Oct. 19 2011 12:00 AM

All work & no foreplay & the benefit of the dowdy


Q: My husband and I are entrepreneurs, developing
a new product. We’re both working long hours. He’s miserable because he
has no time for his art (painting), and our sex life is in shambles.
There isn’t a lot of blame or anger. We simply go about our entire days
with little or no flirting and fall into bed completely exhausted at
night. Even if we crave sex, we’re too tired. We kiss goodnight and
promise it’ll be different tomorrow or on the weekend, but it never is,
and I see no reason to believe things will change. We used to race home
from work to have wild sex and then do silly things together in the
evenings. People always called us “the sensual couple” because we
couldn’t keep our hands off each other. How can we get the zing back? 

—Accidental Celibate

A: Eighty percent of sex is just showing up. (The other 20 percent is remaining conscious while you’re having it.)

Of course, you’d need to leave work at a reasonable hour
to make your role-play in bed more dirty doctor/naughty nurse than
adjacent coma patients. I know, that’s not what it says you’re supposed
to do on your printout of the Puritan Work Ethic. Former Harvard
psychology professor Shawn Achor writes in “The Happiness Advantage”
that we’re taught that we have to sacrifice happiness for success and
told that only when we’re successful will we be happy. Achor counters
that happiness isn’t something that falls in your lap when you attain
some level of accomplishment; it’s “a work ethic.” He cites a decade of
research suggesting that happiness “raises nearly every business and
educational outcome: raising sales by 37 percent, productivity by 31
percent, and accuracy on tasks by 19 percent, as well as (leading to
myriad) health and quality of life improvements.”

Remember, people called you “the sensual couple” because
you couldn’t keep your hands off each other, not because you couldn’t
take your eyes off the clock. Ditching the clock for at least some of
the day is essential. It’s activities that make you lose track of time
that make you happy — activities like sex (and
painting) that also make you forget yourself and that package your
husband neglected to bring to the post office. To put this in
entrepreneurial terms, you need to relaunch your sex life and take it
as seriously as you would a business launch. Look at sex as a mandatory
meeting you need to have naked. And as unromantic as this sounds, you
need to put “flirt with husband” on your daily schedule —
until it becomes a habit again. Implied in that is “be fun!” Be silly
like you used to. Make an effort to leave work well before the cows not
only come home but start watching “Seinfeld” reruns. And replace any
motivational posters decorating your office with ones that reflect your
newfound knowledge of trickle-down happy-nomics, for example: “As you
climb the ladder of success, be sure to stop every now and then to let
your husband look up your dress” and “Behind every successful woman is
a man with his pants down.”

Q: I’m a recently divorced 40-something mom who’s
having trouble making female friends. I’m excluded from group
activities, and my attempts at get-togethers fall flat. I attributed
this to my being a bit quiet and reserved until a mom at school — previously a friend —
casually remarked, “You’re one of the moms we all love to hate!” What?!
What am I doing that makes me hateable? Male friends say it’s because I
am “hot” and “have a killer body” and other women are jealous. 

—Lone Mom

A: Middle-aged women who’ve gotten a little
frumpy, schlumpy, and stretchmarky cling to how “what’s on the inside
is what really matters”…right until what’s on the outside is a hot,
shapely, newly available divorcee collecting their husbands’ eyeballs
like the Pied Piper commandeering the rodent population of Hamelin.
Being “reserved” surely doesn’t help. If you were mousy, you’d probably
be considered shy. Being a looker and reserved possibly marks you as a
snob. To take this less personally, recognize that these women are
probably driven by fear, envy, admiration, and/or intimidation. To get
them to see you more as a person than a hot person, you need to extend
yourself: Be assertively friendly; join a volunteer organization so
people get to know you through your actions; and seek out women who
seem happy and secure. All in all, you need to be realistic. Understand
that the first thing in some women’s minds will always be how much
cuter they are when they aren’t standing next to you —
unless you’re dressed in something that’s figure-hugging in the manner
of those bags they zip the dead bodies into at the morgue.