share at the time.

      It turned out to be a foreshadowing of what was to come in a relationship with him. The last time I saw him (over 12 years ago) he hit me and attempted to rape me.

      1. 14.3.1
        Mrs Happy

        Selena, I’m sorry it was triggering for you. I knew it would potentially be triggering for about half the female adult population. Therein lies the issue. The very reason I wrote about it.
        Coercion and manipulation are so common they are normalised, seemingly reasonable, or expected behaviour, for swaths of people. Lots of women, and every child so affected, feel powerless about it, so I want to introduce the idea that coercion and manipulation are not nice things to do to another person.

        1. jo

          Mrs Happy and Selena, I hear you. Thanks Mrs Happy for bringing this up, even if you knew that it would trigger angry outbursts from others. And that is part of the problem. Some people respond with anger, yet for all the long rants, do not actually answer your questions or address your comments at all.

          In other contexts, when that kind of entitlement has been so ingrained, that is how the privileged side responds when the side that has been repeatedly hurt / coerced tries to push for equality, rights, or kind treatment. It’s like at the beginning, they can’t even see the logic of what you argue, because they assume they have a god-given right to something (e.g., our bodies). We should expect backlash, but keep making our points anyway. Because what you wrote, dear Mrs Happy, may have triggered many of us women – but at the same time it was balm to our souls.

          What you wrote needed to be said.

        2. Selena

          I’m fine Mrs. made my peace with it long ago.

          Finding this thread pretty telling though.

        3. Selena

          jo: “Because what you wrote, dear Mrs Happy, may have triggered many of us women – but at the same time it was balm to our souls.
          What you wrote needed to be said.”

          Thank you for writing that jo.

          Given the statics on sexual harassment and sexual assault, many readers here likely have personal experience with either or both. Those who don’t have personal experience, probably know someone who has. And for every person they know who has talked about it to them, they may know several more who haven’t chosen to disclose what happened to them.

          Mrs. Happy: “Instead, may I request you absorb and understand my actual straightforward point, which for clarification purposes is: “people should not physically or psychologically coerce or manipulate others into sexual acts”, and if you do NOT agree with it, tell us why; the floor is yours for reasoned counter arguments and debate. That is, explain why it is okay to coerce and manipulate others sexually. I would seriously be interested in understanding why some people think this is ethically okay.”

          The fact people won’t answer something this basic is what is staggering.

        4. Evan Marc Katz

          I’m jumping in.

          There is no debate about sexual harassment or sexual assault. Same with sexual “coercion,” which as you describe it, is 100% wrong.

          No one is arguing otherwise; that is why there are no takers for Mrs. Happy’s query.

          This thread is largely a referendum on whether you think it’s okay for a wife (or a husband) to refuse to have sex.

          This, to me, is another black and white answer: no. We’re not talking about “I’m tired,” or “I’m feeling bloated,” or “I had a bad day,” but, rather, to completely lose all interest in sexual relations with your spouse.

          You may be entitled to FEEL this way. But your spouse is entitled to be upset, to discuss, to cajole, and, if necessary, to leave because this need is being unmet.

          Since this is pretty much indisputable, can we stop this nonsense straw man argument as if Jeremy is an angry, abusive, sexually aggressive, selfish husband? It is, indeed, maddening.

        5. Marika

          What Evan said.

          And since you ladies turned this into a sexual assault debate when it never was, the onus is actually on you to answer the question of what you believe Jeremy should have done?

          Talked to his wife? – tick
          Made her life comfortable? – tick
          Lessened her burden by helping himself (a lot) as well as hiring help for her? – tick tick
          Letting her sleep through the night? – tick
          Not cheating? – tick
          Doing everything in his power to save the marriage? – tick

          I’m interested to know the counter argument to all that when none of it changed anything. He should put up and shut up? Or…?

    4. 14.4
      Paula

      Why don’t those women leave their partners/husbands then? I can almost guarantee that the problems in those relationships aren’t limited to the issue of sex.

    5. 14.5
      Chance

      LOL holy shit @ these comments. Jeremy needs a hug…

      Jeremy, a long time ago, we had an exchange when I implied that you were wasting your time on here. You said that you didn’t believe you were wasting your time. Looking back, you were right and I was wrong, although maybe not for the reason we thought.

      You’ve helped me a lot over the past year since I’ve stopped posting, but continued to read your comments. The way you engage has inspired me, and serves as a model for how I now try to engage. Helped turn my life around, better understand the environment in which I find myself in, and sort myself out.

      The irritability and resentment I felt… drastically reduced. Almost gone. When I think of misandristic books/shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale” or the stunts pulled by Gillette and the APA earlier in the year, those things would have sent me into outer space just a couple of years ago, and it doesn’t bother me anymore. You’ve helped in dealing with my perceptions of powerlessness, which may be single greatest cause for a lack of empathy for any group in the history of humanity. Perceptions of powerlessness….almost impossible is it for us to feel empathy for those who we believe have power over us.

      You’ve helped me stay away from the more negative corners of the web. The places that provide that indignant sugar-high with their toxic brew of availability bias and confirmation bias.

      Thank you, Jeremy.

      1. 14.5.1
        Jeremy

        Thank You Chance. Your post was like a breath of fresh air, a splash of cold water. I agree with you about powerlessness and what it does to us. So difficult for those who feel powerless to recognize the powerlessness of others when it lies in a different domain. I hope you’ve been well, and I remember our past conversations well and fondly.

      2. 14.5.2
        Adrian

        Hi Chance,

        You said, “Jeremy needs a hug…”

        No he needs some tough love. Jeremy is too nice. Have you noticed how he is just as smart as Karl R but people don’t talk to Karl R like they do to Jeremy because Karl R is known for laying the Smack Down… HARD when people disrespect him or try to call dismiss his points with weak counter arguments!!!

        Look at Jeremy’s recent post with Selena, at the end he apologized… Apologized for what???… But he did and instead of acknowledging that perhaps she was a little rough in her comments as well she just said I accept your apology and moved as if it was ALL Jeremy and she did nothing to cause his harsh tone. He confirmed to her that HE was wrong and she did nothing wrong.

        And that’s my point with Jeremy he wants too much to be liked or accepted on here but he is exposing himself before people who can’t see their own hangups. Look back at when Jeremy first left the blog because everyone was picking on him and his relationship. When he came back I was the ONLY one who apologized (though I only made one comment about the subject) and yet Jeremy just got on and accepted everyone like nothing was wrong.. If you let people disrespect you without acknowledging what they did was wrong and apologizing for it then they will keep doing it.

        1. Jeremy

          Karl and I have different MO’s, Adrian. Karl’s intelligence is incisive. He helps others realize their cognitive errors by dissecting those errors and blowing away the fluff. But everything I know about human psychology tells me that people remember how you made them feel far more than they remember what you’ve said. That it is far more effective to have people correct their OWN errors than it is to have you do it for them. Which is why I speak in metaphor, by personal example, and almost never exercise incisive logical dissection. Which is why I’m not afraid to take the brunt of people’s anger upon myself. It hurts, but I can grow large enough to handle it. It is not the point.

