Sexual incompatibility, angry neighbors, and (what else?) a destroyed marriage: jovial questions abound in this week’s Dear John.
I read a recent column on the Good Men Project, and something left me confused. In the article it’s mentioned that a couple found themselves to be sexually incompatible after waiting till marriage to be intimate.
This confused me because in my experience, the same personality traits that make someone a good kisser, or good at any other type of intimacy, are those which make a good lover. How can pre-sexual compatibility (proficiency at the other three bases) go together with sexual incompatibility?
Great question. It is entirely possible to have pre-sexual compatibility and sexual incompatibility due to the vastly different motives and states of mind we all have during these two distinct phases of a relationship.
First, what does it mean to be “sexually incompatible”? That phrase is a bit of a misnomer because it doesn’t mean a couple is truly incompatible (i.e., incapable of having sex together); it simply means they have different ideas about what should happen, where it should happen, how often it should happen, how long it should happen for, etc. It’s really a question of different, and possibly conflicting, sexual preferences.
When we are in a relationship but have not had intercourse yet, our preferences are much more likely to be aligned. We’ll make out where we can, when we can, because during that ephemeral, intoxicating phase, anything the other person wants to do is fine with us. We are at our most accommodating and open-minded because it is all new, exciting, and wonderful. And the prospect of it culminating in sexual intercourse at some point in the near future keeps us on our best behavior as we work toward that goal.
But once our relationship becomes sexual (whether we’re married or not) and a little time passes, everything becomes a bit more routine. The person who made you slightly dizzy just by being close becomes the person who’s kind of a pain when it’s time to pick out a movie. And what’s the deal with only wanting _______ during sex? Would it kill her to try _______ once in a while? The person we couldn’t imagine finding a single fault with becomes fairly riddled with them.
As it almost always does in relationships, the answer boils down to honest communication, flexibility, and open-mindedness, and an acknowledgment that your partner’s desires are as important as your own. If one partner only likes sex in the morning and the other only likes sex at night, I guess you could call it sexual incompatibility. I would call it being stubborn.
My husband and I moved from our last home about six months ago to a different house in the same city. We like change and have moved several times during our marriage. One of the motivating factors for moving this time was our extremely contentious relationship with one of our neighbors. My husband and I think that there is something really wrong with this person—his behavior was volatile and erratic. Sometimes he would get really angry if the kids were playing in our yard and being (in his opinion) too loud. And look out if a ball ever went into his yard! He called the police because of our barking dog, and the final straw for us was that he threatened to sue us over the placement of our air conditioning unit. We have always had good relationships with our neighbors and this was extremely upsetting to us.
The upside to all of this is that we have moved into a wonderful neighborhood and we love our new home. One of our new neighbors is having a party and I have learned that she is friendly with our former neighbor and has invited him to the party. When I told my husband this, he said he was going to tell the former neighbor off at the party. I am begging him not to say anything. I think it would be very rude to bring this up after all the time and effort our new neighbor is putting into creating a pleasant evening. My husband said that he’ll do it discreetly but I think it could still affect the vibe of the party. He does not agree with me and I said that I am writing to you! What would you think?
I agree that your husband should rethink his plan for one simple reason: you’ve asked him to. In any committed relationship, when one partner fervently wants the other to do something and the request is reasonable, the request should be honored. “Please poison the neighbor’s dog” fails the reasonable test; “Please don’t turn our new neighbor’s party into a street brawl” seems eminently reasonable to me.
I’m sure your husband’s anger is completely justified as your ex-neighbor sounds like he should be living under a bridge. (This is a troll reference, not a homelessness reference.) But venting it at this party is a bad idea that will only leave your hosts thinking of him the way he thinks of his nemesis. He needn’t act like he likes this man, but he should choose another time to let him know just how much he loathes him.
I have been separated from my husband for a year and divorced for just a couple of months. I was having a long-term affair and ultimately left my husband for the person that I was seeing. My ex and I have three children and we had a very civil divorce with the common goal of sparing our children any more pain. We have joint custody and we are able to resolve most issues without much of a problem. But there is one issue that my ex-husband is unwilling to budge on: he will not attend functions that my boyfriend attends. I mean the children’s games, recitals, holiday get-togethers, school functions, you name it. Whether my ex-husband likes it or not, this person is a big part of my life and also will be a significant part of our children’s lives. Easter is coming up and I would like for us all to celebrate it together. I have warm feelings for my ex and want to try and normalize our situation. I think my husband is doing the kids a disservice by refusing to participate. The ironic thing is that I think my ex would really like my boyfriend if they had met under different circumstances. I would understand if he fell in love and wanted his partner to participate. Can’t we all just try to be one big happy family?
I agree it would be wonderful if we could behave despicably and everyone hurt by our behavior could just shrug it off with a chuckle and a shake of the head. In the real world, though, treating people poorly typically makes them angry and resentful. Somehow, you’ve failed to learn this basic fact of human behavior, possibly because the only person whose needs you pay any attention to is you.
In attempting to spite you (an understandable, if not noble, desire), your ex-husband is unintentionally hurting himself and his kids: himself because he’s missing important events he will never get another chance to enjoy, and his kids because they want and need his love, support, and simple presence at these milestones.
In handling your divorce with a measure of civility, your husband has already shown a capacity for suppressing his pain in the interests of your children. Perhaps if you explain this situation to him in those terms, he will reconsider.
But there’s a possibility he simply can’t (or sincerely believes he can’t) bear to be around you and your boyfriend. In general, I don’t believe people should be allowed to hold others emotional hostage, but if this is the case, I think your boyfriend should stay home. The bottom line is that you have to do what’s best for your children, and what’s best for them is that the two people they think of as Mom and Dad are both present to witness their achievements. Perhaps in time it will be possible for all of you to attend these functions together, but if it happens at all, it will happen on his schedule, not yours. It’s amazing how uncooperative people can be—and with all your warm feelings for him, too!
What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]