I need a Splenda-like substitute...for jealousy
November 22, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Lately, my wife only seems to be emotionally and sexually open with me if she senses there are other women (potentially) interested in me. I don't want to make her jealous...

Married about 15 years. Been doing couples therapy on and off for last couple of years. Issues? Communication, mostly. For me, lack of sex too. I've done everything she's asked me to make her feel better about our relationship which has included taking on more child responsibilities, cooking, cleaning, letting her get out with her girlfriends, etc...Truth be told, I always did at least 50% of the household chores, etc...I just do more now. At times I feel like the more I do, the more I look like a doormat. FWIW, I work full-time, she's a SAHM...kids are tweens.

I work in a male-dominated office and we recently had a series of interns unlike any we've had in the past. That is to say, super-smart, young, single, attractive, females. My office has always been open to the wife (I've begged her for years to meet me at the office so we could go to lunch more regularly). Well, she finally took me up on the offer for the first time in a long while. While in my office, two of the interns popped into my office for business reasons, said hi, were introduced to my wife, and then left. That night, my wife was suddenly flirty, sultry, emotionally open....suffice it to say I was driven to tears of happiness. I was literally saying to myself, "She's back." Sadly, my wife cooled off emotionally pretty much the very next day. Upon hearing that I might be going out with work colleagues for a beer after work the following week (I never went), she reverted to the warm, fuzzy, cuddly and sexy woman I remembered when we first married, again. And once again it cooled off very quickly. To be clear, I have not had anything other than formal and appropriate relationships with any of the interns. They are just simply there; nice to look at, yes, but work is work.

So it struck me.....for better or for worse, my relationship with my wife has been better (for me) than it's been in a long time when she, presumably, has twinges of jealously. Problem is I don't want to make her jealous...I never have. But I luvvvvvv how she treats me when she is. What might I do to duplicate the brain chemistry she experiences when a little jealous...without being a cad?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Work out and start a new hobby outside the house, and keep going out with your work friends (chastely.) Sounds like she wants to compete for you; so long as it's healthy there's no problem with that.
posted by michaelh at 9:08 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Have you talked to her about this, either inside or outside of therapy? Is it possible that she enjoys being jealous? That she is, like the rest of us, a little bit kinky?

The way to not be a cad about this is to be open and honest with your thoughts and feelings, and to expect the same honesty from her.
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Enjoy it. In all likelihood, she is enjoying your relationship more under these circumstances, not just behaving anxiously and protectively; neither of you should overthink it. It's human nature, and the whole think is so beset by instinct and inequality and irrationality that you can't ever put it right.

2. The risk will be exploiting it: I think it would be caddish to drop hints about hot interns, or show them off unduly. Hard to draw the line.

3. Unlikely this is the solution for your broader issues. Be wary of regarding this as sufficient to the task at hand.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:15 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with muddgirl, you might have accidentally stumbled upon a kink that she didn't even know she had.

If your kids are tweens, they are in school all day unless she is homeschooling them. What is she doing all day if you're doing more than 50% of the household work when you come home from your job?
posted by crankylex at 9:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is a totally normal response. A lot of relationship experts recommend using a spouse's jealousy as a helpful tool rather than a roadblock to intimacy approach-- Rabbi Shmuley has written a lot of stuff on the topic which is widely applicable and pretty secular, might want to check it out. If it works where all of your other efforts have failed, I'd say going out with the work colleagues is a great idea.
posted by devymetal at 9:18 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

You're reading an awful lot into a sample size of 2 days. Are you sure your wife acts nicer when she's jealous, or is this a spurious correlation?
posted by slow graffiti at 9:22 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Start working out ... and get a female workout partner?
posted by jayder at 9:23 AM on November 22, 2011

Ah yes, spontaneous spark. The problem with attempting to "put the spark back into your marriage" is that it always seems so planned, and planned events are rarely as enjoyable as the unintentional (re: unintentionally sexy co-workers).

Go out with the work colleagues if it helps your marriage. I emphasize: if it helps your marriage. If you are viewing it as a marriage aid and never let it get to the point where it negatively interferes, then you are not a cad.

