I am friends with a married couple where the wife confides in me with relationship issues and happenings. Recently, the wife informed me that she has only been using sex as a "behavioral training mechanism" (her words) to get her husband to complete various domestic tasks. For instance, she has rewarded emptying the dishwasher with daily sex as reinforcement. After three weeks, the dishwasher has continued to be emptied sans sex. This has apparently occurred on multiple occasions for cleaning and other household tasks.
I thought utilizing sex for chores was more of a sitcom trope than an actual thing, but that's apparently not the case. This seems wrong to me and I want to tell the husband that he is, as I perceive it, receiving sex only as needed to get things done. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
You know what else is a sitcom trope? A busybody buttinsky forever inserting himself into the main cast's romantic lives. (That being said, this doesn't sound like the set of a sitcom. It sounds like the set of an extremely unimaginative porno.)
Let's imagine how this conversation would go: You tell your friend you need to talk to him (ALONE) about something serious. The next morning before work, he quietly slips out of his house to meet you for breakfast at a predetermined location. Your empty stomach churning from nerves and a scalding bath of black coffee, you drop the bombshell that it has recently come to your attention that his wife's motivations for "making love" to him in recent weeks may not have been purely romantic. He cannot believe it. He will never forget this moment. He divorces her. You guys get married, I guess.
As a rule, a married couple's sex life is nobody else's business. For whatever reason, though, your friend (his wife) has invited you to sit across from her at this bottomless mimosa brunch table called life and hear a list of her sexy secrets, presumably edited for length, clarity, and quips. (Sounds like she's a Charlotte with the pragmatism of a Miranda and the screentime of a Carrie, which makes you Samantha. Are you her eldest friend?)
People have sex for all sorts of reasons: because they're bored, because they're breaking up, because they almost broke up, because they want a kid, because they're cold, because the wifi-router is rebooting, because they just bought a new mattress, because that Mindy Project finale was really emotional, because they hosted a successful party, because it finally stopped raining, because they ate oysters, and sometimes, sometimes just because they are drunk in love.
These people are married. Do you really think the husband is going to complain about daily sex?
Let's flip the script: Your friend (the husband) hasn't been emptying the dishwasher because he takes pride in fulfilling minor domestic duties. He's just doing that as a scam to get free sex.
Are you going to reveal to the wife that her husband sometimes has ulterior motives beyond the relief of muscle soreness for corrective purposes when he gives her backrubs? That he makes an effort to remember her birthday not out of a pure love of committing specific dates to memory, but because he thinks it will make her like him and, therefore, generally more likely to have sex with him?
If the only way to get this guy to perform household chores is to bribe him with sex, that reflects more poorly on him than his wife. You shouldn't have to be bribed to take care of the place where you live. Even birds do that. If he does perform household chores, and she is using sex to trick him into covering her share, that's wack—DO YOUR CHORES—but apparently he enjoys sex with his wife enough that this is worth it for him. (I would argue that emptying a dishwasher is a lot less work intensive than having sex, with the bonus that you don't get all sleepy after. If she were trying to expend the smallest amount of energy possible, emptying the dishwasher is the way to go.) Perhaps this ability to negotiate responsibilities effectively, without outside intervention, is a sign that this man and this woman are a good marriage match.
You are a very caring bro to worry that your bro is not being sexually satisfied in exactly the tender and passionate manner you feel he deserves. But have faith in your friend that if the balance between putting in a new garbage bag when you take out the old one and having regular, frenzied sexual intercourse ever tips too far in a direction he doesn't like, he will be able to work it out with his wife himself.
So I'm filling in for my coworker receptionist, and her email inbox is open on her computer. I wasn't PLANNING on snooping but right there in front of me is an email from another coworker with my name as the subject. Obviously I click, and discover a thread of emails full of complaints...about me. Nothing in particular, just high school stuff like, "I'm SO over her - today she was like I can't stay late, blah blah blah..." etc. I don't even understand half of it, I just know they are both, like, SO over me.
By clicking on the email I was technically snooping, so I'm not sure if I should say something or pretend I don't know they hate me. At the very least, I want to be annoyed. Is that okay? (Does high school ever end?)
Of course you are allowed to be annoyed. All feelings are allowed. You can't unlearn what you've learned, unless what you've learned is the Latin ablative case. But you sought out this knowledge. If you go to a PG-13 movie, you can't get mad when you are subjected mild profanity, moderate violence, and brief non-sexual nudity.
There's no need to argue legal precedents and parse through statutes; by clicking on the email, you weren't "technically" snooping. You were straight-up regular snooping. Since you were filling in for this employee, it would not have been unreasonable for her to send an email to other coworkers notifying them of the change in routine. You clicked your name hoping for something more interesting (secret praise or secret criticism). You got it.
You write that the bulk of your coworkers' complaints about you took the form of high school stuff like "blah blah blah" (Three things high school students love: bullies, sex parties, and blah blah blah). In fact, their biggest complaint should be that you snoop through their private email correspondence. (Spy school stuff.)
A sad truth of life is that you will always work with at least one person who doesn't particularly like you (even if you work alone!). This is a hard lesson to learn, and you picked a hard way to learn it. But no one told Pandora to open that box, so it's hard to feel sympathetic when she complains about the high school bullshit she found inside.
On that note, using "high school" as a pejorative is a lazy, flawed way to dismiss the actions of others, because high school is where people learn how to be human. Unless you are talking specifically about preparing for the AP chemistry exam or the act of visiting a locker, what you mean when you accuse of someone of behaving like they are in high school is that they are flexing their mastery of everyday social interactions in a way you find distasteful and manipulative.
High school never ends, but eventually people become second-semester seniors: mellowed out; cavalier; wistful. These people are affectionately known as "senior" citizens.
It may seem crazy to you that other people might not like you. How could someone not like you? There are a couple (JUST A COUPLE) people you don't particularly like, but you are one of a small handful of individuals who are totally clear-eyed, impartial, impeccable judges of character. More over, you are great. Same as everyone.
Don't tell these women you know they've been sending mean-spirited emails about you; they'll like you a lot less when they learn you've been tramping through their inboxes. Don't behave kindly or unkindly towards them; all your job requires of you is that you behave professionally. Above all else, DON'T send secret emails about people with THEIR NAME as the subject line! That's kindergarten stuff. That's dumb.
Thatz Not Okay is a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay." Art by Jim Cooke.