Huff Post Women recently posted a spreadsheet, that was supposed to have been written by a man and then given to his wife as she was going on a business trip, documenting all the times that he tried to initiate sex with her over the course of 6 weeks and her excuses not to. According to the spreadsheet, they had sex 3 times, in spite of his repeated attempts. Apparently, she posted it, implying that he was pointing out only moments that she didn’t want to have sex in the exact moment that he wanted it, and that his accounting of how often was inaccurate.
Some people sided with her, others with him; the responses are hilarious. They included everything from implying that she has sexual libido problems, to assumptions that she must be cheating on him, to others stating that they would divorce him for this, no questions, and stating that just because they are married, she doesn’t owe him sex. Those that sided with him implied that he will soon be cheating on her, and that she should expect it, and that if she doesn’t want ‘intimacy’ and always makes excuses, she has a problem.
Huff Post Women’s response was clear:
Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, the sexual entitlement here is pretty undeniable. So is the immaturity.
“I’m not a marriage counselor,” writes Bob Powers of Someecards, “but I’m pretty sure that if you and the spouse aren’t sleeping together as much as you’d like, the way to turn her on is not with passive-aggressive use of Microsoft Office.”
I would have to agree that the sense of sexual entitlement and immaturity is likely not going to get anyone anywhere. Nor the passive-aggressive digs. However, it is clear that this man is hurt, angry, and feels rejected, and has no clue as to why his wife doesn’t seem to want to have sex with him as much as he might want.
It certainly is possible that this guy was considerate and thoughtful, that he was romantic and compassionate, and that he did everything he could to ensure that his wife was taken care of and that she remained turned on to him. But considering the spreadsheet, and the tracking of her behavior without any communication, I sincerely doubt it. Seems to me that he was setting her up to fail, wanting to be right, and just trying to prove the point that the fault in their marriage was hers.
It got me wondering, what would the wife’s spreadsheet look like? What if she tracked all of his behaviors that decreased her interest in having sex and that were a ‘turn off’? Her list would likely include all the ways that she felt shut out by him, not considered, not heard, unsupported, unloved, and not romanced or turned on.
Perhaps when I was younger, less experienced at relationship, and much more driven by hormones, my own codependency, and a need for attention, I could have or would have had sex regardless of how I was treated or felt. However, with maturity, I have found that my sex drive and my interest in actually having sex is directly related to how I feel emotionally as well as physically, spiritually and in my relationship.
I think most men assume that their partners’ sex drive is similar to theirs. Men, (certainly not all men) tend to be turned on visually, quickly, and easily. For me, and for many of the women I have discussed this with over the years, the turn on is as much about the relationship, the feelings between us, the process, the connection, the romance, and the intimacy as it is about pure sexual desire. Intimacy is defined here as vulnerable, raw, and real communication and connection, not as sex only. My desire is directly linked to how I feel. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have sexual cravings completely separate from my emotional self, I certainly do. However, that desire will generally not override my feelings of not being cared for, listened to, or connected in such a way that I will choose to have sex when feeling disconnected, hurt or upset.
The other day, my husband was boating with some buddies, and they shared their new favorite pick up line, ‘show me your vagina’. Masen busted up, and said ‘how’s that working for you?’ One shared that they only tried it one time, in a bar when drunk, and that they have been permanently banned from that particular bar.
Of course, they were all joking, but I think that it is likely that ‘spreadsheet’ guy’s ways of ‘initiating’ sex were less than optimal. I think that sometimes men don’t realize that saying things like ‘show me your vagina’, or ‘great tits’ or other equally adolescent comments are a complete turn off. In addition, saying things like, ‘hey, you want to have sex’, when there has been no awareness of the other, or any communication or listening for an extended period, will probably meet with rejection. Being out of relationship during the day, and then starting to get ‘frisky’ at night without any connection, is not likely to be a turn on unless the woman is already feeling safe, loved, appreciated and romanced.
