She Makes Him Earn Sex
Q: I have been married to my wife for four years and we have two very young children. I work from home, watch the kids and take care of the housekeeping (although I'm not always able to keep up with everything). She works full-time with an ever changing schedule so there isn't any set day or time we can spend time together. We normally can find ways to make time but lately she has admitted that she has lost interest in having sex with me. Not sex in general but "sex with me." And now she makes me finish housekeeping tasks or has me watch the kids while she takes a nap or relaxes in some other way in order to earn sex. I feel used and manipulated. The sex isn't that good because I know she isn't enjoying it very much but I can't seem to turn it down because its all that I can get. What can I do to balance things out? -- Tony, 24
Dr. Susan: In a happy well-adjusted couple, bargaining such as you describe is not unheard of. It's often done playfully, with both partners feeling they benefit. If your wife hadn't said she'd lost interest in sex with you, it probably wouldn't be that big a deal if she said she'd do it with you after you give her a chance to take a nap or whatever. The larger problem is that the two of you don't seem to be communicating, particularly around the area of mutual resentments. You both work hard. You admit you can't always keep up with what she expects you to keep up with around the house. And while she puts in the hours outside the home, she also wants to spend time with her little kids, and she probably helps you catch up with whatever household chores haven't gotten done, and is probably very tired, as most young mothers are who are juggling multiple tasks. Sexual interest often flags at this time.
When she states that it's specifically you she's lost interest in, I wonder if she even realizes that she is angry at you about something. Perhaps she's not able to manage her busy life as well as she'd hoped, and she's blaming you for not doing enough to make it run more smoothly. I'm not saying you're not working just as hard, but what I mean is that sex is more important to you right now than it is to her, so that it feels like a demand or a little bit like another chore to her. Really, I think it's great that she's found a way to get herself in the mood for sex by napping or relaxing first, or by having some household task get done (by you), which means one less for her to think about. Ideally, sure, all men would love their mates to be as enthusiastic about sex as they are. But in a real world, the years spent raising young children and holding down busy jobs are tough on a couple's sex life. Believe me, it can get better again. I suggest you stop feeling manipulated, have an honest talk about what's going on in her head and in yours, and try to understand that it's fine for you to enjoy sex even if she's not at the top of her game sometimes. Loving couples can compromise every which way and so long as it "works," there's nothing wrong. Talk it out!
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.