Marriage Difficulties: Trouble between the spreadsheets?
When a husband documents the reasons why his wife refuses to have sex with him and it goes not only public but viral, it leaves much to be desired, says Judith Woods
Men are from Mars. That’s a given. Women are from Venus. That’s even more of a given (but don’t say so because you know how they overreact). And the darkly hilarious marriage spreadsheet that’s just gone viral, where did that come from? A sinister black hole, that’s where.
A supermassive black hole at that, packed with all the incomprehension, misinterpretation and Battle of the Sexes bewilderment that is always out there, but only becomes visible to the naked eye during intergalactic conflict.
The spreadsheet allegedly emailed in a fit of priapic pique by a frustrated US husband denied his conjugal rights is — fake or not — an exquisite primer in the fundamental ways in which men and women are from different planets.
He lists the “excuses” why his 26-year-old wife has rejected his amatory overtures on 27 days out of 30. (Maybe it’s because I’m not 26, but I think he’s doing quite well.) Any more advances and I’d be considering a restraining order.
But a lusty chap, indignant at being thwarted, sees only the misses (and indeed the missus), not the hits.
It’s reminiscent of the split-screen scene in Annie Hall where two therapists ask husband and wife the same question: “Do you have sex often?” Him: “Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.” Her: “Constantly! I’d say three times a week.”
Any woman reading the spreadsheet would also concur that “I ate too much” is a perfectly legitimate reason to roll over and go Trouble between the spreadsheets? to sleep. Ditto “You’re too drunk”.
And – hands up, ladies – who wouldn’t prefer him to put it away so you can watch a rerun of Friends (woah there, sisters! You almost took my eye out).
Any man reading the same document would be vicariously outraged by the husband’s pain (irritation is probably more apposite, but in this regard, as in so many others, the melodramatic Man Flu principle applies).
But can a spreadsheet save a marriage? If there were documentary evidence, a charge sheet of crimes and misdemeanours, promises not kept, bins not emptied and shelving not erected, would that help rekindle the romance?
“I think the fact that the guy communicates via a spreadsheet is the reason why he’s not getting sex,” is the verdict from relationship counsellor Francine Kaye. “If a man wants to be desired, he has to speak to a woman’s femininity. He has to stop complaining and start thinking ‘What do I have to do in order for her to want to have sex?’”
A good start is the kind of wooing behaviour most husbands assumed they had left behind as soon as the ring was on the bridal finger. Erroneously, they think that compliments and flowers, handholding and general attentiveness are not just unnecessary but cheesy once they are married. Cheesy they may be, but necessary — as attested by the short shrift given to Mr Spreadsheet.
However, Mrs Spreadsheet might need to start thinking outside the box (and inside the bed) a bit more as well. “One recommendation I always make to couples with problems is to have sex first thing in the morning,” says Kaye, author of The Divorce Doctor. “That releases tension for a man and he goes off happy to work calm and focused.”
Such sentiments may appear anti-feminist. But a mismatch of desire is a recognised stress point in many failing relationships and Kaye is a clear-eyed pragmatist. “Unless there’s a clinical reason not to have sex, then it is a crucial component of a marriage.”
Sex has always been a source of tension as much as tendresse; a bargaining tool, a theatre of conflict, a weapon. Lysistrata, the anti-war comedy by Aristophanes, famously features a sex ban by the women of Ancient Greece, who withhold all favours in a strategy designed to end the Peloponnese War.
In recent times, the author and former enfant terrible music journalist Julie Burchill revealed
that she went to great lengths to avoid going to hotels with any of her husbands as it would mean having to sleep with them. While the rest of womankind might not share her distaste, we sure know what she means. But an even greater taboo is the loss of libido in men. According to the stereotype, if men have a sexual problem, it’s that they can’t get enough, while women are the ones who invent headaches and feign sleep.
But for every disconsolate man with an actual (or metaphorical) spreadsheet of misery, there is an equally unhappy woman feeling rejected and unloved.
In fact, a study by Relate in the UK found that, for half of the couples who attended counselling, the problem involved the man — most commonly, lack of desire or erectile
When a husband documents the reasons why his wife refuses to have sex with him and it goes not only public but viral, it leaves much to be desired, says Judith Woods dysfunction.
There’s a growing theory among professionals that we are expecting more of ourselves and men, like women, are feeling the pressure.
“We want a lot from men,” says sex and relationship psychologist Petra Boynton. “They’re meant to be not only breadwinners, but also doting, hands-on dads who deliver mind-blowing orgasms. Men are expected to want sex from puberty to death but, in reality, a man’s sex drive can fluctuate. It could be that he’s stressed, unhappy, tired or under pressure at work.”
Saucy underwear and seduction are unlikely to be a quick fix, and Boynton counsels against it. Like a spreadsheet, it’s window-(un) dressing the symptoms rather than addressing the cause.
Verbal communication is a way forward. Documenting the positives rather than the negatives doesn’t just work for toddlers, it reminds grownups that beneath the daily grind they like, love and want to please one another.
Men may be from Mars and women may be from Venus but the moon, as every child knows, is made of cheese. And infantile though it might sound, the occasionally cheesy Post-It comically declaring love or, better still, lust, unexpectedly stuck on the bathroom mirror or on the ironing board is much more likely than a spreadsheet to raise a smile.
And who knows, perhaps a little more.
I’m just doing a 360 degree appraisal of your core competencies, darling...
Moving forward, I’d say you could paradigm shift back to the spare room. Again.
Moving forward, I’d say you could paradigm shift to the spare room. Again . I’m just doing a 360 degree appraisal of your core competencies, darling...