I would bet that this guy has no idea that his behavior on a day to day basis affects his wife’s interest in sex. My husband, who is generally a totally ‘new age’, communicating and aware kind of guy and knows better, still sometimes acts surprised when he spends the day in a pissy mood, arguing with me every chance he gets, defending his points, and basically being an all around pain, and then he ‘discovers’ that I don’t want to have sex. Now of course, after nearly 22 years of marriage, he does realize that there is a connection between ‘the words that come out of his mouth’ and my sexual desire, and he can usually smooth talk his way back into my sex drive. He manages to do this however, because he does realize that his words and actions have an effect, so he changes what he is doing and saying.
Some people might hear this as a game. It could be interpreted that way, however it is not. For me, and I think for many women, feeling connected IS the turn on, and without it, the desire fades and vanishes.
I feel bad for ‘spreadsheet guy’. I think it likely that he has no clue about any of this. As indicated in many of the responses to the article, it is just assumed that a woman should be turned on and ready to have sex, regardless of all else. He has probably tried his best, in his own way, to give her a chance to be interested, and he feels exhausted, confused, and defeated by what he experiences as the constant rejection.
In addition, it is possible that the woman in this scenario doesn’t really realize where her sex drive went either. She just knows she feels more and more distant, apathetic, alone and not turned on. She might even feel inadequate for not wanting to have sex more. She too might feel deflated and defeated from a constant sense of rejection of her needs, wants, and desires. On the other hand, if she does realize why she is not turned on, she’s likely to feel irritated, upset, and resentful towards him for not working to fulfill her needs and just expecting to have his met.
The solution for change is certainly complex and would require a whole new level of trust, honesty, and communication. Spreadsheet guy has responsibility in recognizing whether or not she is turned on enough to him in the rest of their lives to want to have sex with him, and then adjusting his behavior and timing to turn her on so both of their needs and desires can be satisfied. And for her, more direct communication, and specific requests are important in helping him understand the connection what he does and her interest in sex.
Although the answers aren’t simple, I do know one thing however. Vigilantly tracking her responses to him in a spreadsheet certainly won’t get these two anywhere and is right up there with asking ‘can I see your vagina’ in terms of its likelihood to get him laid.
If I were Mrs. Spreadsheet, I would have made my own little spreadsheet detailing how much of each sex act was for my pleasure and how much of the sex act was for his pleasure. I’d list the number of minutes (or, more likely, seconds) he spent giving me pleasure and the number of minutes I spent giving him pleasure. I’d list the exact number of times we had intercourse with no time spent on his part trying to get me aroused. I’d list how many orgasms he had and compare it to the number of orgasms I had. I’d list the number of times he knew he had spent no time giving me foreplay so I could get aroused and then rolled over and fell asleep after he had his orgasm. I’d also list the number of times I asked Mr. Spreadsheet to give me more foreplay and the number of times he ignored that request. I’d list the exact number of minutes he spent making sex pleasurable for me. I’d list the exact number of times he gave me pleasure without expecting pleasure in return. If you men want to get nasty about your lady not giving you as much sex as you’d like and put it in a spreadsheet, you might want to rethink that strategy cuz your lady might feel the need to explain exactly why she doesn’t want to have sex with you. Might hurt some egos doing that.
1) The man did not handle this the right way.
2) The wife doesn’t owe him sex, BUT if he doesn’t get it, the status quo WILL be upended.
3) The wife posted on the reddit that she gained weight and didn’t look good naked. I’d want to know if she told her hubby that. You can also wear a nighty over your upper body.
5) Athol Kay, a sex and relationship expert, has wise words: “Marriage is at its heart, a sexual relationship. Without the sex it’s just a legally binding friendship, which is a needlessly complicated way of having a friend. The basic agreement of being married is to meet each other’s sexual needs and not to run round getting them met anywhere else.”
She doesn’t have to have sex with him, and you ladies are free to blame him and criticize him, but at the end of the day, if you don’t fuck your man you will lose your man. Deal with it.
Women may not comply with this idea, but it is how it works.