          I seek not to show people the error of their ways, Adrian, but rather to convince them of the humanity of the “other.” That while many women (and men) are aware on some level that men (and women) are human, there is a vestigial belief that some are more human than others, MATTER more than others. That in their (justifiable) zeal to see a woman vigilantly maintaining her bodily autonomy, they might also see the humanity of a good man whose emotional, relational, and financial integrity are thereby devastated, and realize that somewhere, somehow, some compromise must be made. That what they fear isn’t the only thing to be feared, that in their zeal to avoid what they fear, they must not do to others what others have done to them…in different domains.

          Half my soul, the idealist half, thinks my methodology “should” work – is convinced of it. And the other half? The rational half? Doesn’t know. Doesn’t yet have the information to answer its overriding question – “does this work?” Time will tell.

    6. 14.6
      Emily, to

      Mrs. Happy,
      I don’t understand why these guys want to have sex with their wives if that much coercion is necessary. I can’t imagine anything less sexy than someone giving in because you bugged them to death.

      1. 14.6.1
        Marika

        So, E, what’s the alternative if you’re frustrated with the lack of sex? Cheat?
        Apart from the rapists and abusers (extreme end of the spectrum) we’re talking about normal people who want to show and share love with their partners. And who *don’t* want to look elsewhere.

        Like Jeremy I’m floored by the lack of ability to see the other side. It’s what I find so difficult about the largely avoidant tendency types who flock to me like seagulls on Manly beach – they are sooo overly mindful of their own needs and practically blind to the needs of the other person (unless they coincide or they are slapped in the face with them and repeated ad nauseum…and even then..).

        1. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Like Jeremy I’m floored by the lack of ability to see the other side. It’s what I find so difficult about the largely avoidant tendency types who flock to me like seagulls on Manly beach – they are sooo overly mindful of their own needs and practically blind to the needs of the other person (unless they coincide or they are slapped in the face with them and repeated ad nauseum…and even then..).”
          Well, we’re actually almost exclusively hearing about the other side. We need to hear from a woman who feels needled and what that feels like. With children, works full-time, married at least 10 years. We need to hear the story from her. Not someone else telling us how she feels. If I felt repeatedly needled, I’d walk. If I was repeatedly turned down, I’d walk.
          If you’re tired of avoidants, avoid them. It’s really that simple and completely up to you. For me, I can almost immediately tell a man who’s an anxious and know I won’t want to date him. So I say no.

        2. Marika

          I understand we are only hearing one side, Em, but the thing is that Jeremy has explained at length that he wasn’t abusive, a rapist, expecting anything from his wife she hadn’t done before, and has told us all the things he did to try and help her feel more comfortable, have more time and to help out with the kids. He’s a pretty open and self-reflective commenter and it all rings true.

          Someone who’s giving massages, arranging holidays, hiring nannies and getting up in the middle of the night to screaming children (and then working long hours the next day) doesn’t need to have rape, abuse etc thrown in his face. It’s crazy.

          Sorry, but the “If I’m not getting my needs met I walk and you should too” philosophy doesn’t sit well with me. And it’s not exactly conducive to a long-term relationship. Why not be at least a tad open to trying to understand the other side’s point of view? Love isn’t about using each other to get your needs met until it dries up. It’s about actually taking pleasure in making your partner feel loved and happy.

        3. Evan Marc Katz

          Spoken like a Love U grad. Proud of you for how you show up here.

        4. Adrian

          Hi Emily,

          You said, “For me, I can almost immediately tell a man who’s an anxious”

          I use to think this as well but now I am starting to realize that their are levels of anxious attachment styles. For example even though Marika and myself openly admit to being anxious I don’t think we would act like the men you’ve dated in the past. And I’ve been fooled by a couple of avoidants as well.

          Just from what I’ve read from your post my friend I think you would be better off dating a low-level anxious person and contrary to what you say I think you wouldn’t be a good fit for a highly avoidant person… and yes I recognize that you are an avoidant yourself.

        5. Lynx

          “We need to hear from a woman who feels needled and what that feels like.” Here’s an anecdote for you.

          My first child was born the week after his dad got a new job that required him to be on the opposite coast for the next 6 weeks. He would return Friday at midnight, depart Sunday at noon. We had moved to a new area; I knew no one there. I had never even babysat before, and my child did not sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch for the first 4 months. I ate mostly bananas because they were easy to eat one-handed. I stayed in motion almost constantly to keep my newborn from fussing. I learned why sleep deprivation was a torture technique. I understood how a sleep-deprived mother could get desperate to just get one effing night’s sleep. My birthday was four months after the birth — my child slept 6 hours for the first time on that day, and it was the best gift I have ever received. I told my child’s father there was just one thing I wanted: a night away, by myself. Any hotel anywhere would do, I just needed to be by myself for 24 hours. Instead he booked a weekend away for both of us, and when I entered the room there was a gift box on the bed….sexy lingerie. I looked at it and wanted to cry. I was so exhausted and so weary of having had an infant glued to me nearly nonstop for the previous 120 days. I felt so profoundly misunderstood.

        6. Marika

          Honestly, thank you, Evan. From the bottom of my heart. I’m struggling with some stuff atm, and your kind words really helped. Thank you 🙂

        7. Mrs Happy

          Marika,
          I can see the other side. I can simultaneously see the other side, understand what drives people to certain acts, and hold then state opinions of my own. I am saying I’m not a fan of certain behaviour. It certainly does not mean I lack comprehension, or care.

        8. Jeremy

          Lynx, thank you for sharing that story. I think we can all empathize with how you must have felt at that time. Felt about yourself, your situation, and your husband. Your ex would have been wise to try to put himself into your shoes to better understand you and meet your needs. His doing so would have made you happier and thus himself happier by extension. Can we all agree on this?

          If so, perhaps we can also agree on the reverse: what would it have looked like had lynx taken the perspective of her husband for a moment? Was he just an insensitive brute, or might he have been experiencing feelings and hardships of his own? What did he feel lacking, what were his yearnings and why? How long had it been since he had connected with his wife emotionally and physically and what toll might that have taken on his psyche? Do we not think this matters?

          I advise this mutual exercise, not to say that lynx shouldn’t have been given her night alone in the hotel (or more assistance with child care) but to say that after she’s been given that night and that assistance, she might have felt a desire to reciprocate her husband’s wants rather that just feeling entitled to receiving hers. Without her trying to take his perspective, with just the assumption that he was the one lacking perspective, you end up with all sorts of entitlements and unjustified resentments.

