Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 19 2006 8:26 AM

Too Much Is Enough

My husband's sex needs are wearing me out.

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudie,
I am a 21-year-old woman who married four months ago. I have been with my husband for six years and in that time grew to love him more and more each day. At this point, I couldn't imagine my life without him. But he insists that we make love every day, and we have been doing that for years. I now regret that the passion I once had isn't there. I feel like I am doing it just for him and don't know how to approach him (it is a very sensitive situation). I don't want to hurt him and I know something like this would. He loves our sexual relationship. What should I do?

—Feeling Bad

Dear Feeling,
Suggest he pursue an exciting new career as a driller on an offshore oil rig. Or an astronaut on the International Space Station. On the surface, there's nothing that unusual about a very young man with a willing sexual partner wanting to do it all the time. But there's something in your account that smacks of compulsion—hasn't he ever had a cold, been too tired from work or school, or just wanted to watch sports? He may love your sexual relationship, but he's not much of a partner if he's failed to notice you get more excited about scooping the litter box. What's equally troubling is that you feel so uncomfortable about expressing your perfectly normal need to take a breather every few days. One of the essentials of a happy marriage is being able to discuss your feelings and desires with your spouse. Tell him how much you love him, how happy you are that he's so passionate about you, but that you need time off to let your battery recharge. If he is a decent, loving person, he will accommodate you—you both may find some delayed gratification improves your sex life. But if, in response to your request, he whines or bullies, then you need joint counseling—you can find referrals at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My extended family lives one state away from me. On my 40th wedding anniversary, a few months ago, no one phoned or sent a card. I have made several phone calls to my sisters-in-law and left messages asking them to return my call. I specifically stated that I had something important to discuss with them. No one called me back. Should I phone, write, or e-mail my sisters-in-law and ask them why they completely forgot this important date? I assumed they were smart enough to remember and didn't remind them that an important date was arriving soon. Or do I just forget this mess and forget them?

—40th Snub

Dear Snub,
Oh, I know what you mean. This year my husband forgot our anniversary. However, since I forgot it, too, everything turned out all right. I'm afraid that although you have probably been annoyed each year for the past 40 that your extended family has not put your anniversary on their perpetual calendar, it is a bit much to expect anyone else to remember this date. And if you had remarked earlier, "Hey, next week is our 40th anniversary!" the response, "Happy anniversary!" is all they owe you. It is disturbing that you left messages for your sisters-in-law saying you had something important to discuss and they haven't returned your calls. However, I get the sense this might be because you are the kind of person who calls with important messages on the order of, "I assumed you knew it was the fifth anniversary of my hysterectomy last week, yet I haven't gotten an acknowledgement from you." After 40 years of this, they probably know not to call when you leave a message saying you have something important to discuss, and just wait until it blows over. Since there's no mess to forget, why don't you forget about making a big deal over nothing? And if 10 years from now, you want everyone to celebrate your golden anniversary, it would be best to send them invitations to the party you're throwing.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I am thrilled to be expecting my first child and have just started to really show. I have been fortunate to not have experienced any morning sickness, but have developed a slightly irritable personality for the first time in my life. I can rein it in most of the time. However, I face one increasingly recurring problem that causes me to be instinctively rude almost immediately. I can't stand people, especially mere acquaintances, touching my stomach without invitation. The only person I like rubbing my belly is my sweet husband. I like people, just not having their hands all over me. I don't chop off fingers, but I do jump back and remove the offending hands and tell them not to touch. This results in aghast faces, but I think it's awful for people to assume they can touch a pregnant woman's belly at will and expect it to be welcome. As I still have months to go, I just need some suggestions on how to politely tell people that I am not the Pillsbury Doughgirl. Also, can I get a plug in here for a public service announcement letting people know that they should always ask before reaching for a pregnant belly?

—Hands Off, Please

Dear Hands,
Here's your announcement, and of course, no one should be touched if they don't want to be. Having said that, I have a big but about big bellies. Seeing a woman bursting with new life is so lovely that it can be an almost uncontrollable impulse to pat her belly. I remember feeling really warm toward the (almost exclusively) female hands that reached out to touch my growing baby. The touch was always accompanied by good wishes or another woman's memory of her own pregnancy. Can you try to think of these well-meaning hands as a communion that's been going on since humans became human? When you remove a hand (and isn't it rare for the touch to last more than a moment?) as if it is a dead carp, you certainly get your message across. But if you could relax about this, you will find it is truly a self-limiting problem. In a few months your belly will be yours again. But you should prepare yourself for the time when everyone who patted your stomach is going to want to hold your irresistible baby.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Three years ago I met a beautiful girl. We fell deeply in love immediately. I proposed to her eight months ago, and she said yes. She repeatedly indicated that she wanted to get married and have children. We were both very happy and started planning a wedding. However, in recent weeks, I noticed that my fiancee seemed withdrawn and wouldn't respond to my inquiries as to why. Just a couple of months before our wedding date, she informed me by e-mail that "we have serious problems" and asked me to give her some space to think about our relationship. As far as I could tell, we had no problems whatsoever—we never even had so much as a single argument or fight. A few days later, she canceled the wedding without consulting me first. Her explanations ranged from "you have changed" to "it's not you, it's me." I strongly suspect it's a case of prewedding jitters and that she will eventually calm down and realize her feelings for me, but she keeps repeating that she doesn't think she can ever feel the same way about me. My heart is breaking. She insists that I give her space and leave her alone, but I don't want to lose her. She says there's nobody else in her life. How can I make sure she doesn't break up with me because of temporary wedding stress?

—Jittered Out

Dear Jittered,
Whether she's got serious psychological troubles or she's got a serious new boyfriend, or both, or neither, your fiancee just broke up with you by e-mail. Let's say your theory is right and this is just prewedding jitters. Why would you want to commit your life to someone who would treat you this way? You say you two had no problems whatsoever. But never having had a fight in the three years you were together is itself an indication of a problem. Even the most placid of couples has occasional arguments. Maybe you both were working so hard to make everything perfect that she couldn't take it. We can only speculate, though, as to what's going on, since all she's giving you are the most general kinds of platitudes that you'd use to break up with someone you dated a few times. As traumatic as all this is, you must start taking her at her word that you and she are through.

—Prudie