Copyright 1998 Kathryn Grosz. Nothing in these articles in whole or in part may be duplicated in any way.
I want to ask my girlfriend to marry me, but I do not know how to know if we are going to be compatible for the long term. Right now it seems like we have a match made in heaven. We never fight. I think we are perfect for each other. How do I assess our long term chances?
Long-term marital satisfaction can be assessed. Several studies have been done in recent years that look at what determines long-term happiness. Particularly interesting findings were reported in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology by John M. Gottman and Lowell J. Krokoff. In your situation, you may want to carefully understand the dynamics of this study because people who "never fight" do not necessarily have long-term marital bliss.
This is what the study found. Couples that avoid conflict risk divorce and dissatisfaction in the long run. This is because by avoiding conflict, they may have unresolved critical areas of conflict that undermine the relationship over time. They may also not develop the confidence that they can weather conflict together. This causes the relationship to break down in later years.
The study found that conflict is actually good for the relationship in the long run as long as it is not characterized by defensiveness, stubbornness and withdrawal (particularly on the part of husbands). Amazingly enough, couples that engage in conflict early in their relationship may have the most satisfying relationships in the long term, despite the dissatisfaction and negativity in the home early in the relationship. These couples learn to be successful at resolving their disagreements, develop confidence in doing so and are characterized by happiness in the long term.
Wives who are positive and compliant fare batter in the short term, but the marital satisfaction of these couples deteriorates over time. The happiness of wives improves over time if they express anger and contempt during conflict. The happiness of wives declines if they express sadness or fear during conflict. Engaging in conflict showed short term dissatisfaction but long term satisfaction.
Husbands who are stubborn and withdraw are the most harmful to long term marital happiness. Whining on the part of the husband predicts deterioration of happiness for both partners over time. Several other studies showed that husbands are self-disclosing in happy marriages and withdrawn in unhappy marriages. Engaging in conflict showed short term dissatisfaction but long term satisfaction.
The recommendations for marriage by the two authors is that "...wives should confront disagreement and should not be overly compliant, fearful, and sad but should express anger and contempt. Husbands should also engage in conflict but should not be stubborn or withdraw. Neither spouse should be defensive."
During disagreements, wives tend to confront the issue and reinforce their feelings about it while the leans towards the conciliatory and to factual explanations. Wives generally bring up the issues and elaborate on them more than men. Women tend to be the managers of marital disagreements. In light of this, the authors recommend that "... she may need to do this by getting her husband to confront areas of disagreement and to openly vent disagreement and anger." As long as he isn't whining, stubborn, withdrawing, or defensive (both partners).
I hope this information sheds some light on what elements lead to long-term marital bliss.
Let me preface my letter by a description: I am 50 years old. I have my own hair and teeth. I work out and am in good shape, and I have good personal hygiene. I'm no Robert Redford, but I'm not ugly. And I've never met, dated, lived with, or married a woman who wanted, liked, or demanded sex.
I discovered your magazine, Passionate Living, as well as Libido and others at tower Books. I have several questions. While I understand the purpose of the four-color slick magazines that range from Playboy and Hustler all the way to explicit hard core pornography, I do not understand your approach. Are you and the magazines like yours dressed up sex magazines for guilty intellectuals?
I have come to assume that most of the sexual fantasies purported to be by women are the work of men. In fact, I doubt that there is a woman on your staff who isn't being paid to front for a man or men.
Please don't get me wrong: If it weren't for sex workers (prostitutes, models, etc.), I would not have any sex life at all! Therefore I am not criticizing or passing judgment on anything except the pretense that women have sexual fantasies or enjoy sex with men.
My first wife and I were married for eight months, and we parted, her virginity intact. At least, I think so. I never got close enough to look. The last I heard, she had joined some Hindu or Buddhist order as a nun. My second wife (who was homeless and had an infant when I met her) and I had had sex four times when she became pregnant. After that: never. I lived with her four years because of the kids until she disappeared one day. I recently found my stepdaughter and daughter again, who told me that their mother had lived with a succession of gay men and is a recovering drug addict.
My third wife was sweet, gentle, and liked to cuddle. Our sex life for fourteen years consisted of sex about once a month in the bed, in the dark with clothes on. She didn't want her breasts or genitals touched, and she never touched mine or moved her body at all. Sex was to keep me, in her words, "from getting too grumpy."
I recently dated a thirty-five year old widow, who after two months of seeing each other, wanted to marry me but said that sex wasn't on the agenda. She told me that her late husband was "too demanding" and that she was "through with that kind of stuff".