        9. Emily, to

          Hi Adrian,
          “For example even though Marika and myself openly admit to being anxious I don’t think we would act like the men you’ve dated in the past. And I’ve been fooled by a couple of avoidants as well.”
          Anxious have a certain like-me nervous energy. It may come in levels and degrees depending on the person but it’s obvious right from the start.
          “Just from what I’ve read from your post my friend I think you would be better off dating a low-level anxious person and contrary to what you say I think you wouldn’t be a good fit for a highly avoidant person…”
          Agreed that avoidant is a bad fit but so is anxious. I can’t even make it past one date. I’ve tried. I can feel a pressure from them even if they aren’t calling or texting too much and it makes me uncomfortable. Neediness is not just what you do. It’s a state of mind.

        10. Emily, to

          Lynx,
          “I looked at it and wanted to cry. I was so exhausted and so weary of having had an infant glued to me nearly nonstop for the previous 120 days. I felt so profoundly misunderstood.”
          Lack of sleep hurts you not only physically but emotionally and psychologically. Also, the stress of having to care for the baby on your own. Stress has a huge impact on how we feel. Feeling sexy was probably the last thing you felt. You were probably completely drained both physically and emotionally. Now, once you got some sleep and got back on track and (I’m guessing) the baby started sleeping longer periods of time and maybe he was helping out when he could to watch the baby, things were probably different. I recently had an extremely stressful 15 months and I know that you are not yourself when you are going through that.

        11. Marika

          I honestly don’t think you’d pick up on my anxiety in dating…until you inevitably pulled away, Em. The energy of ‘prove yourself to me’ or ‘I’m not sure what I want’ directly can impact on how confident the other person comes across.

          I know you’ll probably say that just means the two aren’t a good match….but just in case you were interested in your own contribution to why you may be experiencing an ‘unattractive’ “like me” energy.

          This is another reason that a first date shows very little about a person. Depending on the circumstances, anyone can be a bit nervous on a first date. And probably should be, if the alternative is ‘meh, whateves’.

        12. Adrian

          Hi Marika,

          I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with somethings and hope all gets better for you soon.

        13. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “I honestly don’t think you’d pick up on my anxiety in dating”
          All of us telegraph a lot more of who we are than we even realize.

        14. Lynx

          Jeremy wrote: “’…(or more assistance with child care)…”
          In retrospect, I believe that is the core issue — it is hard on both parents in nuclear families that have no outside help, particularly when children are very young, Occasionally I’d watch a tv program like Sister Wives and think, “Yeah, that totally makes sense”. At least until the kids are school age. 😉

        15. Lynx

          Yes, Emily, conditions improved “…once you got some sleep and got back on track…”. And I learned my lesson, my second child was a dream, partly temperament, partly in comparison to my first experience, partly that I had arranged for a lot of help in advance. Some of us can be independent to a fault, and are slow to learn that it’s okay to ask for help.

      2. 14.6.2
        Adrian

        Hi Emily,

        You said, “Anxious have a certain like-me nervous energy. It may come in levels and degrees depending on the person but it’s obvious right from the start.”

        That’s what I thought. Which is why I’m warning you to be careful because some are really good at hiding it. Or some may be duel like me. I recently took a very good in-depth attachment style test and it turns out that I’m avoidant towards all non-romantic relationships but anxious towards all romantic relationships…. I didn’t even know you could be both.

        I could be projecting Emily but I think you are the same way. So if you do finally let a man get too close and he turns out to be an avoidant I think that would really hurt you. Whereas if it is a guy you like but aren’t emotionally bonded to I can see it not bothering you if he goes days without contacting you.

        You said, “Agreed that avoidant is a bad fit but so is anxious. I can’t even make it past one date. I’ve tried. I can feel a pressure from them even if they aren’t calling or texting too much and it makes me uncomfortable. Neediness is not just what you do. It’s a state of mind.”

        I agree with you but I still think you are placing all of us anxiously attached in one box would could be bad. I KNOW I’m anxious and yet I still cringe when I see guys act the way you described. I don’t know about Marika or Jeremy (I think we are the only 3 who confessed to being anxious) but the only reason that I don’t over call or text a girl I like is through FORCED practice.

        1. Emily, to

          Adrian,
          ” it turns out that I’m avoidant towards all non-romantic relationships but anxious towards all romantic relationships…. I didn’t even know you could be both.”
          I’m actually a fairly warm and supportive person in all non-romantic relationships. But in romantic relationships, I am avoidant unless I really like the person and he doesn’t run me off by being overly eager. Then I become anxious.
          ” So if you do finally let a man get too close and he turns out to be an avoidant I think that would really hurt you.”
          My point to Marika was you can tell who is avoidant in a fairly short amount of time. I have a guy friend who texts and/or emails daily … but then disappears for several days, even if we are in the middle of a serious talk. And then he appears again. It’s a pattern. I like him but can’t count on him. I’ve learned that. So I don’t expect anything, and if I do, it’s on me.
          “But the only reason that I don’t over call or text a girl I like is through FORCED practice.”
          It’s NOT just what you do. It’s your energy. It’s your manner. It’s what you project that the other party picks up on. I can tell you’re an anxious just by reading your posts.

        2. Marika

          Em

          What we write on posts and what we do/say in dating are completely different things!! I thought that went without saying….

          I’ve said before guys (who I really liked) have often told me they weren’t even sure I liked them..so I’m not sure about this energy thing. I’ve had to work actively on not holding my cards so close to my chest, not the other way around (what I do later out of their company may be different). We’re not all running around begging for your attention. Maybe you’re just looking for an excuse to cut & run before giving things a chance.

          Are you even actively dating? Are you going by things that happened years ago? Are you online (which has changed dating a lot)? If not, why not be a little more open minded? By giving guys with a tiny anxious bent a chance, you will double your dating pool and maximize the chance of being with someone who really likes and will be there for *you* – not just the reverse.

          If you’re going to rebutt that: please don’t worry, I give up.

          Adrian: thank you for your kind words earlier 🙂

        3. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “It’s what I find so difficult about the largely avoidant tendency types who flock to me like seagulls on Manly beach – they are sooo overly mindful of their own needs and practically blind to the needs of the other person (unless they coincide or they are slapped in the face with them and repeated ad nauseum…and even then..).”
          So you write this vitriol about avoidants and then I give a glimpse of how an anxious is experienced and your response is, ” We’re not all running around begging for your attention.” ? OK.

        4. Marika

          It’s not vitriol, Emily. It gets demonstrated on this blog all the time. It’s very hard for certain types of people to see beyond their own experience and needs. It may be that they have other stuff going on, not avoidance (or not only avoidance), so perhaps assuming that is my bad. I’m also talking about people I’ve had *relationships* with – I don’t make snap assumptions after meeting them for 5 minutes or one date. In fact I’ve usually given them the benefit of the doubt time and time again….

        5. Emily, to

          Marika,
          ” I don’t make snap assumptions after meeting them for 5 minutes or one date. In fact I’ve usually given them the benefit of the doubt time and time again….:”
          I can’t compete with such angelic behavior.

        6. Marika

          Truce, Emily? You date your way and I’ll date mine?