Just stay classy and have fun.
posted by Shouraku at 9:31 AM on November 22, 2011

I think this is just a human quirk that extends beyond partners to making friends and so on. We like to be reminded that the people we're with are "a catch", they're "in demand", they have other choices in who to spend time with, but they chose us out of all those people! Probably it's like the opposite of giving off "desperation vibes". If all these other people see something in this person, then they're more attractive; if no one seems to be paying attention to this person, maybe they're not worth paying attention to, etc.

I don't see where you have to be a cad - this seems really mild and not even tied into "women paying attention to you" specifically - the other example you're giving is being invited out by co-workers, but choosing to stay home with your wife instead. These two incidents are probably just giving her a bit of a new perspective on you - perhaps subconsciously recasting you as not "someone desperately waiting for attention and trying to please in order to get it" (one-down) but as "someone who other people want to spend time with, who has other choices" (one-up).

Confidence is sexy and attractive to most people, basically.
posted by flex at 9:37 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I couldn't disagree more with what seems like encouragement here for game playing and/or manipulating your wife. Maybe some people function happily by knowingly manipulating each other in sort of equal ways, but I don't see how that works long-term. When people are manipulating each other, someone is going to end up unhappy. Maybe the unhappy party will live with it for a while, and some people will live with unhappiness forever but in the end, I don't think it works.

You might be able to solve your short-term sexual mismatch by generating tiny jealousies in your wife, which I have no doubt would be nice. I don't believe you're going to resolve your relationship problems that way. Discuss the issue openly with her.
posted by cnc at 9:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Discuss the issue openly with her.

I don't get the insistence on talking everything through. If anonymous is correct (and it sounds like he is), what we're dealing with is his wife being turned on by the prospect of her husband being attractive to other women or the idea of him being surrounded by nubile sexy women. The wife's reaction is primal. It is not an "issue" to be solved by more nerdy, insufferable talk. In fact, chances are, the primal arousal may actually be dulled by her husband wanting to talk this through. What's to talk about? "Honey, it seems like you're more amorous toward me when there are attractive young women in my workplace? What are you feeling there? I want you to know I only have eyes for you. I'm not interested in those women."

No ... just don't. That would dry her right back up.
posted by jayder at 10:00 AM on November 22, 2011 [27 favorites]

You could try to guess your way into figuring out what's making her hot for you again, but you risk screwing it up or offending her if you guess wrong.

I think you need to talk to her about it directly, but not by directly bringing up your suspicion about your hot interns, by saying something like "honey, I noticed on these two recent occasions you started acting the way I remember you from back when we were first married and it was SUCH a turn-on. I still love you as much if not more as I did then - I want things to be like that all the time. Tell me what put you in that mood so I can do it again!"

You might be surprised by her response, it could be anything from something completely unrelated to the events you mention, to the fact that she has some kinky fetish and she would love to hear you make up stories about how you got with one of the hot office interns as pillow talk.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:07 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

What's to talk about? "Honey, it seems like you're more amorous toward me when there are attractive young women in my workplace? What are you feeling there? I want you to know I only have eyes for you. I'm not interested in those women."

They're adults. Adults who are married. This is something they should be able to talk about. If they can't, then there's a big problem (and there's already a big problem from where he sits).

You have to be open to what she wants and needs just as she needs to be the same with you. If you want these periods of attractedness and openness to sustain, you need to find out just what she likes, what she wants and what she needs and make sure you communicate that to her, too.
posted by inturnaround at 10:09 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with jayder. Talking can be over rated.
posted by dobie at 10:29 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am also opposed to talking this out. The issue is NOT whether they are "able to talk about" it. The issue is whether this is always constructive.

I mean, why stop there? "Honey, I noticed that you seemed attracted to me when I was younger, had more hair, and carried less weight. I also notice that you seem more receptive when I treat you to a special romantic meal, preferably in low lighting so you can't see the ways my looks have faded, or when I have been promoted, or when I have succeeded in some public endeavor. Shouldn't we discuss why you are hoodwinked into favoring me on those occasions, against your better judgment?"

