Show Transcript for Episode 53: Sex and the Working Couple

Listen to Episode 53: Sex and the Working Couple

Laurie Watson:
Hello again and welcome to foreplay radio sex therapy. I’m your host certified sex therapist Laurie Watson, author of wanting sex again and blogger at Psychology Today in Web MD. And I have with me Dr. Adam Mathews my co host, who’s a couples therapist, psychotherapist and president of NCAA MFT. Foreplay is dedicated to helping couples keep it hot. Each episode we cover an aspect of sex that impacts your sex life and something that you can relate to. So if you find our discussions helpful, please give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. We would love it if you would tell a friend about us. You can find us on the web at foreplayrst.com, and if you have a comment or a topic that you’d like us to talk about, we’d love to hear from you. Please send them to us at info@foreplayrst.com Thanks for listening now on to today’s topic. Okay, Today, this episode, we’re going to talk about sex and the working couple. You know, we see a lot of conflict in couples who come in and they’re, they’re both really hitting it hard in terms of their careers, or even we consider women who are staying home with their children working mothers. But I think there’s different conflicts that happen. And we’d like to start I think, with the woman’s perspective, the first half and then talk about the male issues that happened when he’s working.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
So Laurie, give me the woman’s perspective.

Laurie Watson:
Ah, truth is what you need.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah, about what there is, I mean, talk about all the things that influence people’s relationships, and particularly their sexual relationships. And one of the things that obviously, over the last, I don’t know 50/60 for, you know, for a while, 50/60 years has just been this cultural perception of what it means for a woman to work. You know, thankfully, there’s a lot of shift in that positively. But there’s still a lot of cultural expectation that I think gets placed on women, women who work and who who pursue careers. So maybe I mean, is there is there something to that?

Laurie Watson:
I think, I think the major conflict is, when you’re a woman working and mothering I think there’s still conflict there in terms of our own expectations.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah.

Laurie Watson:
Cultural expectations. You know, sometimes you hear about the war between the woman who is going out and working with the women who stayed home and, you know, they talk about their different struggles. You know, I’ve done both actually in my life. But I think what we want to talk about is how do these decisions maybe impact her in terms of her sexual energy and availability and focus? Right, if she is perhaps, torn, you know, maybe putting out all this energy toward her career? And then does she become what has classically been a male role of distancing and avoidant because her passion in life lies outside of the relationship. Right, her passion lies with her work.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
That is maybe implying that traditionally, her passion has been in the relationship?

Laurie Watson:
I think that traditionally, a woman is more relational focused. And so her passion might be with her children, not necessarily with the marriage, but it’s certainly more family oriented. I think 60 years ago, a woman maybe her primary work was to be at home with the children. And so family was all around her. I don’t know that that necessarily meant that she had a focus on her husband and on their relationship. Right. There were a lot of traditional marriages back then, that were just about functioning. You know, she takes care of this part. He takes care of maybe the, the breadwinning. But they weren’t necessarily connecting together. And our concern is, you know, how do we get people who are so busy, so preoccupied, so stressed, right, I mean, I think people are so stressed these days, especially dual career families, yeah, you know what is left over to have to develop an intimate relationship, much less have all that connection time that we’ve talked about, so that they can within that have a sexual relationship.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah. Because in that that was same. That’s just another added layer, you’re compounding the stress, because anytime you work with whichever partner works, they’re stressed there, right? I mean, just automatically if one partner stays home and the other works, they’re stressed from that. But then when you’re talking when both partners work, there’s the stress is just compounded because most of the for most of the time, your work your jobs, they’re creating stress for you.

Laurie Watson:
Right. Do you have maybe an example a client that you’ve seen in the past that where you see her conflict, in terms of the stress or her preoccupation that impacts the couple?

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah, I mean, I think that I think people want what men and women want to be good at the stuff that they’re doing. You know, like, they want Want to be good at this stuff that they’re doing? And so I think the couples that I’ve seen that where this has been the case for them when they are both working, it’s hard to feel like you are doing good at all the different areas that you have to do good at. Mm hmm. You know, I think one of the benefits maybe not that there’s not stress in when one partner stays home. But one of the benefits, I think, is that you’re kind of covering a bunch of different areas, you’re kind of playing zone defense.