          I don’t want to jeopardise my invitation to the BYON party (byo needle) 😉

        7. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Truce, Emily? You date your way and I’ll date mine?”
          Truce. And in terms of dating … unless it slammed into me and did all the work, I don’t have the emotional bandwith to do it. Not after that last fiasco with that guy who made out me with at work. I was sitting there for days afterward waiting for him to show back up in an anxiety-filled state of sexual preparedness. You know what I’m talking about. You know all the body grooming involved. I’m not putting myself through that again.
          “I don’t want to jeopardise my invitation to the BYON party (byo needle) ”
          Invitation still open.

  15. 15
    Jeremy

    Very well, Mrs Happy, since you asked. You wrote: “I do a lot of things in life I’m not proud of, but I don’t coerce people in this way.” REALLY?

    A few months ago, you wrote that your husband was behaving like a selfish prick. Neglected to make dinner, neglected to pull his share of the household duties. So you emailed a list of your grievances to him…a list of things you expected him to do, that he somehow wasn’t doing, didn’t feel like doing. Gosh, Mrs H, sounds a lot like what Spreadsheet guy sent HIS wife, doesn’t it? You sent him a list of expectations, and the subtext of it was….do this or I’ll be unhappy. I, the primary breadwinner of this household, the one by whose grace you live the way you do. Do it…..or I might retaliate in some way that would affect the way you live your life. Hmmm, coercion? And apparently this wasn’t the only time, as you wrote that your husband had suggested counselling – men don’t generally suggest counselling at their wife’s first complaint, they do it when the complaints have affected their lives. Complaints about unmet needs and unfairness….kind of like….Spreadsheet guy’s complaints? I wonder, does your husband feel harassed by the list you sent, by your complaints?

    Ah, I can guess the difference. Your complaints were about chores, duties, fairness. Spreadsheet guy’s complaints were about SEX, weren’t they? And what you wrote was, to be exact, ” People should not physically or psychologically coerce or manipulate others into SEXUAL acts’ [emphasis mine]. Because sex is unlike anything else, because manipulation to perform action with the hands, legs, back, brain….coercion and manipulation to work with all these parts of the body is ok, just not with the vagina, the magical body part.

    You are right that what you wrote would trigger much of the female population, because women are raised with the notion that their sexuality is bound with their reproductive organs. It’s not that you fear BODILY coercion, it’s that you fear SEXUAL coercion. Fair enough. But what if we realize that men are raised to bind their sexuality into their providership and not their bodies? Don’t believe it? Consider this hypothetical: A divorcing couple stands before a judge, and the judge tells the man, “Your wife has become accustomed to a certain lifestyle while with you, so choose between these 2 ways to compensate her: Either submit to sex with her twice a week forever, or pay her a weekly alimony cheque forever.” Which do you think he’d choose? And which do you think the wife would choose, were the choice directed at her? And WHY do you think that IS?

    If we accept the notion that just as women wrap their sexuality into their reproductive organs, men wrap theirs into their providership, then it becomes BLINDINGLY obvious that upon the dissolution of a marriage, only one gender has their sexuality coerced by the other, AND IT AIN’T WOMEN, LADY.

    You accused me of coercing my wife by threatening her security. Gosh, let me think about that. Had I left her, she’d have kept the kids, the house, the cars, the nanny, and forced to live on a pittance of only ten times her own salary, coerced by law from me in perpetuity. She’d have woken up the morning after the divorce in her own bed, surrounded by much the same life as before, while I woke up in an apartment, trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered life while paying for hers. My providership, my SEXUALITY, coerced by her and by courts in perpetuity, while she’d have the choice to work or not work as she pleased, supported by me in exchange for nothing. Yeah, pretty threatening….to her. Yeah, SHE was the one who was coerced. Shit.

    – If a woman convinces a man to sign a legally-binding document for the above based on her behavior and promises of love and then promptly reneges on her loving behavior, WHO HAS MANIPULATED WHOM?

    – If threatening to leave a relationship over unmet wants/needs is coercion, gosh, which gender is the one who overwhelmingly initiates divorce over their own unmet needs?

    – If threatening to take away a person’s financial support is coercion, is not threatening to take away his children and emotional support also coercion, and if so which gender does it more?

    – If constantly bugging a person to do something he/she doesn’t want to do is harassment, does any one gender have a monopoly on this?

    This conversation is making my head hurt.

    1. 15.1
      Jeremy

      Sigh. Harsher than I’d have liked. Longer than I’d have liked. Nastier than I’d have liked.
      If you choose not to read any of the above, I’d distill it down to this: The error that you are making is in the assumption that others (men) view their sexuality like you do. That the statement “no one should coerce the sexuality of another” means reproductive organs to men like it means to you. And it doesn’t. Once you understand that it doesn’t, you will understand why I called you blind. Once you understand what men invest with their personal autonomy, their desirability to women, their VALUE in relationships, their contribution to the family unit – you will understand how women coerce men’s sexuality all the time and how women consider that coercion to be earned, are entitled to it. The basis of sexual exchange is not my reproductive organs for yours. Else women would not choose men for marriage as they do, would not use the heuristics they do. If what women wanted from men was sex, Evan would be broke ’cause every woman would find a willing man.

      1. 15.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Jeremy,
        are you saying, because men view their sexuality a certain way, like sex so much they enter relationships to get it, invest emotionally into providing or relationships, and have particular value systems about their worth and about desire, they have the right to coerce and manipulate others into sexual acts?

        1. Jeremy

          NO. It absolutely does NOT! What it does is allow them to exit a relationship where their wants/needs are not being met. I have no compassion for coercion, I just disagree with the way it’s being defined here. I told my wife, years ago, that she needs to understand 2 things about me:
          1) That I have absolutely zero interest in having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me.
          and 2) That I have absolutely zero interest in being married to someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me.

          At some point, self-respect – Hell, self-preservation! – must take precedence over altruism.

        2. Jeremy

          And now that my anger has subsided a bit and my equanimity restored, I can appreciate the irony of the comments as they have unfolded here.

          Mrs Happy, you wrote in 12.3.2 that as a self-aware woman, you shake your head at men’s lack of care when it comes to female pleasure. How you’d have broken up with – would never have married – a man who did not give you orgasms. Mrs H, you know that I like and respect you, and do not think less of you at all for this. I don’t doubt your empathy, don’t doubt that you’d be cognizant of the poor man’s feelings as you broke up with him, would feel bad for him, would empathize with him. Because in spite of his trying to please you, he just wasn’t able. And I guess, in the calculus of whether or not to remain in a relationship, all the empathy in the world doesn’t trump the fact that you’re not getting what you want/need. No matter how hard he’s trying.

          And if he wasn’t trying? If he wasn’t making any effort to give you orgasms because he just doesn’t think it was that important? Kal Vachomer.

          I write this, not to stick it to you, but to hopefully get you to realize that you haven’t been arguing with me, you’ve been arguing with yourself. You asked me under what circumstances is it morally acceptable for a man to coerce a woman into sex – and I will respond, loud and clear, that the answer is NEVER.

