My friends Amy and Boris are having marital problems, mainly around their sex-life. Interestingly enough, Boris is the one who came to me about it, instead of Amy. When asked, he described a pattern of formulaic sex that had dwindled to a once-a-month frequency, at best.
He said he’d tried talking to her, had even asked her what he could do to spice things up, and her response was “I shouldn’t have to tell you what I want.” Which blew my mind. Amy was playing the You should read my mind and if you can’t I’ll punish you until you’ve tried everything game that many women play — a game that one of my lovers played so well that I swore off women for years.
So I invited Amy to meet me for coffee.
We’ve known each other for well over a decade and she’s accustomed to my directness, so I dispensed with the preliminary chit-chat.
“Boriska is worried you’re either having an affair, or that you’re going to leave him.”
Amy’s expression changed. I think she’d been expecting to play the sympathetic listener to my woe-is-me-my-sister-has-cancer tale, so she was completely surprised to find that her marriage was the topic. I sat in silence and watched her run through a series of emotions: surprise, anger, chagrin, and finally, something that looked like pouty resignation.
“I’m bored,” Amy said, looking down into her coffee cup. Definitely pouty.
I couldn’t help but remember the last time I was bored. I was 9 and I told my grandmother I wanted to go somewhere because I was bored. “You’re not bored,” Grandmother had said, looking over her glasses at me with her intense blue eyes, “You’re boring.” Something about the way she explained it to me really hit home, and from that day forward I was almost obsessed with being the opposite of boring. Today, one of the highest compliments anyone can pay me is to say that I’m interesting.
“I’m going to take a page out of my grandmother’s book, Amy, and ask you to consider that you’re not bored so much as boring.”
Her mouth fell open with a gasp and her eyebrows drew together in a frown. I raised my hand. I knew I needed to speak up fast or she’d flounce off in a huff. I love her dearly, but Amy’s what most of her friends call “high-strung.”
“Now before you get all upset with me, give me a chance to explain. When you say “I’m bored” you’re speaking as though the world, or in this case, your husband, is somehow failing to entertain you. That is a very passive place to be, Amy.”
She went back to pouting.
“You own your life, and you’re responsible for whether you’re bored or not. It is a choice. You’ve made choices that have led to you feeling bored in your marriage, so you can certainly make choices that make it more exciting!”
“It’s a lot of work!” she exclaimed.
“I know,” I answered.
“How can you? You’ve never been married.”
I looked into her eyes and smiled slowly, meaningfully. “Why do you think I’ve never married?”
She laughed, thankfully.
“Fair enough, Kay. Fair enough.”
We sipped our drinks for a long moment. Amy’s never been good at concealing her emotions. I could see her turmoil all over her face. I could also see that she wanted to talk, but just didn’t seem to know where to start. I decided to give her a nudge.
“So… why are you bored?” I asked.
“We’ve been having the same sex over and over for 8 of the last 10 years!”
“Well whose fault is that?”
“If you’ve been having the same boring sex over and over, why haven’t you told Boris you want to try something different?”
“I shouldn’t have to!”
Oh. My. God. It was my turn to say “Whuuut?”
“He should know me by now…” She sounded both outraged and plaintive, if that is possible. I could almost see her anger and disappointment over her husband’s failure to magically transform into Fabio-the-Mindreader during the course of their marriage.
“Amy, you’ve been reading waaay too many romance novels. Sure there are men who can intuit what you want, but how can they know for certain if you don’t tell them?”
“Not everyone is like you, Kay… I’m not comfortable talking about sex…”
I got what she was saying, and yet I didn’t. Yes, there are few people so comfortable with talking openly about sex, but surely…
“Are you telling me that you and I can talk about how much we want to be bent over the couch for a hard fast fuck — but you aren’t comfortable talking about what you want in the bedroom with the man you’ve been sleeping next to for the past 10 years? Amy!”
She looked miserable and sheepish at the same time.
“Good sex is artful and intuitive. Great sex is artful, intuitive, and informed by communication. If you aren’t communicating your wants and needs to your husband then the only person you have to blame for your boring sex life is yourself, damnit!”
“How do I know he’d even want to try anything else? He’s got his routine down and seems pretty happy with it!”
I gave her my best oh come on, really?! look.
“I’m going to tell you a few things about men, Amy dear. At heart humans are novelty seekers, and we know that monotony in monogamy is almost inevitable… but we still settle down into monogamous relationships. Why? For women, it’s about security. For men it’s about guaranteed pussy. They give up variety in the hopes of increased frequency. So if you tell your man that you want to spice things up by having sex standing on your head in the corner — he’ll make it happen even if he has to build a scaffolding in the bedroom.”
Amy choked on her coffee, then gasped with laughter at that mental image.
“I’m serious. And another thing — In the absence of clear communication, men do their best to read us. They try anything and everything, and each time they are slapped away, or get an annoyed look, or a hurt yelp, they eliminate whatever they were doing from their repertoire. Forever. Most of them won’t try it again. Most of them don’t get that what irritated the fuck out of you last night might make you moist today. They just don’t want to feel rejected, Amy. People feel vulnerable when they are making love.”
She looked very pensive. I gave her hand a squeeze. “Think about it. You said he’s got his routine down — did it ever occur to you that he’s narrowed it down to those things you’ve never objected to? How many times was Boris doing something and you pushed him away and he never tried that again? Face it, Amy. You’ve insisted that he read your mind all these years and punished him for failing to do so. You’ve created your own boring, monotonous marriage, my friend.”
She made a face. A cross between a wince and a grimace.
“Sometimes you scare me, Kay.”
That brought me up short.
“Because you’re so insightful. And because you manage to say shit no one else can say without sounding like a complete bitch.”
“You’re welcome.” I laughed.
“Does Boriska really think I’m going to leave him?”
“He’s worried about it. He loves you, Amy. He wants you to be happy, and if he can’t make you happy, why wouldn’t you look for someone who can?”
“Oh god,” she groaned. I could see it on her face, the realization that with her stubborn silence she really had made a mess of things. “What am I going to do?”
I grinned at her. “Well, I just happen to know that he’s got this fantasy about sex in the shower….”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Oh reaaallly?”
“Yes, really. How about we stop by an adult toy store to pick up a waterproof rabbit? And while you’re at it, send Boris a text saying you’re working on a naughty surprise for him and you want him to send a text when he leaves the office?”
Amy blushed and squirmed in her chair. She looked like an excited child.
“And then what you do is, leave him a note he’ll find when he gets home, telling him to strip down and meet you in the shower, and then make sure you’re in there and playing with your rabbit when he gets home. I guarantee he’ll break his routine.”
She laughed. “Yeah, I suppose he would.”
“Oh, and Amy… afterward… Talk to your husband. Share your fantasies. And be more communicative. I know women think men don’t listen to them, but if there is one place they’re eager to listen, it’s in bed. You’re responsible for your pleasure, so tell him what you want.”