Laurie Watson:
Sure.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
You know, one person’s covering the money one person’s covering, if there’s a family or the home issues that are coming up. And I do say that gender neutral because I do I have, I have a couple where the man stays home. And that’s, that’s what’s happening with them is that they play they play zone defense on all these different issues that they have to do and so on some issues, they excel, when both partners are working. It’s hard not to feel like the ball is getting dropped

Laurie Watson:
Right? They need to rent a housekeeper and a childcare worker. And literally,

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah, a bookkeeper.

Laurie Watson:
Yeah, I literally think that if you’re both working and you have the funds and we recognize that sometimes both people are working and you don’t have the funds, I mean your hand to mouth but if you can, that’s the top priority is hire out the non essential things which are, you know, the housekeeping, the yard work, hire it out so that you have time together.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah. And it seems maybe you tell me if I’m if I’m off here, but it seems sometimes that I do notice that the feeling of the ball getting dropped at home, the stress of that falls more on the woman. Yeah, that she feels it more. I don’t know, he whether or not the man blames her for that or like, thinks it’s a responsibility. Regardless of that. She tends to feel it more I think.

Laurie Watson:
I do think there is still cultural pressure. And there’s a lot of you know, studies done is, is she carrying more of her weight, in terms of she’s working full time, but then she’s doing more childcare, or more household work. You know, I, I gotta say, I see a lot of that in my practice. I had one patient and she had a huge job. I mean, she was making $200,000 big job. She was a medical professional. And he was working full time too. But they had small children and she did the grocery shopping, the laundry, all the childcare. Took the children to and from daycare. Came home, he needed Saturdays as downtime to watch, you know, TV or whatever to relax because his job was stressful. But I mean, it was just crazy to me. It’s like, and I don’t, I think that of course, it’s, it’s difficult when we see it that way. And we know out there we know that it can be gender reversed as well, where some fathers, husbands over function and their wives under function. But I mean, this is the problem, right? This is what needs to be confronted is okay, we have this situation, nobody gets to be taken care of. You know, it’s a regression and it’s a fantasy for all of us. I think. I would love somebody to come in and do these things for me. And I think where the squeeze is often fragile window of sex. You know, there’s nothing left over. And it’s really hard to be sexual. When you’re living with a regressed partner, right, a partner who won’t kind of pull their weight.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah. So that’s when both parties are working. Do you feel that there’s a difference between men and women and their ability to juggle both a healthy sexual relationship and a full time job? Or is that? Is that a fallacy?

Laurie Watson:
Yeah, I think it is. I mean, the way people work these days and the demands that there are, it’s just crazy. You know, it is crazy. I mean, some of it is a blessing. I mean, my husband gets to work from home. We actually have it turned around these days. I used to be the one who had more part time work, you know, I did more of the household work. Now he he’s still working full time, but he’s working from home, you know, so he’s able to do a little more of the stuff that I used to do. It’s awesome. It’s totally great. Big turn on, honey. Love it.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Way to go, Derek!

Laurie Watson:
You know, but anyway, you know, yes, I do think sometimes the way we make decisions, right, you know, in terms of our lifestyle and and what couples want, they value something which is money, or financial security or toys, you know, above what their value should be in terms of time enough together. And I think it’s a scary culture, it’s hard to say to your boss, who says, oh, by the way, it’s the weekend and I need you to cover, you know, the computers might go down and you’re on call and it’s like, how do you just say, no, sorry. Okay. Yeah, you know, I’m, you’re fired. I mean, people feel fragile. So how do we carve out time so that we are sexual when we are working?

Dr. Adam Mathews:
I think it is difficult. And I think there’s an evolution of that if you’re both working and don’t have kids, there’s there’s issues there. We throw kids into the mix, it starts to become a little more complicated, but not any less stressful. I think it’s still stressful either way, but this was the thought I had as you were talking Our brains are trying to find ways to use the fewest calories possible. Right. And so we are trying, we are just trying to my brains are just trying to survive. And so when we expend a lot of calories at our jobs, the relationships that we have at home trying to then shift and give a lot of thought and a lot of energy into those relationships, because…

Laurie Watson:
We want to come home and be vegtables.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Adam Mathews: That’s right, we want to come home and be vegetables. So one of the things that maybe we talked about after the break as well is I think we need to figure out routines and rhythms that we just fall into almost habits that our brain does not have to think very hard about.