Alternatively, this.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:59 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, I agree with jayder. Talking about is dull and nerdy. Honestly, this sounds like less of a "kink" and more of your wife just wanting to feel a little challenge and mystery in her long-term relationship. I'm guessing this because you say in the post that you feel like a doormat, and doormats (sorry, I am a reformed doormat myself), are boring and not sexy. You also say she doesn't act like she used to, in the beginning, when things were probably more uncertain and more exciting.

Take charge a little bit more, give her a challenge. It sounds like that's what she wants. You don't necessarily have to do it via hanging out with the interns after work if that makes you uncomfortable (although I don't see anything wrong with it, if you keep it on the up & up). You can give her a challenge in a variety of ways, basically by making yourself less available and standing up for yourself a little more. You sound like a great, committed husband, which is really, really awesome, but in my experience, the nice guys are too nice. I mean, my personal fantasy is a man who is nice enough to cook me dinner but challenging enough to have his own thing going constantly on. Not manipulative, but his own person. I don't think this is manipulative, I think it's good relationship practice in general.

I'm a single, 30 years old, and a woman, for what it's worth. I've never been married and I have no kids. So FYI.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:02 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Could you just go out more in mixed sex and mixed attachment (meaning some married people, some single) groups with your wife? Maybe just seeing you interact with other females will highlight qualities she likes about you (funny, handsome, intelligent, whatever) that she overlooks because she doesn't get to see other's reactions to them often.

Like maybe bring her to a meetup or bring her out with your work friends, or host some dinner parties or something. It sounds like you basically want to show of your social animal side (fine) and that that side of you turns her on (fine) but that she doesn't see it often.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

WeekendJen brings up an interesting point. Many of us are completely different people in a work setting. Maybe your wife finds that version of you more attractive, which isn't really the same as jealousy.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:33 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think I would personally start by opting out of so many chores. I mean, she is a stay at home mom for kids that are at a semi-competent self-care age, and YOU, as a full-time worker, are doing most of the chores? Just sayin'.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:35 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Springing weird deliberate things meant to toy with someone's sexual arousal and emotions on them without talking to them is unethical, dangerous and stupid.

Bring this up with your wife and a competent counsellor.
posted by By The Grace of God at 11:40 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've done everything she's asked me to make her feel better about our relationship which has included taking on more child responsibilities, cooking, cleaning, letting her get out with her girlfriends, etc...Truth be told, I always did at least 50% of the household chores, etc...I just do more now.

It sounds like you've done a lot to meet her needs in the marriage. What has she done to meet yours?

At times I feel like the more I do, the more I look like a doormat.

That may be the case. Doormats are not sexy. Maybe when she saw you at work with other attractive, desirable people, she saw another side of you that she found attractive. And then when she got you alone, you were so appreciative and grateful for the scraps she was tossing your way that you showed her the side of you that she usually sees, and that doesn't attract her. Hence the on-off switch you're seeing.

When you took on more household and childrearing duties, did you do so to please her? With the idea of, ok now can we have sex more? Or did you do so because you agreed that the division of labor needed to change? There's a big difference and since you say that communication is the main issue in your marriage, you may not realize what you're communicating to her.

And she goes out with her girlfriends more now. Do you go out with your friends more too? What do you do socially or solo for fun? What do the two of you do together for fun?

I don't think it has anything to do with sexy interns or jealousy. I think it has to do with you being too willing to bend over backwards to please her, and her not finding that an attractive quality in a mate.
posted by headnsouth at 12:08 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about the equality between her being a SAHM and you working full time and bringing home the bacon? Do you feel like you bring more value into the relationship and she is somehow slacking because she doesn't earn money outside the home? Do you feel put upon by being asked to contribute more? Could this be showing up as a hidden resentment in your tone or manner? Do you ever put her down because she is only a SAHM and you are the breadwinner? Could she be fearful that you will abandon her due to lack of income?

The power dynamics are weird here. She is raising the kids and they are getting older now. You are in a good position and she is at home and may be feeling resentful due to lack of personal growth and sacrifice over the years while you have had the opportunity to build up your career. You seem resentful to be asked to do things at home that you may have to do anyway, if you were single.

