Dear Annie: I’m in my early 50s and have been married to “Ralph” for two years. At first, he was attentive and romantic, sending flowers and writing cards. We went on frequent weekend trips where we would focus only on each other.
In the past year, Ralph’s job responsibilities tripled, and so did his stress levels. His mother has had numerous hospitalizations, and his teenage son began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. As a result, our marriage and sex life have suffered. We still have a date night, but we cannot get away for a weekend because there is no one to leave his son with. Most of our “dates” involve Ralph cracking his knuckles while I try to carry on a lighthearted conversation.
Last night, Ralph said that even though we are terribly busy, we should take what few moments we can find to have sex. I told him that, like most women, I respond better if there is some romance attached, and that I need us to really connect emotionally. I desperately want him to look into my eyes in a way that lets me know he is still crazy about me. But Ralph says he is unable to turn off his stress and that married people should be able to have a few minutes of sex without worrying about my “soap opera view of marriage.” He thinks it’s immature of me to expect wining and dining before sex.
I offered to meet him halfway. I still need the occasional connection. He calls that “high maintenance” and says my ideas are unrealistic. He is very different from the loving and funny man I married. He absolutely refuses counseling. Am I wrong here?
— High Maintenance in Ponte Vedra Beach
Dear Ponte: This is not about right and wrong. It’s about expectations, adjustments and effort. The flowers and notes are lovely, but it’s unrealistic to expect Ralph to continue these thoughtful gestures when his brain is overloaded with worries about his son, his mother and his job. Ralph also wants a connection, but like many men, to him that means physical closeness. He doesn’t need romantic gestures, so he thinks you are being frivolous.
Here’s your compromise: Tell him that once a week, you need him to look into your eyes and say how much you mean to him. With sincerity. In return, you will stop nursing a sense of neglect that he no longer focuses on your romantic desires as much as he did before. If he cannot manage even this much, we fear that the romantic personality was only a facade.
Dear Annie: When attending a celebration (wedding, bar mitzvah, etc.), I look forward to conversing with friends and family. That desire is repeatedly sabotaged by the band playing at ear-damaging levels. I’m only 50, yet find myself bringing earplugs so I don’t get a headache or start to go deaf. Does the music have to be so loud just for dancing? Don’t the hosts know that this level of volume diminishes the enjoyment of their celebration?
— Please Turn It Down
Dear Please: We’ve mentioned this before. With studies showing that excessively loud music can cause early and severe hearing loss, we are surprised people still find this a good idea. If you are screaming to be heard over the music, it’s too loud. Use earplugs or walk out. The band will pipe down only if the hosts request it.
Dear Annie: This is about “N.Y.,” the 35-year-old man who thinks his mother is controlling because she puts her arm across him in the front seat if she comes to a sudden stop. I confess that I put my right arm across anyone who is in the front seat if I stop short. This guy needs more than counseling. He needs a swift kick in the butt for being such an absolutely insufferable jerk.
— M., The Villages, Fla.
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