          And so my question to you. To you, Selena, Sylvana, Jo, and all the other women reading. A question whose answer I know in prospect, whose answer you will all vigorously defend: When is a woman obligated to stay with a man no matter how miserable she is? When is her choosing to exit a relationship with him abusive toward him, regardless of how he feels about it?

          I’ll await your answer. I’m all ears.

    2. 15.2
      jo

      Jeremy, whoa, calm down.

      First, you seem to have read Mrs Happy’s comment as being directed toward you personally. I didn’t read it that way. Probably many who read it saw it as general truth spoken on behalf of many women who couldn’t articulate what we felt as well as she wrote it. It wasn’t against you or any other commenter here.

      Second, I don’t know where you got the idea that women view our sexuality as tied to reproductive organs. I’ve never thought that way, and don’t know many women who do. If men see us as that way… well, that’s not how we see ourselves.

      Third, you may tie your sexuality to providing, which is great, but obviously not all men think or feel that way. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much pressure from them for casual sex, one night stands, etc. They have no intention of tying their sexuality to providing for the women in those situations.

      Fourth, all the things you write in connection to your wife are really cold. Weren’t you the one who wrote earlier about ‘where is love in this whole situation’? She felt the threat of you pulling your love and companionship from her, not all those other things you mention: kids, car, etc. Maybe she, and most women, are not as materialistic as that paragraph of yours seems to imply. Also, since when is it a picnic to be a single mum to four children?

      There is no need for this conversation to make your head hurt unless you take it more personally than needed. These topics are worth discussing, since more than one woman is nodding her head in recognition. It’s not about you.

      1. 15.2.1
        Jeremy

        You have misunderstood pretty much everything I have written, Jo. If I rebutted any of your points, would you alter your opinion by one whit? You take note of the women nodding their heads. Anyone else in the room, as far as you’re concerned?

        1. jo

          Jeremy, have you considered that you might be the one not making your points clear (despite all-caps and swear words) and are also not making an effort to understand us? Rather than always reflexively blaming the other party?

          As much as you seem to enjoy giving us lessons, perhaps there is something you could also learn about our perspectives if you stop being so defensive (and wrongly thinking every comment is about you), and listen.

        2. Marika

          jo

          You seem like a lovely person and your comments are interesting and valuable. There’s nothing wrong with a few of you wanting to go off on a tangent/new-but-related-thread, of course. I do it all the time!

          It’s just that – and I’m not sure how long you’ve been around these parts – but this issue has come up a few times and generally most women’s comments are very ‘pfftt, whatever’ around this topic. Apparently there are groups of women who sit around saying that they wish their husbands would sort of disappear or be around but not express any needs, and just let the women get on with it. There has never been much understanding expressed generally by female commenters around the topic of sex dropping off in marriage, or generally about the frustration involved if one person is a giver and likes to give, but then eventually gets a bit upset about not having their needs acknowledged in return. A relationship isn’t a charity or about one person. You would think that would be obvious. But it’s kinda not (I experience it all the time in dating – and in terms of my nature, I’m kinda the female Jeremy in relationships).

          So, now, again. It’s sort of coming across as ‘yeah, yeah, whatever, Jeremy, now this is what *we* want to talk about instead’. I recall as a little kid in Catholic school reciting some thing over and over (or singing, maybe?) about seeking first to understand, than to be understood.

        3. jo

          Marika, likewise, you seem lovely (and with your comment about looking like KD, I’m sure that’s true in person too!).

          I am interested in being objective, not in coddling. If you objectively read Jeremy’s posts in this thread, they are not kind. They are angry, defensive, filled with swearing, frequently with all-caps as though his comments were yelling at us. He rarely addresses what we actually write, and often responds as though comments that were written generally were specifically to him. Yet he seems to get special protection on here, which in comparison to how he interacts with us (us in general, not a few people he favors), I don’t feel is merited.

          If you don’t believe me, read the comments and compare what the women write (and our tone) vs. what Jeremy writes (and his tone). With the exception of some comments from Emily, the difference should be glaringly obvious.

        4. Evan Marc Katz

          Jeremy is mad because his positions were wildly misinterpreted. If you were in his shoes, you’d be mad, too.

        5. Marika

          It’s not that I don’t believe you, jo, I just disagree. It’s the lack of wanting to first understand that is driving the tone of his posts, it’s not my general experience of Jeremy. I agree with Evan.

        6. jo

          Evan, with all due respect: my views have also been wildly misinterpreted (and it seems that other women’s have as well). And on occasion, it has upset me and seems to have upset other women. Yet we have not responded by yelling, swearing, and anger. That is not a healthy way to interact with others, nor an effective way to meet in the middle to hear each other. No matter what the justification.

        7. Evan Marc Katz

          With all due respect, nothing you’ve ever posted here has been dissected unfairly for 200 comments. Not even close. So let’s stop with the false equivalence. When someone gets attacked, he/she will either withdraw or push back. Jeremy pushed back. Good for him.

        8. Jeremy

          Just a tweak, Evan. I was angry because the notion that a person, man or woman, should be unable to leave a miserable relationship is unpalatable. But the notion that doing so is criminally abusive is infuriating. I am all ears to listen sympathetically to the feelings of others, but my empathy disappears when those others use their feelings to apply criminal and moralistic judgments against others in the complete absence of considering the other side of the coin.

          In retrospect, I wish I had responded to Mrs happy with more equanimity. Had simply expressed to her that her definition of coercion was highly fallacious, as coercion can only be based on the threat of removing something to which one is entitled. Which is why it is coercion to threaten someone’s health or property, but not to threaten to remove something you own that they don’t. Like, you know, yourself. With proper definition of coercion I’d tell Mrs happy that of course no one should be coerced into sex. But to be really careful with the definition of coercion, because misapplied as it has been here it, in fact, coerces the other partner.

      2. 15.2.2
        Marika

        No, that’s not fair. It’s an entirely frustrating conversation, Jo.

        Jeremy is talking about one thing: a partner wanting a marriage to continue entirely on her terms (massages, nannies, trips away, a working husband who gets up to feed the baby etc etc).

        And others are talking about rape and abuse.

        It’s nonsensical. The fact that a few of you can’t see that in any way, shape or form, or concede what a difficult position that would be for anyone to continue in indefinitely, is making my head hurt.

        1. jo

          Marika, like I wrote at the very beginning of my comment: Mrs Happy’s comment wasn’t directed toward Jeremy! So there was no reason for him to react as though it were. All my earlier comments replying to her had nothing to do with Jeremy either. I wasn’t even thinking of him.

          You’re right, this IS getting tiresome. Not everything we discuss here revolves around one person. And this certainly wouldn’t be the first time that comments have gone off on a tangent in Evan’s blog. We are allowed to discuss two entirely different ideas in the same thread. This happens frequently.

  16. 16
    Adrian

    Hi Jeremy,

    Fine I’ll be a good young Padawan and stay quiet & observe.

    But one last thing; you said ” I’m not afraid to take the brunt of people’s anger upon myself.”