What I don't hear in this situation is any romance on your part. Like bringing her flowers or offering to give her foot rubs, or just, hey, can I help you out? Because that is what my husband does. He does come home tired and sits in his chair and says, "Can I help you with anything?" I say no because it is my kitchen and I do things my way but I love to hear him offer. Then he will look at me and say, "Did I tell you how much I love you today? Did I tell you how wonderful I think you are? You are amazing. You just astound me with your beauty. I think you look like a renaissance painting. I am so lucky to have you."

Sounds cheesy, I know. He is a HORRIBLE house cleaner and I have had to get on his case about how we need to vacuum and wipe the counter, load the dishwasher properly and then I feel like the world's worst nag. But he always responds with a sense of humor. Yep, that's me, he says. You're in charge and I'll do whatever it takes to make you happy.

This sort of give and take makes me want to take care of him and be more responsive to his needs, both food-wise and sexually. He is just so nice and never takes offense. I never ever worry about him looking at other women and I have been married to guys who I did worry about that stuff. But not with him.

So I think you are sort of on the wrong track here. You need to meet your needs and your wife's needs but not to the expense of burning yourself out on this stuff. It may be as simple as gifting her with a spa day spontaneously. With a limo ride. Or if she says she might want to get into photography or a home business or a new career, saying, "I support you in whatever you want to do!" in a whole-hearted manner. Set an example for her and the whole household, because your kids are watching you guys interact with each other. Bite your tongue if you have to but always take the high road, especially in front of your kids.

I feel your pain, really, I do. It's hard when you want to be physically close to someone and it's not happening. I really think you need to bring it up with her and ask her what would it take for you guys to get back on track because of how great it made you feel to be so close to her. Don't be wandering around with no direction, just talk to her, dude.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:11 PM on November 22, 2011

Following up my comment higher in the thread. I do think you need to discuss your issues together, or at least be able to discuss them. Trivial things don't all need to be discussed, but I believe major relationship issues (like this) should be discussed before calling it quits, which is where I would be were I in your shoes.

That being said, I'm glomming on to what headnsouth said - the larger issue is that you should do what makes you happy, which is not necessarily what makes her happy. It sounds like you've done more than enough to please her, and despite your efforts, it's not working. Put simply, you sound like a giver and she sounds like a taker. It also sounds like she can't articulate what she wants from you, probably because even she doesn't know what she wants. If what you're doing isn't working, and she can't tell you what will, I see it as time to step back. Leave yourself open to discussion, compromise and resolution, but stop focusing on her and start focusing on you. Do what makes you happy. If pleasing her is what makes you happy, you've got to find something else to fill that hole.
posted by cnc at 12:47 PM on November 22, 2011

I'd start paying more attention to your grooming for work, and your clothes for work. I think she'll like it. You don't have to do anything with anyone.

You can also go out with people at work without doing anything.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:53 PM on November 22, 2011

Some of these responses are, frankly, a bit bizarre. Again, I think it speaks to the female-centricity of AskMeFi that a woman who is freezing her husband out, and only opens up to him when others seem interested, is told that *he* needs to change his behavior. Then, other posters are making veiled accusations of paternalism since she is a SAHM and he not only supports both of them, yet does most of the housework too!

I say DTMFA and get with a woman who wants to be with you. The kids are older, and she'll be free to throw off the bonds of oppression of having to stay at home and have fun competing in today's job market.
posted by speedgraphic at 12:55 PM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm onboard with speedgraphic here. Well, for the most part. I certainly wouldn't advocate divorcing your wife. At least, not over the concern you're bringing up.

But I am really surprised by responses you're getting, even taking into account Mefi's... unusual... slant on relationships in general.

Everyone else seems to be of the opinion that this is either
A) a harmless fun thing/kink(?!) that your wife is into, that is bringing a little warmth into your home. Enjoy it! And dress nicer.
B) she likes "work you" better because
B2) "work you" acts differently around people, or isn't a "doormat" and she finds that appealing.

Honestly, my first thought was that she has gotten to a point in your relationship in which she has decided that she can safely take you for granted. Your life outside the home, and the presence of, ahem, attractive breeding females (or whatever) is making her feel like she has to stake her claim a little more aggressively. I really expected to see this interpretation somewhere in the middle of 25 responses. Go fig.

