"We have a once a week rule" my best friend explains during a conversation about cheating ex-husbands and how to avoid the cheating and the 'ex' bit. I have to say I'm a little shocked, I mean not in a holy kind of a way, but we're talking about someone who has a preschooler and a breast-feeding co-sleeping toddler on her hands. I'd be worrying about when I would find the time to make up an excuse not to have sex, let alone implementing a rule of any sort (unless it was 'don't touch me if you don't want me to bring up the 46 hour labour story'). I wonder if sex after kiddos is ever practical - the last thing I felt was do-able post-kid was, well, me.
Hippie Therapist echoes the sentiment. As I describe how my life changed in having a child, how every part of me was given over to motherhood she asks oh so delicately "where was the space for sex?" Umm. Well, we're co-sleeping so I'm guessing the answer is the living room floor after he's gone to bed? I want to list all the excuses I gave myself back then... exhaustion, co-sleeping, conflicting work schedules, I'm already covered in somebody else's bodily fluids darling... But there is no point in trying excuses with Hippie Therapist. She has been certified by the BACP and some weekend course in the Cotswolds, she don't take no shit. She'll just keep repeating the question until I 'find my own answer'. Oh yeah, there was no sex in my loveless relationship because it was a loveless relationship.
"Wait," I ask her "are you saying my relationship failed, that my loving and special and wonderful partner had to cheat on me and leave me because I didn't put out once a week?" Evidently, sarcasm isn't covered in the Cotswolds. She gives me a look over her half-moon glasses that says "Well, Duh".
Before I consider ditching Hippie Therapist for someone preferably a bit more "right on sister" I ask what she thinks (I can tell she loves this bit because it is her job to sit around all day and listen to what other people think). She accuses me of being 'isolating', 'emasculating' and 'denying the natural part of our relationship when you turned down his advances' (nevermind the fact that at least some of that relationship he was advancing towards another woman). It is at this point I remember feminism probably came just after hippy-ism and I realise it is an intrinsic failing as a therapist if you make your clients feel like killing themselves.
But I am still left wondering. Could I have 'saved' our relationship with more sex? (Or any sex??) Was I really the kind of woman who would turns to '50 Shades' to help my failing relationship? Do all those tabloid advice columns hold the answers in 'spicing things up' (vom). By this point I'm seriously wondering if I could have prevented my exes infidelity by donning a wig, meeting him in a hotel foyer, telling him my name is Candy and pretending to have a faux illicit love affair before sharing a cab home.
I think, more to the point, are we doing men a disservice (and their wives for that matter) by assuming that all it comes down to is sex? Is that the baseline for men? Love and fidelity are only capable so long as they're getting it? Surely we've evolved further than caveman style (no doubt some new sexual position I've never encountered because I've not had sex this decade*)
Was I naive to think that my man loved me for more than the sum of my body? Was I stupid to assume our family, our life, our relationship was more than a grubby fumble after a dirty novel and a pair of novelty handcuffs? Could (heaven forbid) The Sun's Dear Deirdre have saved me a ton of heartache and my son a broken home?
Answers on a postcard please. And while you're at it, jot down the number of your therapist too please? I'm in the market for a new one.
*Ok, this is a slight exaggeration. A very slight one.
** no, I didn't make this photo up especially for this post. This is the actual picture from Dear Deirdre's casebook this week. I don't think I could have come up with a more appropriate speech bubble myself!