Dear John: Expressing Anger Through Sex. Or No Sex, Actually.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
I’m in a pretty serious relationship with a guy who is mostly pretty great except for this tendency he has to withhold sex when he’s unhappy with me about something and also to refuse to acknowledge that he is even doing this. But it’s so obvious, and it’s a pattern. We’ll disagree about some minor thing or he’ll be annoyed I’ve made plans for us to go out to dinner with another couple or something trivial like that, and he’ll just get kind of closed off, but he’ll insist nothing’s wrong. And I will attempt to bring him out of this by being intimate only to be rejected with some lame excuse. And then things will get worse because at this point I feel rejected (because I was) and angry that he can’t just admit that he’s annoyed and that’s at the bottom of all this and instead we have to do this dance, and finally me getting angry will be what brings him around, and I can tell that he’s over whatever was eating at him the same way I could tell he was annoyed. But he will still claim that no, he just felt bad I was getting so upset. Why can’t we avoid all this and he can just say what he’s thinking in the first place!
You can’t avoid it all because the two of you are locked in a ritual, or dance, as you appropriately call it, that is as familiar and comfortable to you both as it is counterproductive and exasperating.
From what you have written, your boyfriend is a classic passive-aggressive type who refuses to acknowledge he’s angry but who expresses it by rejecting you when you’re seeking closeness – hence the term “passive” aggression. It’s there despite his denial of it, and it comes out indirectly.
These behaviors are usually learned at a very young age, and your easy ability to play your part in this indicates that perhaps you learned the role of the passive-aggressive person’s partner at a young age, as well. If you’re serious about this relationship, you should seek counseling as a couple if he will go – a big “if” since denial that anything’s wrong is a major part of this. If you’re less than serious, though, you should ask yourself whether it’s worth staying involved. I really don’t see it getting better without professional help.
I am writing to you to see if you have any ideas to help me and my wife through a disagreement we’ve been having. It’s important and it has to do with our daughter and there’s really no way to compromise or meet in the middle. This is an either-or type of situation.
Our daughter is 15, and she has a boyfriend. She’s a great kid, has never been in any kind of trouble, gets good grades, and she can have some attitude more often than we would like, but that’s the worst I can say about her and I’ll take that any day of the week. I feel like my wife and I have a great relationship with her, loving and close. And my wife would agree with this assessment.
Where we disagree is how much blind trust we should have in her. In a way, kids are the same as they were when I was growing up, but in a way they’re different, too. All the boys are watching hard-core porn all the time, and this is something that was unheard of when I was their age. All teenagers think about and are curious about sex, but these kids are all exposed to it so much that I think what’s normal has shifted, and what they expect has shifted, and I worry about my daughter. I worry about her sexting (which I KNOW at least one girl in her class has been revealed as doing), I worry about her getting pressured to do things that seem normal because maybe her peers do them, but none of these kids think beyond next week. It’s not that she has given me specific reasons to fear any of these things, mind you, but how can any parent NOT fear them who doesn’t have his head in the sand?
So I’ll cut to the chase. I want to keep an eye on my daughter’s phone without her knowing. I know her password and she doesn’t leave it lying around, but occasionally she does and I could take those opportunities to take a look at her pictures and texts. But my wife thinks this is a bad idea and that it’s too drastic an invasion of her privacy without having any reason to doubt her. But my response to that is, by the time we have reason to doubt her, it could be way too late! We have really locked horns on this. My intentions are nothing but good, John, I’m just trying to protect my daughter while she’s in these difficult teen years. My wife’s intentions are good, too, and she would say the same about mine. So give us your point of view, please.
Trust But Verify
Dear Trust But Verify,
I can see both of your sides in this. I think you’re right that the combination of teenage hormones, a ubiquitous porn culture, and the ease with which pictures can be taken and shared are an explosive combination for adolescents today. But I also understand your wife’s perspective. Great intentions are not really an adequate justification for secretly invading the privacy of someone who has given you no reason to do so.
I do think couples have to agree on something like this before taking any action. It’s not a good idea for your relationship with your wife to take it upon yourself to do what you want to do against her objections just because your intentions are good. So if you can’t persuade her, you should abandon your plan.
However, that doesn’t mean there are no other options available to you. The number one thing you and your wife should do with your daughter is talk frankly with her about your concerns. Not once, but regularly. If you see a news story that illustrates your concerns, have your daughter read it and talk with her about it. Remind her through the things you say and do that you care about her wellbeing and that you’re aware of the issues that she and her friends face every day. Ask her if she ever feels any pressure to do things she doesn’t really want to do, sexual or otherwise. If you don’t have these kinds of conversations with her already, start to do so today. In the long run, I think they will have a more positive effect than snooping through her phone anyway.
Greetings from Wyoming! When I started reading your column, my family (wife and 11-year-old daughter) lived in Rhode Island, but I moved west for a new job. But I still check the Go Local site regularly to keep up with things.
I like your column and I’ve wanted to write in but I haven’t had anything I needed advice on, to be honest with you. But something happened to me about a month ago I’ve thought about many times since then and I had the idea of sharing it with your readers. It’s not a question, it’s more of a lesson.