    You should know that for those of us who really like you here it’s hard for us to just say nothing when you are attacked. Your points being attacked is fine but your character being attacked isn’t easy to just watch especially when just the week prior you were denouncing the very thing you are now being accused of promoting.

    Of course I feel this way about all the regulars that I’ve grown to know, as well as Evan.

    1. 16.1
      Mrs Happy

      Adrian,
      it’s not a person or a character being attacked. It’s an idea being debated. It’s assumptions and behaviour being questioned.
      Reasoned discourse is allowed to happen sans rancour. Such might even be interesting.

      1. 16.1.1
        Jeremy

        Except that it isn’t a dispassionate topic at all, Mrs H, not from either side. The female side is, understandably, quite passionate about maintaining their bodily autonomy. Problem is, they are also saying to the male side to suck it up, and that exiting such a relationship is coercion, of all things – not realizing that from the male side, being forced to remain in such a relationship is coercion indeed! That this is a deeply, deeply personal accusation! Because it puts the man into a prison, just as surely as a woman forced to have non-consensual sex over and over, for the EXACT same reasons. Having been in such a prison, I can assure you that statements forcing men into such prisons will indeed be met with rancor.

        We can dispassionately discuss how a couple with differing pie charts of wants might meet each other half way. How they could perhaps compromise without compromising their core values. But that is not what is being proposed here. What is being proposed is prison.

    2. 16.2
      Marika

      Yes, MH, it’s not a personal attack, but you’re debating the wrong point.

      The point is, should a person expect a marriage to continue when they are happy, their spouse is doing everything possible to make them happy and comfortable, but the other person is miserable and feeling neglected. And no amount of conversation changes anything.

      You’re making that into a debate about rape and abuse. Reminds me of when Evan’s discussion about picking a woman up turned into a rant about murder.

      Jeremy’s right, you coerce your husband to do things your way, but don’t see it as coercion because you think you’re right. Apparently cooked meat goes off in minutes if not put immediately into the fridge, for instance. He probably thinks that’s a bit extreme, but you insist. When he couldn’t see that (plus the other very clueless things he did) you wrote an email and criticized him on here (and probably pulled away a bit emotionally).

      You should understand the frustration of a spouse not listening, not caring, not hearing your needs better than anyone.

      1. 16.2.1
        Mrs Happy

        I’m trying to debate my point, which is about coercion, and whether it’s okay to pressure or psychologically manipulate a person into doing sexual acts. If others want to postulate completely different points e.g. about marriage and expectations and food hygiene, they can. But to say my point is a ‘wrong point’ is illogical – because, respectfully, it’s my point and I wanted to make it.

        As predicted, people made this point about side hustle mountain goat tracks they were fixated on, writing of random other types of laws/manipulation/lists/human interaction, rather than clearly addressing or explaining why they think it’s ethically okay to act certain ways.

        I’m going to stop, because Evan has weighed in and wants this to stop, and I accord him respect on his own blog.

        1. Jeremy

          Your point is that coercion of sex – specifically sex – is unique. It is the one thing that must never be coerced. My point is that sex is not unique. Not that it should be coerced, but that coercion of other things can be just as bad, depending what we’re afraid of. How could it have anything to do with mountain goats, Mrs happy? You aren’t afraid of mountain goats. And men aren’t afraid of being sexually coerced. We’re afraid of other things. Things you don’t perceive matter as much as your own fears. We are all human…. Are some of us more human than others? Where is your outrage over women’s nonsexual coercion of men? Doesn’t matter, cause it’s not sex?

      2. 16.2.2
        Jeremy

        Not to argue with you, Marika, but I’d tweak one little detail. I don’t believe that Mrs H coerced her husband at all. The paragraph in my comment above was intended to be demonstrative by its absurdity. Of COURSE she has the right to ask her husband for what she wants, to try to right the power-balance in the relationship (as she sees it). And he ALSO has the right to refuse. And then she has the right to leave, if desired. And he can’t claim that her leaving is coercing him to refrigerate against his will – he isn’t coerced to refrigeration because he isn’t entitled to a relationship!

        I’ll also add one more thing to Evan’s eminently reasonable post above: What we are writing does not just apply to marriages where one spouse goes of sex completely. It goes for marriages like Spreadsheet guy’s, where the disparity between what one spouse wants and what the other does results in a split of 1 acceptance for every 8 parts rejection: The refusing spouse has every right to refuse, and the high-desire spouse has no entitlement whatsoever over her sexuality. And she has no entitlement over having a relationship with him. With that in mind, they’ll either negotiate a reasonable compromise or they will split. But the status quo of one spouse miserable while the other is content….yeah, that isn’t going to last, nor should it.

        1. Marika

          Yes, I see what you mean, Jeremy, but I’d say it’s not actually just about sex at all. It’s about relationship deal breakers. Sex is a pretty big deal breaker, esp if the regularity changes significantly and one person is suffering.

          Leaving meat out and other similar things like that are not deal breakers. And yet in the context of a relationship they can cause stress and feel like the other person doesn’t care and isn’t listening and effort is mismatched. So it’s surprising to me a person can experience that and yet not really understand the importance of the impact of much bigger issues, like sex, on a relationship.

        2. Jeremy

          It’s about fear, I think, Marika. Women are terribly afraid of being sexually coerced, and they look over at men and see that men have no such fear, no reason for such fear (because women don’t sexually coerce men). And so they believe that they have problems and men don’t, that men ARE the problem. They can’t conceptualize that men have the exact same fears….just in other domains. “Not the same!” shout the women, “you don’t go through what we go through!” “True,” I reply, “and you don’t go through what I do. So instead of playing pissing games of who has it worse, can we agree to try not to be assholes to each other? That coercing a person to have sex against their will is asshole behavior? That unilaterally changing the rules of a relationship mid-game is asshole behavior, especially if the other partner is the only one who will have obligations toward the other should the relationship dissolve? BOTH of these are asshole behavior, BOTH coerce the other against their will and cause tremendous psychological damage. Not just the one or the other.

          So PLEASE, ladies, PLEASE stop advising each other that it is okay and normal and expected that you should become an asshole in the context of your marriages! That the true asshole is actually your husband for not just sucking up whatever you decide to dish out. This advice is slow-poison.

      3. 16.2.3
        jo

        Marika, I question your writing that Mrs Happy was debating the wrong point, because the point you raise is no more legitimate than the one she raises, in the sense that neither of them is directly related to Evan’s original post. So how is one right and the other wrong? Rather, can’t both be interesting tangents from Evan’s original post? And can’t we debate or discuss them dispassionately?

        FWIW, I took great comfort in Mrs Happy’s comments, because she articulated something that many women feel. It has nothing to do with any individuals commenting here, but a broader subject that many, many women have experienced: this sort of helpless powerlessness when it comes to male desire in certain contexts, despite all that feminism has achieved in other areas for us. In broader society, we’re made to feel that we aren’t allowed to talk about it. Which is why I hope Evan will still allow it (and he has here, so far), because this is one way societal shifts happen. ‘You thought this too? I thought I was the only one.’

