Aug. 17 2011 12:00 AM

Piece treaty & Sex and the cellar


Q: Recently, you published a letter from a married
man complaining about his wife’s letting their two young children sleep
in their marital bed with them. They’d gone from being a couple who
didn’t have much sex to a nearly sexless one. You seemed to suggest that
the guy bargain for sex from his wife: “Talk about how much sex you’d
like, and how much she’s willing to provide, and work out a compromise.”
My question is, “Why bother?” Since they’re married, it’s unlikely he’s
a sex object or love object to her. It seems more likely that he’s just
a trapped meal ticket. If that’s the case, he should get his wife to
sign an OK for extramarital activity. Life is too short to put up with
people who don’t appreciate you.

—Take My Advice

A: The extramarital sex treaty. Brilliant. A man
need only ask his wife to sign on the dotted line, and she’ll start
rummaging through her purse for her favorite pen. Before long, he’ll be
stumbling through the door all skanko at 11:30 p.m., and she’ll look up
from her Sudoku and chirp, “Did you have a nice night with the hookers,

Yes, life is too short to put up with someone who doesn’t appreciate you —
until you and that someone say to each other, “Wouldn’t it be totally
cute if we made little people who look just like us?!” Divorce eats
children and only seems to be the step to take if the parents’ marriage
is chronically and intensely ugly. In reviewing the body of research on
divorce, Dr. Paul R. Amato found that children of divorced parents
“score lower … on measures of academic success, conduct, psychological
adjustment, self-concept, social competence, and long-term health.” On
the bright side, they’re usually able to play their parents against each
other so they can get more sugary snacks and much cooler toys. 

Of course, on a pure fairness level, you don’t get to be married to somebody and be all “I’m retiring from sexual activity” —
not unless you answer “That’s nice, dear” to your spouse’s “I’m just
running over to borrow a cup of sex from the lady next door.” Fairness
aside, sending the husband out to shop elsewhere for nookie is a bad
idea. Sex between people in a relationship isn’t just a day in naked
Disneyland but a way they cleave to each other emotionally and even
biochemically and maintain a relationship that goes deeper than a
roommate situation with a lifetime lease.

Was I suggesting that they haggle over sex like it’s a
scarf in a bazaar? Well, yes, but it sounds better when you call it
“coming to a marital compromise.” By talking about how often he’d like
to have sex and how often she’s willing to put out, they may stem the
resentment that builds up when needs go ignored and find out whether
there’s anything she needs that he isn’t providing. I wrote recently
about Dr. Rosemary Basson’s breakthrough work on female sexual desire —
how women in long-term relationships sometimes have to start fooling
around for desire to come. Even if these two don’t know that, if they
start scheduling sex dates, they’re likely to find out. In the process,
they should develop conflict resolution skills beyond simply refusing to
put up with anyone who doesn’t appreciate them. That idea’s great in
concept, but take it to its inevitable conclusion and, well, who’s going
to take care of the millions of children who get dropped off at the
fire station with a bag lunch and a note?

Q: I’m 26, and I’m trying to start my own business
as an events photographer. To save money, I’ve moved into my parents’
house. I have been dating some and get the feeling that girls aren’t so
keen that I live with my parents. But then, part of me thinks, so what?
I’m saving and doing the right thing. 

—Basement Dweller

A: Living at home puts a certain crimp in sexytime.
A woman can’t help but picture getting it on with you only to have your
mom interrupt with “Hey, you kids, just lift your feet while I vacuum.”
In this economy, moving in with your parents is somewhat more
acceptable than it’s been, but 26 is kind of pushing it in many women’s
eyes. Women look for a man to show potential —
and not just the potential to mooch off his parents for the next five
decades. You’ll improve your chances with the ladies if you present your
current living situation as part of a serious business plan, which
suggests that there’s light at the end of the basement, and not just
from the furnace pilot. That’s right; you’re a man who’s going places.
Just as soon as your mom pulls your laundry out of the dryer.