Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Fully Competent Spouse

Oh my God I am a mountain of mania. I have tons of work to do, a huge zit on my face, and Bets is on vacation for another week - she had a great time in Chicago where she fell in love with a big old Golden Retriever and so now we have decided to definitely get a dog only we seem to be heading for a shih tzu named Tamara. Before we dive into lesbian divorce, does anyone have anything to tell me about shih tzus? The only one I know will only eat off of wet paper towels.

So the couples not having sex off-shoot of the Bunny Syndrome has really gotten people in a tizzy. My friends in NY insist everyone in NY is having sex - gay and straight - it's just Bostonians who are not having sex. My friends in Boston think the New Yorkers aren't having good sex, that it ain't the quantity it's the quality. My friends on the west coast are too busy having sex to comment.

A very close friend of mine avoided marriage for as long as he could for fear he would instantly stop wanting to have sex as soon as he tied the knot with his girlfriend of 10 years. She would just smile and roll her eyes whenever he said this.

Another couple I know - straight - has sex once a year.

It seems the lesbians not wanting to have sex thing is mostly mythology. Maybe lesbians are easier to accept when people tell themselves, oh they're not having sex anyway.

Oh, and what about Brittany Spaniels? I hear they're sweet but a little rambunctious.

Sex is complicated regardless of the participants. Gender aside, the black hole of doom is when couples fall out of the habit of intimacy and then cannot for the life of their relationship figure a way to jump back in. And with lesbians, it's not like the world is encouraging you to. The world would prefer you remain bunnies, palatable and platonic.

But I'm no expert. I'm just a writer. How about Basset Hounds? We need a docile dog who will not need to go for a walk every morning but will be content to poop in the yard until I we can walk her later in the day.

So my therapist threw a wrench into my life when she uttered this phrase, "the fully competent spouse."

The first thing you do when you hear "the fully competent spouse" is wonder whether your spouse/partner is fully competent. Can she cook, clean, sew, drive a truck, lift heavy objects, put entertainment centers from Ikea together, talk, not talk, drive, play tennis, grow bonzai plants, reupholster, catch a ball? And then you tally the no's against the yes's and realize you have like 18 no's and 3 yes's and that makes you wonder whether you should dismantle your life.

Then I noticed that when I said "fully competent spouse" to straight women they laughed. But when I said it to lesbians they got all serious and furrowed their brows.

That and the lesbian divorce rate got me wondering if maybe women expect too much of each other as partners. Many of the straight women I know shrug off the inadequacies of their husbands/boyfriends as par for the course. They don't expect to be fulfilled by the man in their life. They figure their girlfriends will provide the missing links and their girlfriends agree and television and movies and books all reflect the same: you marry your man for the things your girlfriends can't provide and you hang with your girlfriends to grab that which your man can't offer.

But lesbians? I'm thinking maybe we expect to get it all from each other. We expect to be fulfilled sexually, intellectually, spiritually, gastronomically, astronomically. It's a tall order. Many of the lesbian couples I know who have split have left relationships surprisingly functional in comparison to their straight counterparts.

Do we hold women to a higher standard?

Do we not have enough models for how to work through the incompetencies we all possess?

Do we always assume straight couples know something we don't know and therefore are doing better than us and so we denounce that which we have?

Is breaking up a form of internalized homophobia?

And what about dachshunds? Too little? Too hard to train?

It took me a long time to realize - duh - there is no such thing as the fully competent spouse. It's a fantasy on the part of anyone who ever loved somebody. And realizing that was the first step to a healthier relationship.

Now I think I'm looking for the fully competent dog. But you saw that coming. Some poodle mix? A Basse-poo?

Maybe a lesbi-poo.


Anonymous said... you really want to bring to the mix?

Ms. Moon said...

There is no more perfect spouse than there is perfect dog. But at least a spouse doesn't need to be walked and can be counted on not to chew up your shoes and cry all night.
You're asking the questions that it takes a lifetime of research to answer.
But at least you're asking the questions. And the important thing to remember is that YOUR answers may not be anyone else's.

Anonymous said...

Dachshunds are wonderful dogs. They respond well to training but you really have to be on top of the training; I grew up with a girl whose dachshund was not fully housetrained until the dog was nine, but her family was not focused on the training. That being said, apart from that, dachshunds are terribly loyal, good watch dogs and a hell of a conversation piece.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that should have you really want to bring a dog into the mix!!!

Dana said...

How about a lesbridor retriever? A pit bulldyke? A dykeshund?

