Q: I got laid off when my company relocated. I was unemployed for 10 months while I tried unsuccessfully to find a job. During this time, my wife resented that she was working and I was “off.” She’d criticize the housework I did, saying I never dusted or swept well enough. She also complained that all her friends are going on vacations and cruises, and not us. I reminded her that, in this economy, many people who are financially strapped take “staycations.” She said that doesn’t make her feel better, and that she took more cruises and trips before she got married. I finally found a temporary but very stressful managerial job, and she now complains that I don’t have as much time for her. Is there hope for us?
A: In this economy, a lot of people are going without — without meat, without medical care, without Princess Cruises with open bars and 24-hour karaoke.
There you are, pounding the pavement looking for work for 10 months, and in case that isn’t emasculating enough, by the way, you’re also dusting wrong. Sure, being human, your wife might think, “Damn, I haven’t been on a cruise-ship shuffleboard court in over a year!” Being a loving partner entails not letting her every thought leap out of her mouth in the form of words — especially if you don’t exactly have a history of quitting your job to smoke pot and study patterns in the wallpaper.
Acting all lovey dovey comes easy on the Lido deck, where the big question is “More Dom, darling?” To see how much love you actually have, raise glasses of tap water to an improved economy while sitting in your candle-lit living room (candle-lit till you cobble together the deposit to get the lights turned back on). Because women evolved to go for providers, having a partner who’s out of a job can push a woman’s buttons. So, it is possible your wife loves you, and it’s just her fear and anxiety talking. Fear: “What if I never see another ice sculpture?!” Anxiety: “Hey! I went on more cruises before we were married!” And then there’s you, the voice of restraint, in that you don’t snap back, “Feel free to up the number again after we’re divorced!”
I suggest doing what therapist Nathaniel Branden calls “an experiment in intimacy.” Spend 12 hours together in a hotel room: no books, TV, phone calls, naps, or walks outside. Except for bathroom breaks, you remain together at all times. You can sit in silence if you want, but you’re free to talk about anything, provided it’s personal (no talk of work, kids’ schoolwork, redecorating, etc.). Branden’s premise is that when all avenues of escape are closed off, couples experience real breakthroughs in communication. He says that only three times in 20 years did couples break up after the 12-hour session.
Now, you two might end up Branden’s breakup number 4. Or, maybe your wife will decide that she has much to be grateful for — you, for starters, and all you’re doing to ensure that you’re only taking “staycations,” not foreclosurecations. (That’s when you permanently vacate your home and take up residence in a parking lot in your as-of-yet unrepo’d car.) You can have a lovely view of the ocean — whenever you sneak through the framed picture aisle at Walmart on your way to the john.
Q: I’m a 35-year-old straight man in really good shape. I’m online dating, and want to post a picture of myself shirtless. A female co-worker says no way; women will be totally turned off. Really?
—Best Side Forward
A: Take your cue from women’s magazines, which are wildly lacking in shots of men with greased pecs chopping wood and other popular gay calendar outtakes. While men are turned on by photos of the scantily clad opposite sex, that’s just not what works for women. In fact, for most women, a man who shows off his body seems girly, and sends the message that he’s vain: “I usually take my mirror on dates, but maybe I can make room for you!”
Because women seeking men generally prioritize success over looks, that’s what you should be flexing, with subtlety, in your profile. It is a plus if you have the inverted vee body women favor — broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist — but that’ll come across just fine in a T-shirt and jeans. If you post a shirtless photo, your shirtlessness should seem incidental, like someone just happened to have a camera at beach volleyball…not like your shirt just happened to be off when you stepped in front of your hand which just happened to be holding your camera.