Panelists answer a listener question on handling work-life balance when ambition and sex start to jostle for space in a relationship.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
#S3E26 | When Your Job Is Your Primary Relationship
Matthew Amador: No matter how much we try, we’re only 50% of this relationship. No matter how much extra credit we try to do, we are only going to account for 50% of this relationship. So it’s really about us, and what can we do to find balance? Not necessarily, “What can I do to shift things? What can you do to make something better?”
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment®, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style, based on the popular live Chicago show. I chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You’ll hear meaningful conversations, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I’m sex educator and intimacy coach Karen Yates. This week, the panel and I answer a Patreon member’s question about the lack of sex when job ambition has taken over the relationship. Keep listening. I just came out with a new publication, and you can get it free. It’s aimed at folks who want to learn easy and effective ways to connect to their partners in bed, leaving the guessing game at the door. It’s called “Say It Better in Bed: 3 Practical Ways to Improve Intimate Communication.” Whether you’re in a long term relationship or hooking up, you will learn some really easy things to say, boosting your sexual communication skills. Go to the show notes or karen-yates.com to download your FREE guide. Hey, folks. While some folks have been engaged in “quiet quitting” in this last phase of COVID, other people are going full steam ahead with their jobs. In this episode today, we’re going to be answering a Patreon member question about their relationship, and what to do when both partners are seriously engaged with their work and sex becomes nonexistent. In this lively panel discussion with recurring sexperts Tazima Parris and Matthew Amador, we give some suggestions, as well as some TripAdvisor notes on Chicago backrooms at the end. Enjoy. [to guests] So, today I am with my esteemed panel: Sex coach and pleasure mentor Tazima Parris. Welcome.
Tazima Parris: Thank you.
Karen Yates: And we have also psychotherapist for love sex and gender rebels, Matthew Amador.
Matthew Amador: Lovely to be here, as always.
Karen Yates: So good to have you both here. So good. It’s always so nice. It’s so unstressful to have you both on. It’s just like yeah, I know they’re gonna deliver some goods tonight. They’re gonna deliver it, they’re gonna serve it up.
Matthew Amador: With hot sauce.
Karen Yates: With hot sauce. We were joking about Cholula earlier. I am going to start reading the question. Here we go. “Hi. I am one half of a cis male gay couple. We’ve been together about four years. And the main problem is we don’t seem to have as much sex as we used to. Having listened to your show, I know the answer is in scheduling it. And we do. But something always comes up, like last-minute family obligations, but mostly, both of our high-pressure jobs and their immediate deadlines, and a return to business trips for my partner. He’s an ambitious C-suite-bound guy, and his job is one of his top priorities. We used to have a pretty great sex life, including backroom scenes, pre-COVID. We just can’t get it together and commit to time with each other. And this concerns me. My partner thinks it’ll pass, but we’ve been like this for going on eight months. We’d like some suggestions.” Very good question. A lot of issues that are very common for folks. So I would like to just open up the question to both of you. My first question: is this really about work?
Matthew Amador: Well, do you mind? I would love to start with this one. It is. And it is not. It’s like what, in math, they will say — or geometry, specifically. A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. So it is, but it isn’t. But it is, but it isn’t. But it is. So, in the way that this is and is not about work, I will say that I’m so glad that these folks are conscious about scheduling sex, about putting aside the notion that it has to be spontaneous for it to actually count. I’m really, really glad about that. What I’m also hearing, though, is that while that is the case, it doesn’t sound like they’re really prioritizing the relationship. It sounds like — honestly, when I talk to a lot of folks about their curiosities about going into nonmonogamy, I usually say, well, you’re probably already in a nonmonogamous structure right now. You just don’t recognize it, because your primary partner is your job.
Karen Yates: Oooh.
Matthew Amador: Your job is the one that’s taking all this energy. Your job is the one you put all this energy and time with. Your job can call at 8pm on a Sunday night, and you’re gonna leave your house to go take care of them. Like, your job is your primary. And that’s kind of what I’m hearing a little bit here. Like, it sounds like their ambition — which is a wonderful thing to have, I’m not knocking that at all — it sounds like their ambition with this primary partner, their job, is kind of taking some energy away that needs to be with the secondary relationship, which is their relationship. And I don’t want us to necessarily — I’m not pulling a judgemental card here to be like, Oh, you’re doing it wrong because your job is your primary relationship. For some people, that’s fine. Cool. All right. So if that is acceptable for you both, then some more attention needs to be paid to your actual relationship. Actually give it the attention that’s needed, because it doesn’t just happen. Like, if you even think of people who are looking to IVF, they have to make that happen around their work schedule. They don’t wait for their work schedule to, you know, make room for them. It doesn’t work that way. And and the way that I also think that it’s about “not that,” I want to suggest, what if you just redefine what sex is, for you both? Maybe sex isn’t directly related to giving the other person an orgasm, or watching the other person to have an orgasm — orgasms at all. Maybe it’s something that can be for later. When you have time for now, you can do something and maybe orgasm or actual sexual pleasure later. Maybe it’s one of you recording a sexy video for the other. Maybe it’s when one of you leaves a jock where he’s gonna find it — like, after he’s used it in whatever way that might turn you on. And then you can use that for later. Or maybe, if they are non monogamous, maybe it’s somehow finding a way to include the other person when they’re having an escapade and the other person is not there. I think there’s room just kind of like expand a little bit. Yeah, redefining what sex can be, and really just paying attention to this particular relationship.
