Marriage Interview 9: Make a Date to Have Sex Once or Twice a Week and . . . | Couple's Net | Chandrama Anderson | Almanac Online |

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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Marriage Interview 9: Make a Date to Have Sex Once or Twice a Week and . . .

Uploaded: Jul 28, 2015
. . . Deeply Understand Yourself and Your Partner

Jessica and Steve just celebrated their 25th anniversary. Steve is 72 and Jessica is 68. They met in 1989 at Hobee's in Town and Country (incidentally where we met for coffee at Peet's,) after finding one another through ads placed in The Palo Alto Weekly -- the paper version (before the Internet).

They started dating immediately and got engaged 10 weeks later, right after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Jessica commented that she was looking for stability, while Steve said Jessica "shook my world."

This is their second marriage. They each have grown children and "mutual" grandchildren.

They let me know that at this moment they don't have any particular issues or problems to address, however they do work a lot on communication, and consider themselves happily married. This was clear to me in the way they spoke to one another, and at the end of our conversation they walked away, hand-in-hand. That made me smile.

Sometimes a situation comes out of left field that puts a strain on a marriage. This was the case for Jessica and Steve. There was no precursor in their relationship that led to the following issue.

One of the biggest problems they've had in their marriage had to do with Jessica's son-in-law, who is from Montana. Pete was here for job interviews at Google and Facebook , and had brought his eight year-old son, Pete Jr., with him. Pete Jr. asked Steve to take a shower with him. And Steve agreed, since at the pool over the years, they had all taken showers in the men's locker room: Pete, Pete Jr., and his other grandson.

When Pete found out, he flipped. His anger turned to rage. Jessica and Steve felt threatened and had to ask Pete to leave their home.

After that, Pete did not want Steve to see his grandchild. It has taken two years of effort, but recently Jessica and Steve took a trip to see the Montana branch of the family. Steve is still not allowed by Pete to be with Pete Jr. on his own.

This put a strain on Jessica and Steve's relationship. Jessica was quite anxious. She went to therapy for a little while, and she and Steve went together a couple of times. Jessica resolved how she wanted to handle her side of this, as well as to understand what she couldn't do in this situation (e.g., change anyone else, or cause any specific outcomes).

Jessica visited Montana a couple of times without Steve (while he was traveling for other reasons). At times when Steve would rant about Pete, Jessica might tell him that she can't listen unless he has something new to add to the conversation, or just that she can't deal with it right now. She is willing to talk things through, just not in a moment when she feels overwhelmed.

For Steve, he was certain at the time of the incident that it would become physical. And he was prepared to protect Jessica. Steve says it triggered PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) for him: when he was younger he was bullied a lot. Steve was a small boy, and two years ahead in school. He learned how to gather profound energy to deal with a bully. In this case with Pete, he went for a walk, and came back to find Pete threatening Jessica physically.

When I asked how he has resolved this, he paused, reflecting, and said, "Not well; I feel tightness in my stomach as we're talking. I was concerned that Jessica and I would lose each other."

She said she had not thought they would lose each other over it, yet the upset was not sustainable.

Now, they say, it has made them more of a team, and stronger as a couple. Steve says they've gained so much. It is common for couples to be stronger after a tremendous challenge.

Given their backgrounds of commitment to personal growth and communication, they have weathered this storm as we would have helped them in couple's counseling: to slow down, talk, listen when the other is talking (vs. preparing in their minds what they will say next), meet their own and one another's needs, figure out what they each could and could not do, keep working as a team toward a shared vision, not take it personally if the other needed a break from dealing with it, and help them see options that they may not have considered.

Jessica and Steve's Tips and Tools for Couples Are:

- Engage in personal growth work to understand yourself. If a potential partner hasn't or is unwilling to do such work, he or she is not good marriage material.
- As you get older and your sex drive changes, make a date to have sex once or twice a week (early on, their sex life was driven by Steve's lust, now it is by habit).
- Steve tells younger men: "If you're crazy about this woman, show her in every way you can."


Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by john, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 28, 2015 at 11:51 am

Sex advice sounds great, but many women in their 6th and higher decades simply will refuse to have sex, once a week, or once a year. For some people, it is like being forced to eat when they feel full, and the needs of the partner do not enter into the equation. And a woman may refuse to find a middle ground, either through open friendly discussion, or counseling. Then the male partner simply must accept it if he wants to preserve the marriage and intact family. I suppose there are examples of the male-female roles being reversed, as well.

Not every couple has a mutual team commitment as above:
"Given their backgrounds of commitment to personal growth and communication, they have weathered this storm as we would have helped them in couple's counseling: to slow down, talk, listen when the other is talking (vs. preparing in their minds what they will say next), meet their own and one another's needs, figure out what they each could and could not do, keep working as a team toward a shared vision, not take it personally if the other needed a break from dealing with it, and help them see options that they may not have considered."

I am interested in other posts that will either refute or support the above observation.

Fortunate are those persons who find themselves in a couple relationship where their partner will compromise, accept counseling, and consider mutual needs.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jul 28, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

John, There's a very good book called "Wanting Sex Again." While it's written about women who haven't wanted sex, much of it can be applied to either partner. I also just read "365 Nights" which I will be writing a separate blog about. One of the first questions needs to be: Why doesn't she want sex? Is it a poor relationship? Not developed skills as a lover? A health reason? Pain from intercourse? Hopefully opening the channels of communication can be a step toward talking about your sex life.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 28, 2015 at 8:31 pm

Um, I have a completely different take on this. An 8 year old should not be in that position. Steve should not have put that 8 year old in that position. Jessica is caught in the middle. Blaming the 8 year old makes things worse, not better, "and had brought his eight year-old son, Pete Jr., with him. Pete Jr. asked Steve to take a shower with him. And Steve agreed." Sure, it was the 8 year old kid's idea. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Doesn't matter either way, shouldn't have happened. Steve has a lot of apologizing, and a lot less blaming to do, to both Jessica and the 8 year old, if he wants to get past Jessica's unease.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by NW Resident, a resident of North Whisman,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 9:31 am

I agree with Palo Alto Parent that the uncomfortable situation could've been completely avoided if Steve had simply said no, that wasn't a good idea to shower together. The couple has since had to live with the consequences of that decision.