        In any case, if it is to tie back to the original post, this IS a cause of relationship anxiety for many women, particularly as relationships have developed further. And Evan’s last point to communicate is the most important one.

        1. Marika

          jo

          You may not have been referring specifically to Jeremy and his comments/situation, but Mrs H was. She told him he had unrealistic standards for desire. She specifically referred to spreadsheet guy and ‘dread game’ in her long comment about coercion. Nowhere in all of that was a recognition or an attempt to understand that one person unilaterally changing the rules with regard to sex some time into a marriage could be challenging for the other person, could be difficult, could make them feel unloved, could threaten the marriage, could have flow on effects to the children etc. etc.. I’ve also asked repeatedly for some clarity on what one could realistically do (other than the myriad things attempted by these men already) to try to get a sexual relationship back on track without inspiring any anxiety or without any level of coercion or whatever other language is being used, and without cheating. Nada.

          I’ve been personally forced into sexual acts that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I think many(/most?) women have. So I get this is an issue in dating. But I can also see that in no way relates to what Jeremy said – and there has been a definite effort (not by you) to link that sort of behaviour to what Jeremy talked about.

          Evan rarely wades into debates anymore. He interjected in this one because there have been some unfair conclusions drawn and links made. Not because any one of us thinks sexual assault is okay.

  17. 17
    Jeremy

    I’m going to get on my soapbox one last time – not for the benefit of the subset of women I’ve been arguing with, but for the silent majority who are here to learn about men and relationships. The reason I’ve argued as passionately as I have here is that I’ve found the posts so very triggering. They are the personification of all the bad attitudes that result in relationship melt-downs: The notion that “what I want is what matters, and if you want something else there’s something wrong with you.” If you enter into a relationship with another human being, a loving relationship, you have to realize that his pie-chart of wants doesn’t exactly match yours. That if you hope to BE loved, you have to SHOW love. You have to receive love from your partner in the way that is meaningful to you, but show love in the way that is meaningful to HIM. Not you. And if you don’t, then don’t expect to be shown love back. Because you are not entitled to love just because you want it, you are not entitled to a relationship just because you think you’ve earned it, you are not showing love just because what you’ve done for your partner is what you’d want yourself. Seriously, adopt the mentality advocated by certain posters here and watch your relationships melt down, ’cause they will.

    Do ask yourself what you need to be happy in a relationship, but don’t forget to also ask your partner! Do adopt your own perspective, but also remember to care about your partner’s. And for God’s sake, remember that you are not entitled to a relationship no matter how much of an asshole you are – so remember that asshole is a genderless noun in English, and try not to be one.

  18. 18
    Lynx

    The tl;dr version of all this:

    1. In the initial post, EMK makes the general observation: “People are NEVER going to do exactly what you want, when you want it, how you want it.”

    2. In comments, readers present a more specific example: As a marriage wears on, especially after kids are born, some wives may lose interest in sex.

    3. Eventually, EMK states: “You may be entitled to FEEL this way. But your spouse is entitled to be upset, to discuss, to cajole, and, if necessary, to leave because this need is being unmet.”

    4. Both before and after that statement, readers explore the boundary between what is reasonable “cajoling” and what is unreasonable coercion for sex.

    5. All stick tenaciously to existing beliefs. No one changes their viewpoint.

    1. 18.1
      jo

      Lynx, thanks for summarising. 🙂 I don’t know that I necessarily agree with your last point though. Not everyone had a viewpoint to begin with, because not everyone was married or in a relationship, or even if so, didn’t have strong views one way or the other. But speaking for myself: reading some people’s comments was enlightening, especially those of Sylvana and Mrs Happy. They have a gift of putting into words what people vaguely feel but can’t quite articulate. Putting those feelings into words is such a powerful thing. I would say that it gives some of us, if not a different viewpoint, then at least greater power – because now we have the words to communicate to others on the topic. So that is valuable.

      FTR, I always liked your intelligent comments too, even if you didn’t comment as regularly as others.

      1. 18.1.1
        Lynx

        Edit:

        5. Many stuck tenaciously to existing beliefs. Jo felt enlightened!

    2. 18.2
      Jeremy

      LOL, thanks for this, Lynx. Sounds about right.

      I was watching my fish this morning, as I like to do when I feel emotional turmoil. There is one particular type of fish that I have always found fascinating. It’s called the anthias fish. These fish must be kept in harems with at least 3-4 females for every male – any fewer females and the male will harass the females to death, trying to mate constantly. That isn’t particularly interesting to me – male harassment of females is common enough in nature. More interesting (to me) is the fact that all anthias are born female, and can decide to become male at any time. Once they decide to become male, they grow male organs, become larger and differently coloured, and are as male as any other male – and this all happens fairly quickly once decided.

      When I first researched these fish, I asked the marine biologist teaching me why any female would ever tolerate being harassed? If she found herself in a tank, bothered by a male, why wouldn’t she just decide to become male and avoid the harassment? And he replied that these fish must have some sort of intuitive understanding that becoming male doesn’t necessarily eliminate their problems, it just trades one set for another. Amazing, I thought, that fish have an intuitive understanding of this. I think about this as I watch the group of 4-5 female anthias huddled together in a social school, with the male off to the side by himself.

      1. 18.2.1
        Marika

        Philosophical question time…are fish, the fish?…

        1. Jeremy

          LOL. Is it Friday yet where you are? Here’s one that ties in well to this week’s blog drama:

          An old man heard a knock at the door. He opened the door to find a buxom young woman dressed in tight spandex and a cape.
          “Happy birthday!” she sang, “I’m here to give you super-sex!”
          The old man thought about it for a few seconds and replied, “Ok, I’ll have the soup.”

        2. Marika

          It certainly is! Friday morning. Still in bed…but shouldn’t be..

          Haha, so book clubs should also double as soup making clubs! 😉

          I have no joke, but a random Canadian fact (?) to share which I heard yesterday. Is it true in parts of your great nation that it’s illegal to leave cars locked in case people need to access them to escape from bears?

      2. 18.2.2
        Mrs Happy

        She’d be silly to become male. There’s no happiness or connection advantage in it.

        I think the male should swim over to the females and be friendly to them. Just, you know, hang out. Chat. Swish around. Smile a bit. He doesn’t have to stay alone getting lonely. He is letting biology dictate his life.

        I’m sorry you had to watch your fish, my dear.

  19. 19
    KK

    Hi Jeremy,

    In the #15 thread you asked, “And so my question to you. To you, Selena, Sylvana, Jo, and all the other women reading. A question whose answer I know in prospect, whose answer you will all vigorously defend: When is a woman obligated to stay with a man no matter how miserable she is”?

    Did she take vows? If yes, she’s obligated, regardless how she FEELS. Abandonment, abuse, infidelity with no true remorse or change in behavior… those are the exceptions.