Full disclosure, I am a man in his early thirties. So to be fair, assuming(!) most of those suggestions were from women (and honestly that is where I am coming from here) their perspective may be much more valuable to you than mine.

But if what I'm saying is ringing a bell, well... What your wife is doing (if that is in fact what she is doing) is fairly immature, as well as disrespectful of a human being she is supposed to care about, and (unnecessarily) manipulative. Grown, mature adults do not use sex to sweeten the pot. That sounds like a real bummer. There may certainly be something to what people are telling you about this "doormat" thing. If she is feeling like you may not be the no-attention-needed Sure Thing you've been (because, I guess, you care about her, and believe her when she tells you what she wants in your relationship?), the presence of Legitimate Options in your life may be causing her to, as I said, stake claim to calm things down.

Were I you, I would want to make sense of this, and talking about it is something (I've heard) that adults do out of respect for each other and their feelings.

We really can't all be on board that a marriage that seems to be pretty passionless for years is getting a health jump-start from hot interns, can we? Is that really what we're suggesting here?

And that doing more than 50% of the chores on top of a full time job because your wife asked you to is a bad thing? Like, that's a bad thing, like he's the one being wrong because he's doing those things? I can't decide what part of that first sentence to italicize because it all seems off to me, and of course I can't italicize all of it because then there'd be no point.

Maybe bring this up with your counselor alone? Your counselor certainly knows your wife better than we do. Maybe this is just a fun thing, but I've seen other couples do similar things, and it's always ultimately out of a desire to keep something that otherwise they do not seem terribly interested in. You and your wife deserve to have a fun, fulfilling marriage in a mutually respectful way, and I hope very much that happens. Good luck!
posted by Poppa Bear at 1:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Maybe so, speedgraphic, but I guess that depends. If you paid someone to have your kids and then raise them, a surrogate and then a nanny and a housekeeper, that would cost you a bundle. And if they didn't work out, then you could indeed DTMFA with no qualms. But if it's your wife, then it's a bit different. She's not a nanny.

My feeling is the OP just wants to know what to do because he is frustrated at having tried a lot of things and thinks giving the wife jealousy is a good thing. But it's a short term solution at best. Long term is not just to dump your life partner and mother of your children. He just wants more life in their marriage and that's cool.

If it ultimately can't be reached, then yes, I guess move on, but it seems like there is more here than meets the eye and it seems like his wife still loves him so a simple DTMFA is a bit premature.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:31 PM on November 22, 2011

Since I was the first "kink" comment, I feel I should in part defend my response.

This is absolutely something that he should discuss with his wife as part of their ongoing relationship problems. I never stated that it was harmless or fun or anything.

Clearly the OP and his wife are having serious marital problems. It didn't seem necessary to reiterate that in my comment.
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You say you have been going to couples therapy, but it sounds like you have multiple issues that are unresolved with regards to communication, sex, and chore shares. Fire your couples counselor and find one more attuned to "day to day problem solving." You are mostly not satisfied with your marriage and more importantly, relationship, and that can't work long-term.

I am not sure what to make of the "jealousy"/more affection and flirting dynamic you have going on. I agree that there's not enough data really. I also agree that talking it to death between the 2 of you has little potential upside.

tl;dr: Get a better couples counselor, ASAP.

I wish you the best.
posted by artlung at 2:06 PM on November 22, 2011

The way I see it, there are two possibilities here:

1. Your wife is a bit turned on by competition. Or, by seeing your status as a desirable man validated. Or whatever.
2. Your wife is insecure about your relationship and felt the need to perform "sexy" when presented with potential competition.

If it's 1, then yes, figuring out ways to play with her turn-on are good for both of you. But if it's 2, then you're playing with something dangerous that's probably a bad idea and will eventually explode all over you and your marriage.

So yes, you should talk to your wife, but not about whether she's turned on by seeing you with the hot interns. Maybe you should have the sort of relationship where those sort of conversations are possible, but it sounds like you don't, and getting to the point where you do would be a whole project in and of itself.

