July 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
When you’re newly married, in love and childless, sex is usually pretty easy to keep at the top of the agenda. But what happens when a romantic slump sets in while you’re still young, mad about each other and have a butt whose size is relatively similar to the one you had when you got hitched? For Angela and Lane, a young couple married for several years who are now dealing with Lane’s disinterest in sex, the problem started a bit too soon.
Angela’s turn She and Lane haven’t successfully had sex in eight months; he usually flat-out shuts down Angela’s advances, and when he doesn’t he can’t keep an erection. They’ve always had amazing chemistry and equally amazing sex, and Lane was always a generous lover. But after one unsuccessful attempt that ended with Lane insisting there was nothing wrong and turning on the TV, they haven’t so much as cuddled. One of Angela’s friends is pregnant, which makes her insanely jealous because she’s dying to start a family, too. She’s terrified that her husband doesn’t find her attractive anymore and tells him so constantly – and she also tells him she refuses to stay in a sexless marriage.
Lane’s turn He feels like a complete failure at absolutely everything – his job, his marriage and his life in general. He’s scared to initiate sex because he’s sure he’ll fail again, and when Angela says it must be because he’s no longer attracted to her, it makes him feel worse. Lane works for the family business and feels like a loser there, too, since he isn’t as successful as his older brother, who’s always been better than Lane at everything. The incident Angela mentions as the start of their problems happened after Lane had just lost a big contract at work and his brother secured one. Then Angela told him their friend was pregnant and he started to think about supporting a family on his own – and freaked out. He’s not sure he’s ready to be a father yet, but it’s a moot point since they can’t have sex anyway. He doesn’t want to lose his wife over this but can’t see how to fix it.
The counselor’s turn The cause of Lane’s erectile dysfunction, or ED, was purely emotional. At work, he was terrified of making a mistake and regretted not pursuing another career. At home, he feared not being able to support his family and was embarrassed about his problems in bed. The counselor started by having Lane write out on paper his successes at work, and he realized he was more than adequate and even equal to his brother. As for parenthood, Lane feared losing his independence just as much as supporting his family, so he and Angela discussed it and promised that they would still travel, spend time together and do the things they loved as individuals after the kids come. Angela also realized she wasn’t quite ready for kids herself but felt compelled after her friends starting having babies, so they agreed to start trying in a few years, which eased Lane’s anxiety. And as for sex, once Angela realized her attractiveness had nothing to do with Lane’s ED, she stopped panicking and taking it personally. They worked to resume non-sexual contact, like massages and cuddling, and gradually resumed their once-active sex life. If it doesn’t happen one night, they don’t make a big deal of it and are able to make it work the next time. Lane is thriving on the job, too, and no longer feels like a failure.
July 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
If only all blended families could resemble The Brady Bunch: a life of zany hijinks and good-natured ribbing where the biggest problems involve the race for class president and who stole Cindy’s Kitty Karry-All doll. In real life, creating a new family from the parts of an old one is much more complicated. When Lisa, a 39-year old mother of two teen girls from a previous marriage, wed John, a successful 52-year-old businessman with no kids of his own, one child adjusted quickly while the other outright revolted.
Lisa’s turn Her 16-year-old daughter, Ali, is making their lives hell. She’s disrespectful, defiant and ignores the rules of the house. Ali was just 5 when Lisa and her ex-husband, Ken, split up, and she’s never been able to adjust. And Ken isn’t helping, either: He’s asked Ali to live with him full-time and promised her no curfew and a car, though he’s completely unreliable when it comes to seeing the girls or dropping them off. Lisa tried to make her first marriage work for years but eventually gave up, and she’s tried hard to do everything right in her new marriage, too, including taking it slow when introducing John into her girls’ lives. In fact, she’s always tried too hard in everything – she’s constantly told she’s too nice. The situation with Ali really came to a head when she shoved Lisa after an argument, John grabbed Ali’s arm, and Ali reacted by calling the police.
John’s turn Ali has been a headache from day one. John has tried and tried to love her like he loves her mom and sister, but the kid won’t give an inch. She blames John for her parents’ divorce, even though John and Lisa hadn’t even met until three years later, and it kills him to see how hard Lisa tries to make it work. They’ve taken away Ali’s privileges, grounded her and bent over backwards to please her and nothing’s worked. He can’t tolerate Ken – the man is always messing up their plans and is horribly irresponsible – and he can’t stand how Lisa lets her ex walk all over her. The stunt with the police put him over the edge. He doesn’t mean to take his anger at Ali out on his wife, but he can’t take much more if this situation doesn’t change. Read more
July 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Chances are that the husband you’re currently married to is, at least in some ways, different from the man he was when you first laid eyes on him. Odds are also pretty good that you’ve changed a bit, too. (And not just in dress size.) Hopefully the differences are good, and you’ve grown together as a couple. But Pam, a 41-year-old marketing manager, and her lawyer husband, Ross, 45, have decidedly grown apart. (Read the full story in our August issue, which hits newsstands this week!)