Laurie Watson:
Okay, I like that. I really like that. That’s so smart. Adam. Okay, we’re gonna come back you’re listening to foreplay radio sex therapy with sex therapist Laurie Watson and couples therapist Dr. Adam Mathews. We’re here to help couples keep it hot, even working couples. We’ll be right back.

Announcer:
Wanting Sex Again. How to rediscover desire and heal a sexless marriage by certified sex therapist Laurie Watson.

Laurie Watson:
Each chapter is designed to fix one of the problems that cause low libido from early marriage through the childbearing years, even all the way through menopause. I’ve also had men read it and tell me that for them, it was the most helpful thing they read about resolving sexual problems.

Announcer:
Look for Wanting Sex Again on amazon.com. You can also talk to Laurie Watson for therapy in person or via Skype,

Laurie Watson:
I offer couples counseling and sex therapy and I think about both aspects of the relationship; emotional intimacy and sexual technique and that combination together helps marriages be happy.

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Weekend couples intensives are also offered. Improve your sex and improve your relationship with awakening center for couples and intimacy. Find out more at awaken loving sex calm, awaken what’s possible.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
It is one of my great joys in life to be able to really help individuals and couples find strength in their relationships and really find hope again.

Announcer:
Licensed Marriage and Family therapist Dr. Adam Mathews for Matthews counseling.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
I work with a wide variety of issues including depression and anxiety, marital issues, issues with adolescence. I believe that therapy should be designed around you that it should be personalized to who you are and to your unique situation.

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Therapy is available in Office, Online, and by phone.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
I want therapy to be comfortable for everyone at our office, you’ll find that we sit around a fireplace and deep, comfortable chairs, look at the problem differently and offer practical solutions for you to take home and utilize outside of the therapy room. Schedule today and rediscover hope. You can find me on the web at Mathewscounseling.net. Mathews with one t you can contact us through email or phone and find a lot of resources on our website Mathewscounseling.net

Laurie Watson:
Okay, so Adam, we’re back with foreplay radio sex therapy. And Adam, you were saying something that was so exciting to me is, how do I get my lazy brain? Yeah, into some sort of schedule a rhythm. So that, you know, when you’re totally stressed out, and you’ve given it all at the office, how do we stay connected in an easy way? What’s what’s your easy plan?

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Well, I mean, I don’t know that it’s easy. I mean, I think at first, at first anyway, well, there’s a couple things I think one we have to get over the idea and the expectation that our relationships are always not that not never, but that our relationships are always going to be spontaneous and easy. And that sex then is just Gonna flow out of our love and that if it’s not flowing all the time that our love is suffering, right. And so we’ve talked a lot about that before. So if you listen to any of our podcasts, I think, you know that that’s, that’s kind of where we are. That’s our approach that we come from. So I think when we begin to create connection points, both emotionally and sexually, that just happen throughout our day, that are not wildly out there that were the expectation isn’t that every single night is gonna be dreamy for you know, however, whatever. We think that that is the ideal that is supposed to be there. When we lower those expectations a bit. And we set up things that fit into our lives. I have so many couples that are trying to fit connection points into their lives that make no sense for the way that they’re living. Right. Like,

Laurie Watson:
I kind of think about it as saving money. Oh, yeah. If you decide and tell yourself well, we’ll say whatever is leftover at the end of the month. You’re never gonna save a dime. That’s right. So it’s the same sort of thing with I think setting up routines and rhythms and ways to connect. If you set them up first. It is a lot easier to accomplish them and to have something that holds you together than it is to say, well, if I’ve got anything leftover honey, I’ll have a glass of wine with you.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah, I think that is exactly right. And I think so, they do that with I think the classic one that we talked about a lot is date night. Yeah. Right. They, we talked about if we can fit it in. We keep talking about it. And look, I’ve gotten some blowback from this from some people that are listening to think we all are advices for people that have a whole lot of money and a whole lot of time. Listen, we’re we’re not talking about you get to figure out date night, however it looks like but all we mean by date night is a regular night of the week that you are focused on each other.

Laurie Watson:
And listening to Foreplay. I mean, we think date night should be you know, setting aside a glass of wine, and listening to Foreplay.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
It’s completely free people. We’re not charging you any money, charging any money for it. But I mean, it could be that it could be saying a glass of wine, picnic dinner on the floor, movie, like something that is just connecting for the two of you that is focused on on you guys in a relationship. And what I have clients do a lot is to sit down at the beginning of the month and schedule their date nights before they schedule anything else. Oh, I love that. I think it’s so simple, but for some reason we’re resistant to that idea. But it gets it it’s prioritizing it and it gets it in before anything else gets put on the calendar.