Instead, ask her about those two evenings that you enjoyed. See how she responds. Does she smile and look happy remembering them? Does her pleasure seem genuine? Does she want more of those evenings in your life? Or does she seem harried or put upon by the expectation, or does her agreement seem shallow and perfunctory, and is she eager to change the subject? Perhaps having this conversation with your therapist would be helpful.

If she gives every sign of genuinely enjoying those evenings as much as you did, then by all means figure out ways to recreate those circumstances. But you need to be careful that you're doing something that's creating fun and playtime for both of you (which is good!) versus stressing her into performing for your pleasure (bad and manipulative) and paying very close attention to her emotions and enthusiasm when the situation isn't so emotionally loaded is probably the best way to proceed.
posted by psycheslamp at 2:20 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Raised my eyebrow at a few things here:

Truth be told, I always did at least 50% of the household chores, etc...I just do more now.

If this is true, I'm a bit appalled. If I worked full-time and my husband stayed at home, and I was expected to do even as half as many chores/childcare....frankly I'd lose my shit. Bags packed, see ya later. The only reason I could see myself doing so many chores is if my husband were in school, or working on a significant and meaningful side project. Yeah, child care can be a slog and the child care provider definitely needs a good chunk of "me time", but I don't understand the division of workload here. If you're needing to do more at home to make her happy...I dunno. Unless there are some extenuating circumstances, she does sound like she's stepping all over you.

letting her get out with her girlfriends

Yikes. I hope this is just awkward phrasing, and not that you seriously see this in terms of "letting" or "allowing" her to socialize.

That night, my wife was suddenly flirty, sultry, emotionally open....suffice it to say I was driven to tears of happiness.

So it struck me.....for better or for worse, my relationship with my wife has been better (for me) than it's been in a long time when she, presumably, has twinges of jealously.

She can only be emotionally open once in a blue moon? IMHO your wife sounds like she has some level of contempt for you, and this does not bode well for your relationship. I guess I'm going to suggest a different approach.

Quit the counseling, or find a better counselor. Get some hobbies, hang out with your friends, start respecting your own needs. Start thinking about what you want once your kids are grown up. Stay chaste, but also think about what kind of relationship you truly want. People change; you seem to be wanting the woman you knew when you got married. This is not exactly fair to her, either.

You need to have A SERIOUS talk with your wife. Unless there's something you're leaving out, you sound like you've bent over backwards for your wife, and she's not meeting you halfway. If she cannot bring herself to be connected to you emotionally, IMHO she has already ended the marriage on some level.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:54 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Minor jealousy is a well known seduction technique.

Having an earnest talk about jealousy issues is a near-guaranteed anti-seduction technique.

If the OP's account is accurate, it doesn't sound like he's misusing jealousy or unfairly playing with his wife's feelings. There is therefore nothing wrong with the effect this incident has had, in itself. That is the way attraction tends to work.

What does seem wrong, to me, is that the OP either is or feels like a doormat who desperately slogs away for whatever crumbs of appreciation his wife deigns to throw at him, and now he's briefly hit pay dirt - found something that gets some positive attention from her for a few hours before she reverts to her disdainful norm. That is something to seek counseling about.
posted by tel3path at 3:26 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, he asked how he should change his behavior.

I agree his wife may not be acting very maturely. With the information presented, it reminds me of how I acted in my 20's towards some of my boyfriends. If a man showed me a lot of attention and did whatever I wanted, I got bored, even while asking him to do more. We'd eventually get to a point where I'd lost all respect and was completely disgusted, and he was baffled because hadn't he'd done everything I'd asked and more? If he held my hand and asked, "Whatta, whatta can I do? I'll do anything," it made it much worse, because that was exactly the problem. He would do anything and he talked too much. It's fucked up, but I suppose what I wanted was a little challenge. Less talk, more action, and some excitement.

Maybe you should talk. Like I said, I've never been married. I would definitely not talk about the interns, though, that's all I can say about that. Because I don't think it's really about the interns.
posted by amodelcitizen at 3:54 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have fun with it; DO NOT talk about it, that can make it clinical and suck the life right out of it. Maybe you have been too accommodating. Take jayder's and michaelh's advice, have an interesting coed life outside the home and start working out. There's something to be said for the lizard brain.
posted by shoesietart at 6:28 PM on November 22, 2011

I've done everything she's asked me to make her feel better about our relationship which has included taking on more child responsibilities, cooking, cleaning, letting her get out with her girlfriends, etc...