We man are like that, and if you don’t like it, Deal with it…
This is fascinating. I recommend this guy GET A DIVORCE. They are not sexually or emotionally compatible in my opinion. One would figure that at least once in 7 weeks she would initiate something or at best maybe once a week she’d initiate something. I think if she cared one iota for him, she will also care that his wants and needs were being met. This is a preview of what is to come. If the shoe was on the other foot whereby a guy was ignoring the emotional needs of his wife and she documented how neglectful he was, you would be singing a different tune. He showed her in black and white what had been going on and her response to him was to ridicule him by posting it to the web. I guess that shows her maturity I am sure in her very way she cares a lot about what he has to say. I only see this being resolved in one of two ways, either infidelity or divorce. I often wonder why people are surprised when people (or men) cheat!! I always say that there are three things a man needs; sex, respect and some time with his significant other (outside of watching some useless show on tv).
My question is, what’s their status since then? Did he divorce her for emailing her excuses to all of her girlfriends? Did she divorce him? Did they reconcile?
Seven weeks with having sex three times would have been pretty good during my first marriage, which ended when I divorced her for not wanting sex for four years. She would tolerate it every other month or so, but it wasn’t really enjoyable for either of us.
There’s a Reddit forum called “DeadBedrooms”; if you’re having sex less than 10 times per YEAR, you’re in a DB. There are lots of us there.
I also wonder what happened to those two. Curious question!
I bet if he was handed the spreadsheet from her, he would gladly take it and use it as a guidebook on what she actually wants. After augmenting his behaviors, I suspect, his spreadsheet would remain the same.
“Perhaps when I was younger, less experienced at relationship, and much more driven by hormones, my own codependency, and a need for attention, I could have or would have had sex regardless of how I was treated or felt. However, with maturity, I have found that my sex drive and my interest in actually having sex is directly related to how I feel emotionally as well as physically, spiritually and in my relationship.”
This. A million times this. I used to feel bad about this, like I needed reconcile my need for decency in order to want to have sex with someone.
Thanks Cate, for your comment. Ya, I used to feel bad also, and that somehow I was asking for too much if I tried to get my needs met. 🙂
I hate to be the one who destroys your entire paragraphs long essay with a single paragraph but I have to: The wife’s own words in her responses on reddit indicate that her husband was in fact very affectionate, was romantic or at least trying to be (flower petals leading from the door to a candlelit bedroom, massages, etcetc) and had communicated dissatisfaction with their sex life several times in the past. The wife *admittedly* brushed him off and dismissed his concerns. She states that her only interests right now are work and going to the gym and watching TV. She refuses to have sex because “she needs time to go to the gym” because, apparently… she developed a little tiny itsy bitsy bit of a muffin top (gods be cursed!). So now we get the spreadsheet – the last ditch effort of a man desperately trying to communicate with his wife that her sexual neglect is leading to the ruin of their relationship. She is waiting for some undefined point in the future where they are not “busy with work and life” to have sex. This point will never come…
Why did he send it to her at work? Because when she’s at work she turns her personal cell phone off. The only way for him to reach her was via her work email.
In response to your own spreadsheet, I’m going to echo the response of women to the man’s spreadsheet: Honey you don’t own your husband, he has agency and bodily autonomy, you are not entitled to conversation and emotional connection! (Feels pretty shitty to read that, doesn’t it?)
Again, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. Your entire essay is based on assumptions which, by the wife’s own words, are wholly wrong.
Sorry Justin, if my assumptions in this particular instance are inaccurate. I tried to make it clear that they my ‘assumptions’ were just possibilities, I am sorry if that did not come across to you.
However, I do believe that regarding the general issue, for many couples, they do tend to polarize in the manner described and it’s worth considering all the different ways that people fail to communicate. If, as you say, the wife’s reason’s have to do with not feeling good in her body, then that needs to be addressed, and him sending a spreadsheet will never have a positive affect. If, the issue is about her being ‘too busy’, again, we need to look at why and how that occurred, where did her interest in their sex life die?
Even though it sounds like ‘spreadsheet guy’ was trying, whatever he was doing was not working in their particular relationship, and needs to be worked on, discussed, and changes need to be made on both their parts.