Laurie Watson:
And one of the things I’ve suggested is schedule a regular babysitter one night a week. Yeah, the same babysitter just say I want to book you for Saturday’s is from here on out. Yeah. You know, and then if you can’t make that Saturday, let me know a week in advance. And then we got a deal and pair really well. Okay. We you know, we’re back to the money thing again, I know that some of you don’t have that.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
But I mean, I think you can still find somebody from your church from a club, a family member If you’ve got it, I do think there’s ways around that if you can’t afford to pay a babysitter.

Laurie Watson:
And I think it’s so important to get out of your home, and the home just as a, you know, it just sucks you into it. There’s computers there, there’s television, and there’s chores to do, there’s children. I mean, it’s really hard to be an adult grown partner, when you’re in your home, especially if you have different roles as a parent there as well. But even if you’re not a parent, right, it’s like the role of I got to fix this. I got to prepare that I got to go fold the laundry. I got to do all this stuff.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yes, yeah. And getting away from that routine become I mean…

Laurie Watson:
Just get out of the house, go to a park.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
It’s a 2/2-3 hour mini vacation from your life. I know couples that come back from vacation to my practice and they get back into therapy. Vacation is magical for almost everyone.

Laurie Watson:
Especially for sex.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
And so we have to have that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. The other thing is, I think if you can regularly schedule, you know when you’re gonna have sex. Whether it’s date night or another night of the week or multiple nights of the week. I feel like we say that a lot. But I can’t overemphasize that, again, because it gets you into a thing that you do not have to think about. You know, if your nights are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and you you know that and you know that going in, you don’t have to think about it. And then if it happens on Tuesday, that’s icing on the cake.

Laurie Watson:
Yeah, my husband and I have had a date night, basically, for 18 years that we haven’t broken.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
That’s amazing.

Laurie Watson
I mean, very, very, very, very few times. Even when we were sick sometimes we would keep that date. And even when we didn’t have the money, we found the money for the children to be taken care of. Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s been a lifeline to to always have one night a week and it wasn’t Saturday, Sunday, you know, it was middle of the week, things were cheaper.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
I think I think the beauty of that, Laurie is that it signals to your partner. I mean that the fact that your husband does that and is committed to that for you, I mean, doesn’t feel like he’s prioritized you and your relationship like that y’all, you come first come hell or high water, he’s gonna find the money to make that happen.

Laurie Watson:
And I would say likewise, I mean, when I wasn’t working full time, you know, and I had little babies and felt the pull to stay home with them. I left them. Yeah, you know, knowing that it was more important for us to build something strong to be together to have that time apart. That was more important.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah. So the other thing and tell me what you think about this, that I would suggest is just part of routines that just don’t require brain energy. Is that you have, we talked before. Gottman says 20 minutes a day connection time. That’s what healthy couples do. Right. Laurie Watson: I like that. Adam Mathews: And so if you have a regularly scheduled it could be in the morning. It could be in the evening. It could be I have one.

Laurie Watson:
It could not be in the morning in my household.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Maybe, maybe so but in some houses. I have. I have one couple that they’re 20 minutes is her commute to work and they call each other on the phone.

Laurie Watson:
That’s great.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
They you know, like that to me. They got they got that was I was so impressed with them because they got really creative with it, they didn’t have a lot of their schedules were a bit different. So they talk every day, her whole commute. She loves it, he loves it. Like they, and they, they just talk about what’s going on. And it now to this point, they don’t even have to think about it. Like in the beginning, they had to think about it. They had to do it intentionally. It took a little more brain calories to get that going. But ultimately now they just don’t even think about it. She leaves they get on the phone.

Laurie Watson:
Yeah. I think that one of my hot tips is if you are at work, and your partner says you know you go to work all day and I never hear from you set an alarm on your phone.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Oh, that’s a good one.

Laurie Watson:
You know, 10:43 you know, it’s a time that you’re not generally in meetings, just set an alarm. You know, call home and just call home or text home and say, “Hey, thinking of you” or just “Hey, how’s it going? I got 30 seconds and I wanted to hear your voice.” I mean, be sweet about it not like “What you know I’m calling you like you told me I should,” you know, it just, I mean that sense of every day, just hitting it, you know, with a little tiny touch will pay dividends.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah, and I love the alarm idea because then again

Laurie Watson:
You can’t forget.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
You don’t think about it, the alarm goes off you just do it.