I work in a male-dominated office and we recently had a series of interns unlike any we've had in the past. That is to say, super-smart, young, single, attractive, females. My office has always been open to the wife (I've begged her for years to meet me at the office so we could go to lunch more regularly). Well, she finally took me up on the offer for the first time in a long while. While in my office, two of the interns popped into my office for business reasons, said hi, were introduced to my wife, and then left. That night, my wife was suddenly flirty, sultry, emotionally open....suffice it to say I was driven to tears of happiness. I was literally saying to myself, "She's back." Sadly, my wife cooled off emotionally pretty much the very next day.

She's afraid of losing you and afraid that you don't love her. Throughout the years she's made you do more and more, because she doesn't know WHY she thinks you don't love her. So she makes you do more and more in the hopes she'll find out the "it".

Her fear suddenly escalates when she sees your coworkers, or she knows you'll be going out with them. Suddenly she feels like the has to do something to keep you, but soon she realities it's pointless, so she stops (cools off). It will be a vicious cycle. Her being warm and fuzzy towards you might make you feel nice, but it's hurting her, I assure you.

You know what you can do about that communication problem? Tell exactly what you've told us, instead of coming to a website to tell some random strangers about it.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 6:28 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, by the way, I didn't mean you should tell her that you love her jealousy. If I'm right, above, then that'd be a bad idea. A HORRIBLE idea. I meant that you should talk about these things when you noticed them. When she's warm towards you, tell her it makes you happy, ask her what brought it up... without a sneaky smile on your face.

I agree with Blasdelb above.

Please, please, don't play games on her. That's the sort of thing a 14 year old kid does!
Please read the Do I Have to Give Up Me To Be Loved By You book. I know, the title doesn't sound relevant to your question, but it deals with these sort of games, protective behavior, and how to stop it. I thought it was terribly cheesy, but eventually I got over it. It's one of the most important books I've ever read.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 6:51 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

[A couple of comments deleted: folks, you need to post your advice and let the OP choose what's helpful instead of debating other posters.]
posted by taz at 4:58 AM on November 23, 2011

Trying to manipulate her sexuality like she was some kind of currently malfunctioning pleasure dispenser is wrong, will only engage in the kinds of dynamics that likely got you to this point in the first place, and will only backfire. The only solution here is to find out what is actually going on with your wife by asking her and then address that.

If your wife genuinely is just kinky and down with the whole thing, YOU NEED TO FIND OUT FOR SURE THAT THIS IS ACTUALLY THE CASE, this will likely involve a conversation of some kind. Since you guys have somehow managed to be married for 15 years and still have these kinds of questions about each other, I hope you can forgive me for suspecting that perhaps neither of you are that good at communicating or listening to each other. If your suspicions start to be confirmed that this is the case, I would recommend starting out coy, but then slowly working on being more open about your kinks and hers. However, Kink, even if that is what is going on, is rarely hermetically sealed from other emotions and unilaterally toying with that, much less in ignorance, is deeply wrong.

I would suggest as the most plausible scenario, that your wife seeing these young women at your office caused her to become terrified that she might somehow lose you to them and triggered a deep emotional protective response. That she is, on some subconscious level, trying to transactionally use sex, attention, and emotional openness to somehow keep you from them. I suspect you have seen this dynamic before. If this is the case it is a really big problem that will require a lot of work to address. Stoking the jealousy would not only be horrifically cruel but also incredibly dangerous in unpredictable ways. This would also mean that you need a new couples councilor.

That you mention emotional openness in particular as one of the things on the table strikes me as a giant red flag for a lot more things than sex being involved here. Particularly if she is using affection transactionally as some kind of bargaining chip to get what she wants, it has clearly affected you deeply and is likely affecting your kids. If that is what is happening, then that is deeply not okay and you need to protect yourself and your kids.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:54 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Is there a software tool for a small-business...   |   I'd like to have time to take a nap sometime... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.