Boring Sex Lives: It’s Not Just Your Wife Who’s Responsible

There have been couples where the man is the CEO and others where the woman is. Rather than based on gender, this is based on personality type. The narrative of the couple has always been that there is one higher-level, big picture thinker and one who acts as the “hands” of the operation. This dynamic is at first seen as yin-and-yang or complementary, and the partner who is the “employee” looks up to the CEO for being so prescient and macro in their thinking, while the CEO looks up to the employee for being so effective and not getting tired/physically overwhelmed. This is amplified when the CEO is a Highly Sensitive Person, who is a lot better with intellectual pursuits that don’t physically overwhelm them (e.g., sitting on the computer at home looking up travel ideas versus getting the suitcases from the garage and packing them), and the other is the opposite.

In this dynamic, usually the CEO has grown up seeing one parent not be able to make any choices, and subconsciously resolved never to be the “weaker” partner in this way. They tend to be controlling and can put their own preferences on a pedestal. The employee likely struggles with low self esteem and a people pleaser or workhorse mentality. They are happy to use their energy making the CEO partner’s dreams come true, and they figure that the CEO makes “better” or “smarter” decisions than they can.

When kids come onto the scene, this couple gets as stressed as all couples do. They tend to become further apart in what they do and do fewer and fewer things together. For example, while in the earlier example the CEO may have hung out in the room while the employee packed, now their time is limited, so the CEO just tells the employee packing instructions and then leaves the room. The lack of couple time usually makes both partners feel lonely and disconnected, which leads to resenting the dynamic for possibly the first time.

For this couple, sex usually falls off the table, or decreases precipitously, shortly after the addition of kids. The CEO partner starts to be critical of the other’s execution of tasks, which is compounded by lack of sleep and stress. The couple’s businesslike interactions preclude any romantic intimacy. The CEO is constantly frustrated and irritated, and the employee starts to feel overwhelmed and unimportant to the other except as a pair of hands. Sex is the last thing on anyone’s mind, at least not with each other. However, it is very common that each partner develops a solo erotic fantasy life that casts them in the opposite role; when the man is the employee, he turns to porn that allows him to fantasize about being in charge, and when the woman is the CEO, she fantasizes about the man being in charge in the bedroom.

The dynamic can also change when the employee partner grows and develops a stronger sense of self-esteem and confidence. Through increasing life experience, parenting, therapy, or anything else, the employee starts to think, “Hey, why am I never the one who gets to make choices?” and/or “Why am I so exhausted by doing chores/driving kids and I don’t get to sit on my phone and choose fun things like where we are going to travel this summer?” The dynamic can also change for the worse when the CEO partner grows “sick of making all the decisions around here” and yearns for a confident equal partner versus someone who just does what they are told.

While you might think the kids would gravitate more toward the CEO parent, this isn’t usually the case. The employee is doing more of the hands-on work of the home, so the kids usually spend more time with them and are more attached to them, although they may idealize the CEO parent’s intelligence. Often, they unfortunately think that the CEO parent is smart but not nice, because they see how often the other parent is reprimanded for subpar task execution. They also conclude that the employee parent is the opposite, nice but not smart, which leads to less respect for them.

This marriage can improve in counseling with insight and self-awareness into how these patterns developed, stemming back to each partner’s family of origin and the dynamic they saw between their parents. They can understand their tendencies toward control or self-denigration, and learn to split decisions AND execution more evenly, so that neither partner feels disrespected or alone. This work is very difficult, but can certainly be done by motivated couples. “



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