My daughter – 11 like I said – takes dance lessons. I was waiting for her to come out from her class and I was getting steamed because I knew the class was over and she was just taking her time getting changed, gabbing with her friends and whatnot. I was really getting worked up because this has been an ongoing battle. I’ll be waiting and she knows I’m waiting but she is always the last one out. I’ve waited almost half an hour for her to get changed and come out before! I have stressed to her so many times I don’t expect her to rush, just don’t be so pokey. Don’t be the last one out all the time.
Anyway, this day I had someplace I had to be, I had stressed to her that I was in a rush today, I’d already called to her once through the door to the changing area, and I was just starting to fume. A lady older than I am was waiting there too and she must have been able to tell I was getting pretty agitated because she gave me a little smile, and I said something like, “I just want one time when she’s not the last one out. Just one time.” She made some remark about kids and then said something I will never ever forget: “I had a little girl like that many years ago, but she passed away. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give to be sitting here waiting for her.” I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say for a second and then all I could think of to say was, “I’m so sorry.” Needless to say, when my daughter came out, I had forgotten all about where I had to go or how mad I was getting. I just gave her a long hug and shook this woman’s hand and thanked her and said goodbye.
So I thought I’d share that with your readers. I never caught this lady’s name or why she was waiting there and I haven’t seen her there again. I sure have been a lot more patient with my daughter since our paths crossed, though.
Dear Patient Dad,
Wow. What an incredible story. I’ve composed and deleted a series of possible responses, but there really is nothing more to say besides thank you so much for sharing it.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].
Related Slideshow: 10 Great Ballparks in New England
(Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field)
Futures Collegiate Baseball League
Used primarily by Holy Cross baseball until the mid-2000s, Fitton Field's biggest claim to fame was in 1939, when during an exhibition game between Holy Cross and the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams hit his first home run in a Red Sox uniform.
Portland Sea Dogs
AA Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, plus many current and future baseball stars have called Hadlock Field home. In 2003, when the Sea Dogs became affiliated with the Boston Red Sox, Hadlock Field built a replica of Fenway Park's Green Monster in left field.
Futures Collegiate Baseball League
Though the park was built in 1919, baseball has been played at the site since 1892. Between 1965 and 1970, the Boston Red Sox Eastern League team played here before relocatieng to Pawtucket. Greg Maddux, Bill Lee, Tony Canigliaro, and hundreds more professional ballplayers have experienced Wahconah Park's signature "sun delays" -- resulting from the park facing due west.
Edward A. LeLacheur Park
NY-Penn League Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox
Built by the renowned HOK Sports (now Populous) in 1998, LaLacheur Park sits in the heart of Lowell and features sweeping views of the Aiken Street Bridge, Lawrence Mills, Fox Hall, and University Suite. The stadium also features the Giant Hood Milk Jug from Fenway Park and all Red Sox retired numbers.
New England Collegiate Baseball League
Built for unofficial sandlot baseball games between railroad workers from the adjacent Old Colony Division of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Line, the field hosted many barnstorming all-stars, including Negro League teams like the Baltimore Elite Giants, Boston Royal Giants and the New York Black Yankees.
Satchel Paige once played a game at Cardines. The original backstop dates back to as early as 1908, when the city organized its first six-team league at the park.
Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox)
AAA Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox
McCoy Stadium has played host to many notable players and historic moments. But none more significant than on Apriol 18, 1981, when they hosted the Rochester Red Wings in what would become the longest professional baseball game ever played. The game went on until 4:07 am, when it was suspended, to be resumed on June 23. 19 fans remained in attendence, who all received lifetime passes to the stadium.
When the game finally did resume--more than a month later--it only lasted 18 minutes, with the PawSox winning on a game winning RBI from Dave Koza in the bottom of the 33rd inning. Two future Hall of Famers played in that game: Cal Ripken, Jr. (Rochester) and Wade Boggs (Pawtucket)
Vermont Lake Monsters
NY-Penn League Affiliate of the Oakland A's
In 2005, Centennial Field was the Vermont stop on ESPN's "50 States in 50 Days" tour. In 2007 it was recognized by ESPN.com's Jim Caple as one of the top 10 ball park destinations in the U.S. It is also featured in the 2008 book, "101 Baseball Places To See Before You Strike Out" by Josh Pahigian.
(Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium)
Dodd Stadium hosted the 12th and final Double-A All-Star Game on July 10, 2002, in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 8,009. In 2006, the stadium was used as the setting for the ESPN miniseries The Bronx Is Burning, based on a Jonathan Mahler book.
New Britain Stadium
New Britain Rock Cats
New Britain, CT
New Britain Stadium hosted the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 16, 2003, before a then-record crowd of 7,169 fans. On the last day of the 2004 season, it welcomed its two millionth visitor. A new all-time attendance record was set on June 17, 2006, when 7,567 packed the stadium for a regular-season game against the Akron Aeros. The current record is 8,790 fans, for the June 18, 2010 Rock Cats game against the Reading Phillies.
NE Delta Dental Stadium
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
In 2008 the stadium hosted a record 8,762 fans for the 2008 Northeast Delta Dental Eastern League All-Star Game. This record was surpassed on May 26, 2009 with 8,903 fans in attendance. Red Sox pitcher John Smoltz started the game for the opposing Portland Sea Dogs in a rehab start.
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