Q: My wife keeps comparing my performance in bed with her experience with other men she dated prior to our marriage. I find this crude and am put off with her. Then she blames me for not having sex and threatens a divorce. I’ve had girlfriends too, but never once have I even thought about bringing them up in our conversations especially in the bedroom. In spite of explaining how her words and demeanour turn me off, she just doesn’t get it and continues to play the victim who has been denied fulfilment of her sexual urges. She has now started talking about it to our common friends and I am extremely upset with the same. Why is it that the man’s arousal is seen as a given with the woman being able to get away with saying anything and expecting great sex? I don’t know how to get through to her. What should I do?
A: There are 2 concerns here:
(1) Your wife’s public mentions of her frustrations regard your private sex life (2) The humiliation you feel when she benchmarks your performance in bed with that of her previous lovers.
While this situation may feel emasculating and unfair, know that your relationship with your wife is still something that you can try to control and steer if you are mindful about how assertively and honestly you communicate with her. You need to explain to her the degree of hurt you feel where she makes your private life public. If she is still obtuse about it, you may require some mediation since talking to her leads you nowhere satisfactory. You feel unresolved and shamed by her.
Her disenchantment with you and your humiliation at being belittled could erode the relationship’s foundation and that is why this situation needs to be handled with maturity and sensitivity.
In order to avert a possible divorce, you will might need to meet a marriage counsellor or sex therapist in order to clean up the way you will talk to each other, clarify what the expectations are and to learn new techniques at being able to romance each other while being tuned in to each other’s emotional and physical needs better.
Blaming behaviour in a partner (as observed with your wife) can come from two distinct desire fuelled thought processes in her mind.
(1) A desire to see herself as a martyr who’s had to sacrificed her sexual needs due to her having received a ‘raw deal’ which warrants special attention and care so she can feel complete and fulfilled.
(2) A desire to prove that you’re a poor partner for her and see you as the root of her miseries as you continue to be the ‘culprit’ While both situations make you feel accountable for her well-being, know that all human beings are ultimately responsible for their own emotional journeys and that blaming other people because they aren’t changing is immature and short sighted. Your wife has not been sensitive enough to your needs and you need to work to make sure that she’s appraised of the situation with directness and sufficiently alerted at what her behaviour may do to the relationship. Relationships either end or re-new themselves. The course they chart out for they are entirely predicated on how the two partners manage the relationship for the live project that it really is. Relationships develop out of a deep mutual-respect, attraction and admiration for each other’s uniqueness and are sustained when two people are able to appreciate that they may not always agree with each other, know each other’s needs and be 100% accurate in how they address each other’s reservations. Partners are not mind readers.
Is it possible that she’s also talking about her ex-boyfriends to you – as a way to boost her own self-respect in her own eyes? Could this be a way to show you your place? Is she being nostalgic about what was a good time as she seems to have ‘settled’ for you? Does your wife use sexual needs as a proxy to hit out at ‘you being a man’? There are so many ways to analyse her behaviour and yet the best way to understand it would be to ask her these questions in a safe counselling setup.
Perhaps this could also be a way to show you that she’s a firm independent woman who will get what she wants at all costs. Maybe convincing a significant male figure about her ‘eventful’ life is a way for her to feel important and needed by men. Boastfulness about ‘past sexual exploits’ could also mean that she has a need to benchmark herself a woman, a partner and someone with bodily needs.
Could your wife be dealing with certain childhood insecurities that she has brought to the table unconsciously? Whatever the answers to these questions are, you will need to invest some time to understand where her need for ‘attention from her friends’ comes from since it’s clear that her public outcries against you are a way for her to be noticed. You’ve taken notice. Now you need to figure out if there’s a hidden message enveloping ‘larger disappointments’ behind the more overt ‘I’m sexually frustrated’ message that she’s putting out to you.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialisation in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)