When one person gives their all, and the other continually refuses to balance the books, resentment is inevitable, says Suzi Godson.
Q. I have a relatively new girlfriend who is wonderful — although I feel I am doing all the work when it comes to our physical intimacy.
When I make any specific requests she says she isn’t in the mood, or says that she’ll do it next time — even if it’s just a massage.
A. A shared understanding of what constitutes fairness is vital to any happy, healthy relationship. However, reciprocity is usually an unspoken contract.
When two people are equally invested in a relationship, it shouldn’t be necessary to tot up who did what for whom.
In any single sex session one partner often benefits more, or contributes less, but that inequity doesn’t matter if things balance out in the long run.
If you had indicated that your girlfriend was willing in every other area, but seemed to have a specific problem with oral sex, I would have been more sympathetic.
Some women are self-conscious about technique, others simply don’t enjoy it.
Most things can be easily overcome with good communication but not being willing to return a massage sounds more like indolence, and that is more complicated I’m afraid.
In their 2012 paper Keeping the Spark Alive, psychologists Amy Muise and Emily Impett coined the phrase “sexual communal strength” to describe the motivation that couples have to meet each other’s sexual needs in a relationship.
In their study they found that “perceived” partner responsiveness (ie, feeling confident that your partner wants to be generous in the bedroom) was an essential component of satisfaction.
It makes sense that couples who know that their needs will be met generously, rather than reluctantly, exhibit higher levels of satisfaction. And it works both ways.
In the study individuals who were motivated to meet their partner’s needs experienced sexual benefits for themselves too.
The research, which tracked couples daily over a four-month period, found that being focused on their partner’s enjoyment as well as their own increased their desire for each other.
When one person gives their all, and the other continually refuses to balance the books, resentment is probably inevitable.
For a relationship to thrive, you need to be equally invested, equally willing to pull your weight and equally enthusiastic about making each other happy.
However, as is the case in most relationship conflicts, you need to take some responsibility for your part in creating the dynamic.
Your girlfriend is guilty of taking and failing to give back, but you are guilty of giving and failing to demand anything in return. That needs to change.
You don’t need to throw down the gauntlet. Keeping score with an “I’ll only do this if you do that” ultimatum won’t help.
Instead, you need to frame the conversation in terms of how the inequity is making you feel.
Use “I” rather than “you” to avoid being accusatory, which never goes well.
Here are some examples: instead of saying, “You are lazy,” say, “I feel my needs are ignored”; or instead of saying, “You are selfish,” say, “I feel I give too much.”
Even if you believe the first statement, by using the second one you will hopefully avoid turning the conversation into a fight.
Give her an opportunity to justify her reluctance, and if there is a valid explanation, take it on board. If there isn’t, don’t play the blame game.
Simply tell her how much it would mean to you to know that she cares about your pleasure, as much as you do about hers.
Ultimately, you need to establish whether she is committed to you.
Good relationships stand on four feet, not two, and if she is dragging hers at this early stage, it doesn’t bode well for your future together.
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