Career, Kids, Great Sex: Two Out Of Three is All You Get.

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Take a couple of studies about American happiness (which say that today’s women are less happy than men because they simply want too much -- career, kids and a clean house). Add in a report which says that if women don’t voice their anger and frustration to their spouses they’ll literally make themselves sick. And, for good measure, toss in an explicit HBO drama about four couples, in which the only couple with children hasn’t had sex for a year.

 

In the span of a little over a week, two stories about those academic studies ran in the New York Times and HBO aired two new episodes of “Tell Me You

Love Me. ” When those things are taken together, they deliver the message that being a thirtysomething/fortysomething married woman circa 2007 means that you’re likely struggling with unhappiness, guilt and anger, and that all the negativity can torpedo your sex life. Not exactly a pretty picture. But is everything as dark as all that?

 

First, the happiness studies. The Times recently highlighted two reports which attempted to gauge happiness among American adults. In discussing a downward trend in women’s happiness as compared to men’s since the 1960s, columnist David Leonhardt wrote, “What has changed – and what seems to be the most likely explanation for the happiness trends – is that women now have a much longer to-do list than they once did (including helping their aging parents). They can’t possibly get it all done, and many end up feeling as if they are somehow falling short.” Then, for good measure, Leonhardt paraphrased one of the happiness researchers as saying that one of the reasons women were likely happier in the 1960s was because “they had narrower ambitions.” In other words, some 40 years ago, women didn’t feel the pressure to have fabulous careers, be thoroughly entertaining and engaged mothers to their young children, sexy wives to their spouses and keep Martha Stewart-esque homes.

 

Several days later, the Times published an article in its Science section which detailed recent studies of marital discord, including one of some 4,000 men and women which found that when women hold their tongues when they’re upset with their spouses, they can literally make themselves ill. Men, not so much. Consider this daunting excerpt from Tara Parker-Pope’s column: “In men, keeping quiet during a fight didn’t have any measurable effect on health. But women who didn’t speak their minds in those fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt, according to the July report in Psychosomatic Medicine.”

 

Seriously.

 

“. . . [W]hen women stay quiet, it takes a surprising physical toll,” the article added.

 

amybabe90910
04.29.08

oh shit

clintsgirl
10.11.07

I have found that the key to satisfaction and contentment in life is focusing on what you have rather than on what is missing. Every day I make a conscious choice to be thankful for my wonderful husband, beautiful daughters, and demanding career. Some days I do much better than others, and on those days things look much brighter.

I think we've all been told to count our blessings; I have found that when I do finding balance in the chaos is much easier. My husband and I just remember that we are "the center" of our organized chaos and the center must hold. Lisa is right though, God is the glue that holds that center together.

Lisa
10.10.07

I believe this paints a far too bleak picture. I do have a great sex life, I'm there for my kids and have an interesting career. Not all of us are miserable out there. Don't get me wrong, I do have the melt downs occasionally under the weight of mom, wife, professional and caring for aging parents. But an occasional melt down is a cheap price to pay for not regretting or missing out on any of these experiences. The most important ingredient in all of this is a day to day relationship with an amazing God that gives me peace and strength in the midst of life's organized chaos. He's the glue that holds me together and the glue that has given me the gift of two great kids, an exciting profession and an awesome marriage/sex life. Yes, God created sex and not just the boring missionary style ;-) When I connect with my husband spiritually, sex is a natural and amazing extension of that connection. So my experiences have rendered that I can have all those things as long as I've got a firm core foundation of relationships - God, Husband, Girlfriends.

mamamama
10.10.07

I believe that working helps me relate to my husband more than when I have taken time off work (I now am working part-time). I am able to have conversations with him about things other than telling him about our toddler's latest temper tantrum or talking to him about our many household projects. I think working keeps my mind in the same game that his mind is and helps him see me as the person he fell in love with and married.

DebraCondren
10.09.07

Remember when Ayelet Waldman wrote about the difference between being in love with one's husband vs. loving (not being in love with) one's children--and how many women forget this distinction? Her comments drew a firestorm of praise and scorn from her fellow moms. Worth re-reading: http://www.ayeletwaldman.com/truly.html. Great piece, Meredith. I haven't seen "Tell Me You Love Me" but will check it out. Working mothers are always the bad guys, aren't we? Actually, no. Only when we look into the mirror of the culture to try and interpret our personal experiences do we buy into this myth. Instead, we have to tell each other our real stories to keep a grasp on reality. "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open."--Muriel Rukeyser. Let's just keep talking; our truths emerge.