Laurie Watson:
Especially if you’re more of the distancing type and you get preoccupied at work and you’re like, I’m at work. I’m thinking about work. Yeah, I’m not going to call home. It’s like, okay, but but if your partner says, I miss you, and this would be a great point of connection. Literally, it’ll take you 30 seconds.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
That’s right. I did have one. I did have one client who didn’t even feel like they had that. And so we worked on it. This may not work for every couple. But for him, he wrote he pre wrote out a bunch of different text messages that he could send just to just to check in. And then he just hit send, but hey, I mean, it worked. She knew that she was okay.

Laurie Watson:
You could actually do that on your phone. You can you can put them in your phone little like text messages that are automatic. That’s right. You can. “How are you?”

Dr. Adam Mathews:
But she was able to think of that in terms of he, he cared. He cared about her.

Laurie Watson:
I wouldn’t share that with her if he were smart. I don’t think you share that. I think you just do that.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
You just do it.

Laurie Watson:
But and also I think in terms of times of connection, right, yeah. I say make sex sacred. I mean people who, right they go to church, they go to synagogue, they meditate, they set aside sacred time. And I think it’s the same sort of thing with a sexual moment. It’s like, set aside a time I get so much resistance with and push back on this one, you know, it’s planning and scheduling. No, I’m saying I’m deliberate.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Absolutely.

Laurie Watson:
I’m setting aside a sacred moment. Yes. You know, Saturday morning, it’s and I know if you got soccer forget about it. But I mean, Sunday morning or something where your energy is good. And you’re saying no matter what, we’re together. I had some friends after church, Sunday afternoon, they took a nap their whole lives. You know, the kids knew don’t disturb mom and dad because they took a nap and they probably did.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
Yeah.

Laurie Watson:
You know, they probably ate lunch, passed out, took a nap and then woke up and yeah, had their sacred time.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
That’s right. Yeah. I mean, I had a pastor friend whose parents, it was Sunday afternoon for them. They had the kids run the vacuum cleaner, and vacuum, and they knew they were not to come in some mom and dad’s room. And that happened every single Sunday for as long as he can remember.

Laurie Watson:
You get your house clean, you get sex, what a deal!

Dr. Adam Mathews:
That’s right. But I mean, I think what you’re talking about is just so important, because part of what we’re saying is you defend those times when you make it sacred. You and your partner defend those times, right, and you defend those rhythms, so that when you’re out working, you know what’s going to happen. You can anticipate those times. When you’re at work, you don’t have to you don’t have to think so hard about what the effort is that you’re going to put into relationship.

Laurie Watson:
And when your boss says you know what, you got to fly out on Sunday. Yeah, to get to your meeting on Monday. You you go you know what sacred naptime at two o’clock, two to four, so I’m gonna have to take a night flight out. You know, I mean, you already know, I think that’s what makes it brainless. Yes, it makes it easy. You know, in the same way that we could just brainlessly come home every night, throw the kids in bed, throw wolf down dinner and sit in front of the tube. That’s brainless, too. But this way, this way keeps us connected.

Dr. Adam Mathews:
And those ways, like I mean, I think those are routines as well. Those are routines and rhythms that you go through every single night. So you already have them. And I say, I think one of the final things I would want people to know about this is that you and your partner get to shape those routines and those rhythms yourself. So they could be the things that we talked about today, but there’s a there’s a there’s hundreds and hundreds of ways that you could establish routines that are connecting for you that keep your sex life as a priority and a sacred time.

Laurie Watson:
Yeah, and I would say, you know, chicken or the egg a lot of troubled couples tell me, “Oh, I can’t possibly do this. There’s just No time I can’t do it.” But it’s almost like I can find five ways that they could have connected that week. I can always find five ways so yes, you can do it. Do it first. You know set those times aside first. Okay, you’re listening to foreplay radio sex therapy with your sex therapist Laurie Watson a couples therapist. Dr. Adam Mathews. Thank you for listening. Hey, help us stay on top here at foreplay. love it if you would subscribe and share it with your friends. And please take one sec and rate and review us thanks so much.