I agree, she is not ‘entitled’ to conversation or emotional connection. I would want to support people in choosing to give what the other person needs and wants because they both desire taking care of each other and want to keep their love alive. Not from a place of entitlement or expectation, but rather with the intention for both of their needs to be met in the long run.
Thanks for your thoughts and clarifications!
~inspired girl aka Barbara
So many comments I read make similar assumptions to yours, lumping all blame on the man, calling him bad names, and then go on about what the woman needs and how he can be better for her. Such is the default narrative in our culture. That’s not going to get anyone anywhere, though.
All the problems seem to arise with her. SHE feels uncomfortable with her body. SHE feels gross. SHE doesn’t shower before bed. SHE feels stressed and busy. Maybe SHE should see a doctor? The husband has tried everything to communicate and convey sexiness and romance and support. But she blocked it out and has shielded herself into her own muddy little stressed-and-gaining-weight world. At that point, there was nothing the man can do. She has made it clear non-verbally that the distress she is causing him… is of no importance or consideration to her. In the face of that, why should a man prostrate himself on the altar of “being a better husband for her”?
The spreadsheet was actually ingenious. It’s a glowing white phosphorous beacon that she can’t dismiss or ignore. She can’t downplay the problem as “not that often” or “not that bad”. It’s a wake up call – honey you have to fix this or the marriage is going to end. If she’s humble and introspective, instead of turning to our default cultural narrative, she has a chance to fix her marriage. But if she decides to go the beaten-path of just blaming him… the marriage is already lost.
You can say vindictive things like others have about how “well he won’t be getting laid now! That’ll teach him!” or how “unromantic” the spreadsheet was… but this petty spitefulness misses the point.
You keep citing discussion, over and over, despite the fact that, right in your face: COMMUNICATION DID NOT WORK. The spreadsheet, however, by the very nature of her response, DID.
I do think that the spreadsheet I created is horrible, as is the one that he created. It doesn’t focus on anything other than a particular behavior, without any context or feeling, or understanding. Same as his. And it focuses only on the negative … I imagine that ‘spreadsheet’ guy did lots of great things in those same days. Just as I am sure that the wife of ‘spreadsheet’ guy took many thoughtful and considerate actions too. That is my point. The whole spreadsheet thing feels hurtful, vengeful, and the main intention of it is a need to be right, not close or repair damage. =)
I did not mean to be petty or spiteful, but rather humorous and sarcastic; I am sorry you heard it differently. Which is also part of the problem here. It seems that both of their attempts at communication didn’t work. To me, that just indicates to me a need for help in understanding what each other is actually trying to say rather than a call to be nastier.
I don’t mean to blame the problem on the man at all. It is definitely both of their responsibilities.
I do believe that his needs matter too. He wants and needs more sex. If he is anything like most men I know, that is how he feels wanted, loved, and cared for in addition to having a strong physical imperative and need for it. That IS her problem too, and they both need to address it and figure out how to resolve it. Just as her discomfort in her body IS his issue. She is also trying in her own way to make it clear the distress she is in; her behavior is a cry for help, just as his ‘spreadsheet’ communication is a wake up call for her.
Thank you for considering another perspective and for your thoughts.
~inspired girl aka Barbara
“That is my point. The whole spreadsheet thing feels hurtful, vengeful, and the main intention of it is a need to be right, not close or repair damage.”
The hurt and damage were done when SHE FORWARDED IT TO HER FRIENDS. He was trying – probably desperately – to get HER to pay attention to what SHE was doing to THEIR marriage. He’s DOCUMENTING THE PROBLEM, trying to identify what the next steps to repairing their marriage might be. She was more interested in scoring points with her friends.
Frankly, had I been that guy and been humiliated when my WIFE forwarded the details of our MISERABLE sex life, she would have returned from her business trip to find an empty house, with my wedding ring and my old cell phone lying on the kitchen counter. The dogs would be at a kennel, and the plants would all be dead – and she’d have been served with divorce paperwork the next day.
And there would be no more problems, and no more excuses as to why she never wanted sex.
And Karma being what it is, I suspect that more than one of her “friends” might have emailed him to say “She’s not taking care of you? Let me take care of you!”