Pam’s turn Ross is more like her roommate than her husband. Their conversations never go deeper than the grocery list, and his 60-hour workweeks leave her stuck with all the parenting duties even though she works as well. If she complains about feeling overwhelmed, he’ll help for a few days then go back to his old ways. She knows their relationship isn’t terrible, but whenever she expresses that she misses their closeness, Ross says it’s not that bad and refuses to discuss it. And she’s in charge of everything around the house, not just parenting. The man can’t give her a single opinion – it’s like he’s an employee waiting for instructions. She’s also overwhelmed caring for her aging parents. The final straw came when she almost had an affair with a coworker because for once, she’d found someone that made her feel like a whole person, not just the director of the family.
Ross’s turn Pam seems so much happier at work than she does at home, and it makes Ross sad. He’s jealous of her coworkers and can’t remember the last time her eyes lit up for him like they do when she talks about them. He doesn’t think they live separate lives, just that they’re busy with work and the kids and can’t spend time together like they used to. Whenever he tries to help around the house, Pam criticizes him or asks why he didn’t do other chores, too. Her anger is off the charts, and they have epic battles every time they fight, so he avoids the confrontations completely. And of course he has ideas and opinions, he’s just been deferring to her to keep the peace. He didn’t mean to brush her off and doesn’t want a divorce. Read more
July 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Between pop-up ads, risque tabloids, celeb gossip sites and spam email, sometimes it seems like online porn is everywhere. One thing’s for sure: If you’re looking for x-rated content on the web, you won’t have a problem finding it. The accessibility and (relative) discretion of viewing the content raises tons of issues for couples like 29-year-old Mia, a stay-at-home-mom, and her 30-year-old realtor husband, Carson. (Read the full story here.)
Mia’s Turn This isn’t the first time she’s caught her husband looking at online porn. She discovered his habit three years ago, they had a huge blowout and he promised to stop – but clearly he hasn’t. He also blames her for it, saying he wouldn’t need the sites if they had sex more often, which infuriates her. It’s his problem, not hers! They have a 4-month-old son and she’s so tired all she wants to do in bed is sleep. He’s also a huge flirt, hugging and chatting up other women, and it drives her crazy. Carson’s father used to make lewd comments about women in front of Carson’s mother and no one made an issue of it. Mia’s own parents were proper and buttoned-up, so her father-in-law’s behavior and her husband’s porn habits totally appall her. She feels as betrayed as if he physically cheated.
Carson’s Turn He feels completely sexually rejected by his wife. He hates fighting about it or upsetting her, so he does what he needs to do in his private time. Looking at online porn is just a physical thing – he doesn’t have a steady “partner” he chats with so there’s no relationship – and he feels he has no other choice since his wife shuts him down all the time. He’d never have an affair and thinks she should be happy he’s not running around with someone else. He understands his flirting makes her uncomfortable but doesn’t see the harm since he’d never actually cheat; it’s innocent. And though he’s embarrassed by his dad’s sexist comments, too, he still thinks Mia should ignore them.
The Counselor’s Turn Just as an affair can indicate that a marriage needs a wake-up call, so can a habit like Carson’s. They were both uncomfortable talking about sex, for different reasons, so they never discussed their unhappiness. Carson’s viewing tastes tended towards standard sexual situations, so his interest in porn was pretty normal. Mia had to understand that his porn-watching didn’t mean anything about her – that she was unattractive or that he didn’t love her – but she also had to accept that her constant rejection of his advances helped in part to drive him away. Men equate sex and love, and if he felt desired and wanted, the counselor thought he’d stop looking elsewhere. Mia also withheld sex to get back at him for flirting and for when he ignored her valid concerns about his behavior. Carson first needed to limit his flirtations with other women, which he succeeded in doing once he realized how much it hurt his wife. Once she saw the improvement, Mia began to accept his advances more and learned to gently decline when she’s not in the mood. As for the porn, Carson quit the habit cold-turkey, and since their sex life has improved he hasn’t felt the need to use it anyway.
June 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
We’ve all had our share of stressful days at the office, after which we’ve gone home to greet our hubbies with little more than a peck and a grunt. But for Jon, a 38-year-old chief financial officer at a small engineering firm, every day is sheer torture. And his wife, Lara, a stay-at-home mom to their 1-year old son, can’t deal with his stress any longer.