I agree that communication is key to any relationship, especially in marriage, and that both parties must take an active role in nurturing the relationship over time.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Wouldn't you agree that hindsight allows us to clearly see what we should or should not have done? Then it comes down to how we deal with the situations we are in.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Steve remains victim identified as himself. That is an active problem, not a past problem to be put in the past. He should loose that mindset, seriously. It's a dangerous mindset.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Agnes Brydges, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:07 am

I know that at the YMCA and other swim/health clubs, men and boys shower together all the time, for decades. It is not a problem. It is as common as anything else. Women and girls, ditto. I'm not sure why the 8 year old boy wanted to shower with his grandfather, and I'm not sure if it was in a private bathroom or a public gym / locker room. I am thinking that nothing should have been made of this. It is healthy for young people to shower with adults in locker room situations. It teaches them that this is a natural (no big deal) bonding situation (unless any adult would touch or molest the young person).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by john, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Agnes, you are right, but that simply is not where the current local cultural trends are. A more prudent grandfather would have avoided the risk of triggering a response from the boy's father. Probably the boy's father has a history of being very sensitive to issues, or maybe there was already some history of tension between Steve and the boy's father.

Ironically, current culture dictates that after age 16, anyone can have sex with anyone else who goes along with it, regardless of gender. This is called tolerance, and is cool. Except in institutional situations where the older of the couple represents an institution; then there is liability risk.

It is just a big theater show, and prudent people understand it as such, and steer clear of trouble. We all make mistakes. Live and learn.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Ginny, a resident of another community,
on Jul 31, 2015 at 12:42 pm

As a former Pre SchoolTeacher and Supervisor of a County Wide Extended Day Care Program, I can tell you right now that a very serious, and questionable legal line was crossed when Steve decided to take a shower with an eight-year-old child under all of the following facts: a) Steve was not familiar to the child. b) Steve is not blood-related to the child. c) Steve's only connection to this child is that of an uninvolved Step-Grandfather because he is married to Jessica, the Paternal Grandmother. d) Steve did not ask Jessica what she thought would be the wise course of action knowing she had a far more intimate and long-term relationship with her own Son and Grandson than Steve had yet to establish with the two of them. e) Steve chose not to call or text Jessica's visiting son and Father to the child, knowing he was only minutes away and obviously due to return before the day ended. The child's Father had ever right to be outraged and questioning the motive's of this man his Mother married. Jessica also has every right to be wondering just why her husband decided to shower with her eight-year-old grandson without consulting or getting permission from any family member. I doubt Jessica was even home during this event and I really question Steve's explanation which sound as though he may have creatively restructured the child's spoken apprehnsions about showering in a strange shower without assistance. Maybe what the child actually said was, "I don't want to take a shower by myself." Read between the lines folks. Perhaps Steve offered to eliminate his apprehensions by showering with the child. Steve is quite a lucky man that his showering with an eight-year-old boy that day didn't end with him in jail where it should have. [comment deleted] I'll bet Jessica and Steve have not resolved this issue yet. I know if I was "Grandma" I would be looking for answers that could explain why Steve decided to get naked in the shower with my grandchild when there were so many other sensible options available.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jul 31, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Ginny, you are making many assumptions from what was in the original post. You list "facts" that are not known to be facts. The point of the post is about how a husband and wife resolve issues between them. Many couples today are part of blended families, and the issues can be complicated.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by John, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Ginny, [comment deleted]


When my children were in elementary school, there was for a time an anxious platoon of parents who took shifts patrolling the perimeter of the school grounds to prevent child snatching. There had not been any events or close calls reported.

Chandrama, thank you for putting the blog back on track.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 1, 2015 at 8:24 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

The grandmother did not have a problem with the shower, folks. She had a problem with her son-in-law. This is what she told me.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Thank you all for your comments. All, I have reviewed the requirements for making a report to CPS and consulted with my professional organization and have made a decision.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Observer, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Aug 1, 2015 at 12:27 pm

I want to underline something else this thread brought up, whatever the realities in the particular family mentioned. "Ginny" has also, with an initial post quick to assume details not in evidence here, illustrated a behavior or mind-set that will one day be remembered, and studied, as a quirk of our era. Adults who leap to assume and accuse, whenever a circumstantial prospect exists of contact between adults and children outside a few sanctioned forms. It's a witch-hunting impulse, this epoch's counterpart to the careless accusations of Communism in the early 1950s.

Children aren't the only ones at risk in these situations. Read up on the epidemic of late-20th-century false child-abuse allegations, such as California's Kern-County and McMartin Preschool debacles. Numerous children, prompted by interviewers, gave testimony of sexual abuse, even devil worship -- then later recanted it in droves, saying they'd been encouraged by adult interviewers seeking certain responses. Some of the falsely accused spent years in prison before the testimony's corrupt nature emerged and cleared their names. There was little real accountability for the adults who created the whole situation. These incidents and the quick-to-accuse obsessive thinking that fostered them have, as a side effect, put a chill on ordinary, traditional, healthy contacts between generations that does US society and the children themselves no good.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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