It’s Xander again! I offered to write this week’s post because it’s about an issue that I’ve gone through myself.
As you know, Vanessa has been spending this month talking about blockages to having a healthy sex life. Today, I have a tough one for you (it sure was for me!)…
One of the blockages to you working on your sex life may be your partner. They may not want to work on it with you.
This can happen in a lot of different ways.
Maybe you’ve already talked to your partner about making changes to you sex life, and they’ve brushed off your request, or even straight-up told you “no.”
Or maybe you’ve never asked your partner, because you’re so worried that they might say “no”.
Or maybe your partner actually agreed to work on your relationship or make some changes, but it was clear they weren’t excited about it, or they never followed through, and that got you even more discouraged.
In these types of situations, it’s easy to think that your partner doesn’t care, or doesn’t love you.
So today I want to share my story with you because unfortunately I’ve been the offending partner in this situation.
There was a time when Vanessa and I were having problems with our relationship and our sex life, and I was the one who didn’t want to work on them.
This was many years ago, during an insanely busy period in my life where I was super focused on my career working at a consulting firm. I was really intent on climbing that corporate ladder, and the easiest way to get ahead was to take on as much work as possible (or so I thought!).
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, then, that Vanessa and I weren’t having a lot of sex. We weren’t spending much time together at all (since I was at the office).
Initially, Vanessa was patient with me about not spending much time together. She knew I had career ambitions, and wanted to support me. All she wanted was a little quality time each day.
But it got to a point where I was too exhausted to provide even that. We became ships passing in the night.
I’d go into each new day naively thinking that today would be the day that I’d clear a bunch of projects off my plate.
But eventually, evening would creep up on me, and I’d be neck deep in work still. I would dread that time around 7 or 8pm when Vanessa would message me, asking what time I would be coming home.
I knew I had no good answer for her. The truth (“it’ll be a few more hours”) would only disappoint her – not to mention depress me! – so instead I’d give an overly optimistic estimation which I would inevitably need to keep revising later and later.
Every single time I failed to deliver on my promise to be home by a certain time, it felt like I was losing a bit of her, and a lot of my own credibility.
And the really sad part was that there didn’t seem to be any end in sight to this busy period.
Throughout this whole time, Vanessa could see that I was miserable.
Eventually she asked me to see a therapist with her, to talk about prioritizing our relationship and our sex life.
She was embarrassed about being in the middle of training to be a sex therapist, but still feeling powerless to stop the own issues that were brewing in our own relationship. Despite that embarrassment, she still really wanted us to get outside help.
But I didn’t.
I felt embarrassed about the fact that we weren’t having as much sex as either of us would like. I felt embarrassed about the fact that sex was the last thing on my mind after a completely mentally draining 16 hour workday.
But here is why I really didn’t want to do therapy: I knew the answer to the problem was that I was working too much and had been unable to get my own work-life balance under control. I knew that I had to set limits on work and have some uncomfortable discussions with my coworkers and superiors.
But I had this idea that I should be able to get my own life under control myself, and I didn’t want someone else telling me what my problem was.
I kept trying to stall, but I could tell that Vanessa was getting more and more upset the longer things continued on.
Then, one particularly late night I came home exhausted, and found Vanessa crying in bed.
Through sobs, she told me that she was worried that I was starting to feel more like her roommate than her partner.
This hit me like a slap in the face – the person I loved more than anything in the world was slipping away from me. Somehow I knew that if I fully slipped into “roommate” territory there was no coming back.
After a bit of crying myself, I realized I cared way more about Vanessa than I cared about my ego or my career.
So a few days later, we saw a therapist, and it ended up being one of the best experiences of our lives.
After just a few minutes of our first session, we found ourselves both being more vulnerable with each other than we had in a long time. All of this was stuff we could have talked about on our own, but having a neutral third party present really helped us feel comfortable and safe opening up and being understood.
Honestly, we didn’t even have to do that many sessions with the therapist. It had felt like such a huge problem in the heat of the moment, but the reality was that fixing it was a lot easier than either of us thought it would be. We had just needed to be clear and honest with each other about what the problem was.
And another extra bonus that came out of all of this – we ended up developing a great relationship with this therapist, and now we can check-in with her from time-to-time when we’re going through big transitions in our lives, like when we moved from Berlin to LA.
Finally, if you’re wondering about what happened to my work “problem” after all of this – it turned out that my realization that Vanessa and our relationship came first had a profound impact on my career trajectory.
Instead of being the guy who always said yes, I became the person who was super up front and clear about timelines and what was and wasn’t possible. And knowing that I had more important things to get home to everyday made me find ways to work way more efficiently.
The end result was that I was working way less, and got WAY more recognition from my co-workers and superiors.
Like I said at the beginning, if your partner doesn’t want to work on your sex life with you, I know it’s easy to feel like they don’t care.
In our example, Vanessa was really worried that I didn’t care, that I didn’t love her.
But that wasn’t it at all. I was just too scared to face my own problems outside of our relationship.
Instead of prioritizing our relationship over all else, I took it for granted that Vanessa would always be there, and sacrificed my time with her in order to put off dealing with a challenging situation at work.
Of course, everyone’s story is going to be different, but I want to encourage you to reconsider your assumptions about your partner. Maybe your partner really does care, and really does want to work on your sex life with you, but they’re just terrified.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few practical tips I suggest:
• Try to imagine that your partner is actually scared. Think about another time that you saw your partner scared or vulnerable. This is a good way to soften how you feel towards them.
• Appeal to the positive aspects of your relationship. Too often (especially when we’re feeling fed up or disappointed) we focus on the negative, like, “You never want to have sex with me” or “You never make any time in the day for me.” Instead, try to frame it in the positive, like, “I miss the times when we used to feel playful and silly in the bedroom,” or “Remember what our relationship was like right after we got married? Like we were falling in love with each other all over again? I want to find a way to feel that with you again.”
• Or, start doing the work without them. We all have stuff that we could work on with our sex lives, or relationship in general. Sometimes your partner just needs to see you being brave and taking the first step. This is a way you can show your partner that the reason you’re asking to get help isn’t all about them, so it takes some of the pressure off of them. Plus, it can be a really motivating kick in the butt to hear your partner say, “I’m going to get started working on my stuff. I hope you’ll join me, but I’m starting now.”
And finally – if you are the person who finds themselves resisting your partner’s requests to work on things – try to remember that your partner is on your team and wants the best for your relationship. At the same time, try to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if the problems you’re having with your partner are just a symptom of something larger.
I’m not nearly as used to sharing these personal stories as Vanessa is, so I would love to hear your thoughts about this post. Did it resonate with you at all? Did it help to hear our story?