Lara’s turn Jon is completely shut-down, anxious and jumpy, and ignores her and their son. She wants to help ease his stress and empathize, but every time she asks a question about his day he snaps at her. He’d been out of work before he took this new job, so she understands he’s reluctant to leave it, but his boss is a raving tyrant. She did anticipate that Jon would work hard, but he’s doing more than that, keeping his phone on at all hours and skipping weekend activites. They haven’t been married very long and Jon didn’t work for much of the marriage, so she knows they’ll be able to survive if he gets out of this horrible situation. So why won’t he help himself?
Jon’s turn He’s so tense from the situation at work that he has no energy left for his wife or his son. He’d heard his new boss was difficult, but he had no idea it would be this bad. The man bullies everyone, berates his employees and calls Jon at 2 in the morning. He was happy at his former job but when the company moved to a new state and Jon didn’t go along, he thought he could find something else he liked just as much. Now, he feels stuck and he’s not sure why – maybe because he was recently unemployed or because his own father unhappily stayed at the same company his whole career to provide for the family. Jon plans to stick it out and learn to deal with his ogre of a boss, but he’s resigned to a life of misery that his wife can’t accept. Read more
June 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
It’s true that the mother-in-law, or, as she’s often known these days, MIL, gets a bad rap. (Monster In Law, anyone?) Even the way she’s referred to, with the “in law” bit, implies a certain coldness and distance that’s not always the case. But for Kathy, a mom of two young girls who’s been married to John for five years and hated his mother for all of them, her MIL may as well be from H-E-L-L.
Kathy’s turn Her MIL is an intrusive, bullying troublemaker, and her husband won’t stand up to the woman. Barbara blames Kathy when John doesn’t return her calls, whines that her son loves his wife more than her, shows up at their home unannounced and refuses to come over without her dog, who bites. John tries to ignore her, leaving Kathy to run interference, and criticizes her behind her back but won’t say so to her face. He stifles all his anger then explodes when Kathy complains, punching walls and throwing things. Kathy’s been a people-pleaser since childhood, so she tries to smooth things over, but the stress ends up making her anxious and gives her headaches and insomnia. She won’t stay married to a man who won’t stand up for her.
John’s turn He knows his mother is a total nightmare. She throws fits if she’s made to wait at a restaurant, only gives presents with strings attached and lashes out in anger constantly. She got pregnant young and left John to be raised by his grandparents, so he’s never had a relationship with her and doesn’t want one now, and his solution is to avoid her as much as possible. Their phone conversations are the same every time: She complains about their relationship, invites herself over and freaks out when he says no. But he’s a people pleaser, too, and he feels obligated to stay in contact. And he hates losing his temper but his mom makes him so angry he can’t help himself. He’s desperate to gain control over his mom and his marriage.
The counselor’s turn In-law problems are very common, but this case is extreme. Barbara is narcissistic, needy and irrational, and it’s not surprising that her son doesn’t know how to deal with her. There are two choices: sever ties with Barbara completely or set iron-clad limits and stick to them. Separately, Kathy had to deal with her anxiety, which stemmed from her childhood and grew worse with her MIL, and she needed to stop trying to “fix” the mother-son relationship. First, John agreed to call his mom at scheduled times, and she began to ease up on the phone calls once she knew she’d hear from him. If Barbara started to get upset, John refused to engage her and politely got off the phone, and when she didn’t get the reaction she wanted, she stopped flipping out. John also learned to express himself to Kathy, and letting his feelings out helped him manage his temper. With the added structure, the mother-son relationship has improved, though they’ll never be best friends, and Kathy no longer feels responsible for making everyone happy. The couple is a united front, and Barbara is less of an enemy.
June 9, 2011 at 11:43 am , by Jennifer Castoro
Texting, emailing and chatting online with your spouse each day can be a great way to stay connected (and remind him to walk the dog and buy some TP). But when face-to-face conversations are completely replaced with digital ones, your easy solution becomes a big problem. Heidi, a high-earning management consultant with two preteen kids, and her husband, Brett, a part-time paralegal, only communicate via texts and emails while Heidi’s away for work.
Heidi’s side It’s too tough to find the time to call while she’s away all week, so texting and emailing are perfect solutions. She’s in constant contact with her husband, sometimes sending 15 messages in a day, yet Brett still accuses her of ignoring him. Yes, they’re short and to the point, but what does he want, love letters? Things have to be done while she’s away and if Heidi doesn’t remind him, it won’t happen. She feels horribly guilty that she’s missing her girls’ childhoods but she’s the breadwinner and has no choice. She bought her girls cell phones to keep in touch, which Brett mocks as “teleparenting,” but it’s the best she can do. She’d love to work less if her husband would find better employment, but since he won’t help lighten her load, he needs to stop criticizing her about it. Read more