    And, “When is her choosing to exit a relationship with him abusive toward him, regardless of how he feels about it”?

    It’s abusive to him if she abandons him when the above exceptions aren’t present, IMHO.

    1. 19.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Bullshit, KK. You don’t stay in a marriage because of vows.

      You stay in a marriage because you have a partner who is doing his best to meet your needs and largely succeeding.

    2. 19.2
      Jeremy

      KK, I respect the right of any individual to his or her beliefs. I have spent a lot of time, in the course of my life, thinking about religion. About its pros and cons to the individual and to humanity as a whole. And while I think that faith can be beneficial to those who seek it, I think that fanaticism is largely destructive. To me, one of the razors to distinguish belief from fanaticism is the difference between these 2 statements:
      – I don’t do something because it’s against my religion
      – I don’t do something because it’s immoral

      1. 19.2.1
        Mrs Happy

        I’m sorry if my leaving this thread annoyed you. In leaving this discussion I was perhaps too sensitive to my evaluation of our host’s mood. Also, I wasn’t enjoying the pile on, and was unimpressed with myself for not thoroughly predicting your feelings on this and not better trying to protect them when I wrote what were general comments. This all just unravelled and I felt to blame, so I left for a while hoping the fires would stop being stoked. BTW your anger wasn’t upsetting to me; I completely understood it, and all it was directed to, so found it sort of endearing.

        I heard everything you wrote and absolutely understand your point of view, and emotions around feeling manipulated and coerced, and get your suffering, and am sad any of that ever happened to you, and I didn’t write all that before, because it seems so obvious to me that I knew and felt that, but now I realise it wasn’t obvious to you. I was not picking on you.

        While understanding all your points, I wanted to have a turn speaking too, to present another view of people’s feelings around sexual behaviour. My comments were a general summary. Coercion is ubiquitous and I’m not a fan of it at all. You are right in stating there are various forms of coercion.

      2. 19.2.2
        Mrs Happy

        I hesitate to start this all again, but it’s important to point out that it is everyone, all of society, most/all religious laws, international legal rules, widespread cultural pressures, that differentiate work/acts done sexually, from those done for money. That is, your ‘magic vagina fallacy’ exists and is not a fallacy; magic sex thinking is the way the world is structured for everyone. If it were not, prostitution would be legal everywhere, rules on sex before marriage would be worthless, vast sexual experience wouldn’t devalue a person. Both men and women have a magic vagina fallacy.

        1. Jeremy

          Where I can agree with you and validate your perspective is on the topic of true sexual coercion, which, I agree, is and has been very common throughout history. True coercion, rape, harassment – I’ll be on the bench beside you at the protest, I’m with you there in defense of my daughters, wife, sister, mother, women everywhere. But when you start extending your definition of coercion to what we’ve been discussing here, to asking for sex in the context of marriage, to Spreadsheet Guy and his repeated rejections, you’ll find my spot beside you vacant. Because I can’t and won’t agree that asking for what you want (and letting your partner know that you’ll leave if you don’t occasionally get it) is coercion. If it was, SO much else would also be coercion. All those divorcing women, the 70% of divorces initiated by women over their unmet wants – would all be coercion. And they aren’t coercion.

          I think the problem here actually comes from the backlash to all the coercion that is legitimately out there. The militant stance that “my body is my body and you have no right at all to tell me what to do with it” is good and right and fair…..as long as no one else’s body is affected by that stance. But when you enter into a marriage, you take a vow of sexual monogamy – and so when you tell your partner that you won’t be having sex, you’re ALSO telling him that HE won’t be having sex. Change the “I” to “You” and we can begin to realize that it isn’t so simple of a discussion as pure bodily autonomy. Not unless one wants to do away with that pesky vow of monogamy, the one that ties my bodily autonomy to yours voluntarily.

          When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child, I made the decision to have a vasectomy to prevent future pregnancies. My wife asked me to wait until after the baby was born, telling me that my doing so was very important to her, that she’d be devastated if I didn’t wait. And waiting was extremely difficult for me – I was very fearful of the procedure and had repeated nightmares about it. I wanted to just get it over with, and the idea of waiting 9 more months stewing about it was…..unpalatable. Part of me reacted badly to her request – my body is my body after all, and I have the right to do as I please with it. But the better part of me understood her – that regardless of the truth of my previous sentence, my body isn’t the only thing involved here. If I’m unable to father more children, SHE is unable to have more children (in the context of the marriage we both entered into voluntarily). I can’t make decisions that affect both of us while only considering myself. At least, I can’t do so without being a complete and total asshole.

          And that’s the point I’ve been trying to make, really. That there’s a difference between what we have the right to do and what we should do in the context of a loving relationship. That while it behooves a man to realize that his wife doesn’t want to be pestered about sex, it EQUALLY behooves a woman to realize that men don’t take vows of sexual monogamy in order to be repeatedly rejected, sexually and emotionally, by their wives. That it’s a big deal.

          I have recently re-started therapy to help me overcome the PTSD that remains in me from those days, the spiraling negative emotions that persist in my psyche, that I relive constantly, despite the fact that I now have everything I ever wanted in my marriage. Repeated rejection by the person who’s supposed to love you is THAT damaging, Mrs H. Despite the fact that the women doing it don’t seem to acknowledge that it is rejection at all. Because it’s “just sex.”

        2. Jeremy

          And yes, both men and women have a magic vagina fallacy, and that fallacy is used, situationally, both to women’s disadvantage and advantage. You focus on the disadvantage, validly. I focus on the advantage, validly. Both exist.

          I hope you are well otherwise, and I apologize to you for my unseemly outburst above. I was angry, but that doesn’t excuse the way I attacked you.

        3. SparklingEmerald

          Jeremy said “. But when you start extending your definition of coercion to what we’ve been discussing here, to asking for sex in the context of marriage, . . .”

          Very good answer. I must admit, it the various discussions in several threads about husbands and sexual rejection, I really was rather baffled my Mrs H’s definition of “co-ercion”. I don’t get why anyone would go into a marriage, if they didn’t want to voluntarily have sex with their partner. I think once concepts of “sexual entitlement” “co-ercion” etc. come into the convo, the marriage is probably dead. If a husband and wife no longer WANT to make love, not out of a sense of duty, not out a sense of entitlement, but as way expressing love and affection, a source of of pleasure, etc. then they should part ways. I think real co-ercion would be one partner withdrawing sex completely (not talking about a slight mismatch in frequency desires), while demanding that the other partner stay in the marriage and keep their vow of fidelity.

        4. Marika

          I hope the therapy goes well, J. I’m sorry that experience was so damaging, I can completely understand why it would be, though.

          It’s so very important to be good to each other in dating / relationships, and of course, particularly in marriage. The importance of that tends to get lost in these comments sometimes I think. Second to your family of origin, love relationships can do a lot of damage if we aren’t aware of how our actions affect others. Sex is just one example, but a pervasive one, I think, certainly for men. It seems that bears repeating as not everyone can appreciate why.

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