My sisters, sisters-in-law, and other women that I know all claim that it is men who "need" sex. Women need shelter and comfort whether they make their own livings or not. Their husbands readily confirm that. One of the turning points in my third marriage was when I realized that I got sex the day or day after my pay check was deposited in our account. I further realized that, when I was out of work or on vacation without pay, my wife would not have sex with me. Any attempt to seek counseling was met with gentle ridicule or, if I persisted, stubborn refusal. Recently I met with that ex-wife, who said she missed me and missed sleeping with me. When I asked about sex, she said that we were both too old for that nonsense. She had just turned forty!
Since my last divorce, I have placed ads in the local alternative weekly. When I made my intentions explicit, I found several women who were willing to be sexually active for money, clothes, a car, or an apartment. They might not have been prostitutes, but they were business women. Is oral sex worth the price of a Camero? My answer is yes, but I can't afford it.
If men were getting it at home, would the sex industry be so large? Would prostitutes and streetwalkers be a problem? Would there be so many topless bars, X-rated bookstores and telephone lines, and sexually explicit popular and literary novels, as well as porn magazines and magazines such as yours?
I think that the billions that the sex industry makes is the answer to my questions. I have nothing against women who do it for money. I have no religious bias or moral judgment to offer against them. I do, however, feel cheated when writers offer sexual fantasies as originating from women. Every woman that I have had any relationship with had denied masturbating or having sexual fantasies, even in the late sixties when I lived in San Francisco, reputed home of the sexual revolution. I had long hair, I went to the dance concerts, and I had nothing but commercial sex from 1966-1969 because I could not get it any other way.
I repeat: I am not ugly or offensive or rude or demanding. I was raised to be respectful of women and men. I had no dates in high school or whenever I was out of work. I have little money now. Could that be my problem?
When the staff at NSS (consisting of four women) first showed my your letter my jaw dropped in disbelief. Then the staff at NSS (consisting of four women) and I pulled ourselves together after a few choice comments, and reread your first paragraph. We realized that unfortunately you have been deprived, denied, and deluded.
Your main theme is that women do not like or want sex. There is no simple answer for you.. As a generalization, many women are less interested in sex than men. For both men and women, sex drive is generated by the hormone testosterone. Women have far far less testosterone than men. Therefore, for most their focus on sex is far less than a man's. But, there is a great deal of variation between individuals. That is why some women wants lots of sex and some men want very little sex.
Recently I was told about a woman who never had much interest in sex. In her 50's she recently went through menopause and has been given testosterone supplements to help her sex drive. It apparently has helped too much. This woman now wants sex constantly. Although married, she is now going out to bars and picking men up for one night stands and not being careful to use safe sex. Obviously the testosterone worked and she is probably taking far too much. Never having had much interest in sex, and now having a great time, she is also using poor judgement in finding ways to satisfy her sexual desires and refuses to tell her doctor about her excess sexual interest. I have thought that it would be a good experience for women to have just one testosterone injection so they could relate to male sexual desire.
It seems almost impossible for the writer to have "... never met, dated, lived with, or married a woman who wanted, liked, or demanded sex." Women do like and want sex. I like and want sex. I have dated men that were more interested in sex and men that had significantly lower sex drives than me.
The writer makes some false assumptions as to what will make him desirable to women. He says he has his own hair and teeth and is not ugly, offensive, rude or demanding. He even had long hair in the 60's and attended dance concerts! That is all well and good. But, simply having a few reasonable characteristics does not entitle you to have sex with a woman nor does it in any way make you attractive. Just mechanically doing what you think it takes will make you appear either insincere or a nerd. You are missing the point. Woman are people who have a broad range of needs. If your only need is sex then they will find you offensive no matter how you look, dress, or act because you are not meeting their needs for closeness, love, affection, conversation, partnership, play, etc.
Another problem may simply be your choice of women. If your sisters do not like sex, it is likely that it is something they learned growing up. You may be attracted to women similar to your sisters or mother and not realize it. Thus, the pool of women you choose from may not include the type you want. No sex with your first wife. A, likely desperate, homeless woman off the street. A third wife who had to be dressed, in the dark, not touched, and nonresponsive. A 35 year old who is through with sex at the time of life when women are most interested in sex. Next time you date someone, ask them straight out how they feel about sex generally. Find out what their attitude is. And, get some assistance on how to be attractive to women. If you are putting an ad in the paper, be more specific and eliminate the ones that do not fit the bill. You apparently said you wanted sex and got people who said yes for money. Next time say want marriage and sex and have little money. Tell them what you can offer. There must be something. Can you be their companion? Can you offer them emotional security instead of financial security?