Anonymous said...

My wife and I had been together for 6 years before we realized that we were happier together when we weren't trying to make our partner be our "everything". When she goes out and gets friends to go snowshoeing with her, instead of complaining that I never want to go with her. When I go out and find friends who want to go to dorky sci-fi movies with me, instead of forcing her to go and then feeling every one of her eye-rolls like nails up my spine.

It seems so simple, and yet I can't tell you how many times I wished I'd married a woman who likes Farscape...

One thing I've noticed both with me and my wife, and with our lesbian friends (and not so much our straight friends) is a huge emphasis on 50/50. Each partner pulls exactly half the load, and if that ratio gets unbalanced, then resentments start to build. Even if that ratio needs to be unbalanced for a while, or if the balance is on more of a slow undulation, where if it's given enough time it'll all balance out... It seems that the lesbians I know (myself and my wife included) are a bit trigger-happy when it comes to that sacred 50/50 balance being upset. I consider this to be a sideeffect of a close observation of patriarchy, and a deep desire not to fall into that trap -- creating something like an allergic reaction where my own defensive systems overreact and I scratch my own skin off, or cough my own lungs out...

Are You My Mothers said...

yes, i think the 50/50 ademance is much more pronounced among lesbian couples, which falls a bit under the expecting more from each other category. straight couples seem to have thrown up their hands rather than expect life to be 50/50. there's the perpetual fear of living out antiquated gender roles, but the flip side is opposite genders don't seem to expect life together to be 50/50. very interesting. thanks.

kingkong said...

If you get the dog, you will have less time for sex.
And better make sure you split all those dog responsibilities 50/50!

I think because I am really a cat person, I like small dogs best. Dachshunds are cute, but are they noisy?

MLC said...

If you'd like to e-mail the lesbian dog trainer with over a decade of experience with dogs (and sheltering/rescue) please do.

I am happy to offer some advice for you.


Are You My Mothers said...

Thanks. We missed the shih tzu who is off to another family. The only problem with petfinder is that in most cases you can't meet the dog. We're visiting shelters nearby now. But if anyone hears of a dog in need of a home who would be fond of a kitty and a 6-year old let me know.

Ms. Moon said...

You're just trying to complicate your life, aren't you?
I've got four dogs. Come take your pick. Please. I'm begging you.

kingkong said...

Bye-bye, shoes!

Anonymous said...

wow, "the fully competent spouse" really hits home for me. I was a lesbian for 10+ years and now I've been with a man for 5+ years. I have definitely chosen a less-than-fully-competent spouse and, sadly, one with a less-than-fully-active sex drive. I'm with you on lesbians being more in tune with the 50/50 balance. But I do wonder whether I subconsciously chose someone less competent because it makes me feel more "together" - though I complain like hell about him not doing his 50%. In my previous relationships with women, I was usually the less competent one (mostly because I was a lot younger than my partners) and it drove me crazy to feel that pressure to "get it together."
Oh, and we have cats, so I'm no help with the dog advice.

LoPo said...

I can tell you that my little blind Shih Tzu that I found on and drove 5 hours to rescue from a shelter is absolutely the BEST!! Everyone I know who has shih-tzus LOVES them! There's another one available in Florida and I want her, too, but at the moment I'm in Mexico!

They are a bit independent so if you want a dog who comes exactly when you call everytime, it's not a shih tzu, but I love his slightly haughty attitude while still following me everywhere I go. NEVER has he peed in the house and my only complaint is that I have to walk him a couple of blocks from home because he also seems to think it's disgusting to poop in his own yard. But, oh, I just remembered, he can be snippy with little tiny kids, like 6 and under. And you've gotta take them to the groomer every 4-6 weeks and really oughta brush them every day which they love and is a bonding experience! :)
I have no words on the "marriage" part except the only way not to divorce is not to divorce. Murder frequently, divorce never. And my MAN has Aspergers so there's no 50/50 here. My sister and I are thinking we should finally divorce the men and just marry each other. Lesbian sisters marry. That could get us on Oprah and a book contract, right???

Sally Moon said...

Take one of Ms Moons dogs...

Are You My Mothers said...

all right ms. moon. give me a dog.

Anonymous said...

Whether straight or gay sex is better depends on weather you're gay or straight, and pregnancy isn't the only reason not to have sex, their are sexually transmitted diseases, & moral & emotional reasons not to have sex, weather it's okay for someone to have sex depends on their morals, not their sexual orientation.

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