It is clear from your letter that the women in your life did not want to have sex with you. For our readers, I would like to add that they need to ask clearly about and communicate what is actually wanted. One man I know was divorced ten years ago. He had been careful during his marriage not to ask for sex very often and not to "burden" his wife with sex. When they got divorced, he found out her chief complaint was that he did not have enough sex with her. His assumption that she did not want sex was wrong. He also wanted more sex. Neither one of them pursued it or asked for it. She went off with someone who would be more sexual with her. Ask, do not assume.
I have to conclude that there are many parts of your puzzle missing. The truth is that free sex with women has been readily available for the past twenty years. If you want to get sex for free yet can not something is wrong with you. You are not attractive to women. Even a women looking for a financially secure marriage partner is fairly likely to have sex with men she finds attractive while she is shopping for Mr. Right.
Your letter says it is a "... pretense that women have sexual fantasies or enjoy sex with men." You "... have come to assume that most of the sexual fantasies purported to be by women are the work of men. In fact, I doubt that there is a woman on your staff who isn't being paid to front for a man or men." Well, I am a woman and I have sexual fantasies every day. Currently the entire Passionate Living/NSS staff is women. NSS is owned and founded by a woman. I know Kathryn Roberts well enough to tell you you would be barking up the wrong tree if you even hinted that she is a front for a man. I reviewed the program from the National Sexuality Symposium & Expo. Forty people made thirty presentations on sexuality. Of the forty, twenty-eight were women. I have two female friends that write erotica for publications. I know four women that own and operate adult stores and three women that own and publish adult newspapers. You are making excuses for not understanding why you have not been able to find someone that wants to have sex with you.
For your last question. Is the problem you have little money now? That could be part of the problem but not all of the problem. If it were, my female friends would all be married to wealthy men. However to be really honest, it is accurate that a large percentage of women want financial security. People can idealize and say love is all it takes, but the truth is having shelter and food is at the top of the list. Women still earn only about 2/3 what the average man does. Lucky Markets just lost a sexual discrimination suit for $93 million because they paid their female employees less than the men for years. And, there are many women who are financially independent. Those women do not need a man's money. Start shopping for one. A problem is both men and women assess a man's success and value by how much he produces. Until that changes, the low income men are going to be less desirable to women generally than the financially secure ones. Check the personal ads. The men want thin women and the women want financially secure men. Look for the exceptions. There are lots of them.
This came across the BBS. What about you discussing the questions? Let me know what you think. Thanks.
From the Editors of Loving Alternative Magazine
How many marriages break up, how many great relationships end, not from external factors, but from "internal" ones, i.e., food allergies setting up manic depressive conditions, underlying undiagnosed (or even diagnosed ones) illnesses creating a climate within a physical shell which works unwittingly and unknowingly for the most part on someone's mind to their detriment, do you get the essence of what we're trying to say? If it happened to us, as totally aware and knowledgable of so many things as we are, it can happen to ANY couple! And since our personal mission (a good part of it at least) is to preserve the sanctity of ALL types of committed relationships, we feel you need to find a qualified MD allergist or endocrinologist or someone similar to write about the wholistic, psycoe-somatic effect that physical illness and similar conditions as acquired or inherited food allergies can have on one's mind, and therefore on the intimate relationships one has.
If our readers would like to share some of their personal experiences, we will be happy to print them to help make others aware of the invisible obstacles that can get in their way.
Anything that affects a person's ability to think rationally, cope with day to day events, or makes them feel ill will certainly have a negative affect on their ability to be in a loving relationship with others. This includes mental conditions, brain chemistry problems, prescription and non-prescriptions drugs, recreational drugs, stress, children, finances, traumas of many types, allergies, and the list goes on. The key here is to be able to detect these and solve them so that they do not destroy the relationship.
There are too many things to try to discuss in a short column. One thing of interest is a list of prescription drugs that can lower libido. The following can all affect one's sexual desire: estrogen (for men), corticosteroids, cyproterone acetate, spironolactone, diuretics, methyldopa, alpha blockers, beta blockers, guanethidine, reserpine, phenothiazines, clomipramine, tricyclics (when depressed), antihistimines, H2 Blockers, Digitaliz, L- tryptophan, clofibrate. Some will also lower the ability to have orgasms. They include: estrogen (for men), methyldopa, alpha blockers, guanethidine, reserpine, phenothiazines, clomipramine, and tricyclics, L-dopa, and alcohold and sedative/hypnotics in high doses.
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