Karen Yates: Mm. Fantastic. Tazima.
Tazima Parris: Yeah, I’m seconding everything Matthew shared. And the other piece I’m hearing is, where the attention is, along with that sort of theme of the job as the primary partner. That level of stress, of ambition, and our attention on something that is really important, and we’re wanting to do a good job, creates an energy of the brakes around sexuality. It’s like, I’m so far into this activity, there’s actually no sort of attention on the sexy part of my life. So the sexy part of one’s life gets demoted. And this is for both people in the situation, because it sounds like the person who’s writing in is also not feeling so sexy, because there’s not the attention and the back and forth of, like, we’re engaging in a sexy way. So, I went to my research on this, and this also sounds like the dual control model, which is in the book “Come as You Are.” It is described as a system that’s all about the accelerator, and all about the brakes, like stopping, let’s not do it. Emily Nagoski’s book has all the details and she has a website, you can take a quiz and find out whether you’re more prone to the brakes, or to hit the accelerator. So you may have a mismatch at any particular time, especially if someone is stressed out about work, or other things — if they’re stressed out about the relationship that’s not happening, like, the brakes are on. So, part of getting to that accelerator, where you feel sexy and you want to move into sex, is, like, stop putting on the brakes. Okay, so you may have to figure out what are the things that are hitting the brakes for y’all, that are stopping that priority from happening. The other thing I wanted to bring up is, similar to what Matthew was saying, about “what is sex?” Also, the time of the day that sexual activities occur — we usually, in the society, because work is more important than play, play gets relegated to the end of the day, as a reward for hard work done. It’s literally in the fabric of our society. One of the things I teach with my clients, no matter what gender they are, or kind of relationship they’re in, or even if they’re single, is to put pleasure first. Bring it up to the top of the day, so that you move into your day with the nourishment of this fun activity. So, maybe you’re not going all the way to orgasm. Maybe it’s some stroking or hugging or touching in some way that feels good, or flirting, or sending a text message from the other room while you’re both getting ready for the day. And it may not be a full-on, like, we’re getting hot and sweaty and having full-on, you know, intercourse of some sort, or engagement that is going to end in orgasm — but it is time that we’re spending connecting, feeling sensual, connecting with our bodies, being present with one another, being present with ourselves. And if you can’t get even to this, to the person who’s writing this, take that pleasure time for yourself. What can you do to create a sensual feeling for yourself? And then once you have that going on, you can spread that kind of turn-on to your partner, no matter where he is. No matter where he is in his world, you can just kind of insert it with a flirty text, or something along those lines, so that both of y’all can benefit from the pleasure work that you’re doing for yourself. So, those are my thoughts.
Matthew Amador: I love that, because it also brings back into focus that sexuality isn’t just a luxury. It’s not something that you can just like, sprinkle on when there’s time. No — it can be as important to you as your antidepressants that you take daily. You’re not just going to take them just as needed. This is not how they work. It’s something that’s important to your being. It’s important to this relationship. At least not everybody’s, but as the relationship’s being described in the question, it seems like it is important here. So give it its due.
Karen Yates: Yeah. And to your point, Tazima, about pleasure — you know, I often think about, like, when I read this question, I sort of get this tight feeling. Like, we’re so ambitious! Especially the partner — like, I just feel stressed reading the question. And so, I’m thinking about pleasure in general, like, even nonsexualized pleasure. You know, how do you sit in your chair? Like, can you relax, period? Can you just give pleasure a priority in a very lowkey way every day? Even getting out of the, like, confinement of this, “I’m driven to succeed.” Because they do sound like a kind of an adrenalized couple anyway — you know, backroom scenes, they were into that. They’re into, you know, getting to the C-suite. You know, so it just sounds like go-go-go, and can they learn to relax a little bit more? I have a question. What, in both of your opinions — is it an easy fix to say, “Take a vacation”? Like, take some days off? Do you think that that can help situations like this? Or is it really about long-term building it back into your life?
Matthew Amador: I can see it either way. What makes me hesitate from saying, oh yeah, go ahead, take some vacation days off, because then all the focus gets put on “This has to happen now.” And just like, they also mentioned that, you know, there’s some family emergencies that pop up — like nothing like, “I have to do this now” to really make the sexiness of it kind of go away. The pleasure. So I would not necessarily say that. But I think, yeah, more long-term building.
Tazima Parris: I would add in that this pressure on it being a specific thing — like, it has to be these activities, or, you know, even the vacation thing. I work with being off-duty. You can be off-duty anywhere. You don’t have to leave the premises to be off-duty. You can literally flip a switch to be like — well, not literally, but you can decide, “Hey, during this time, I am off duty.” I’m turning off the ambition part of my life, because everyone needs to be able to go to sleep, or rest, so that they can go do that thing. And I understand that testosterone is a really fantastic energy booster. It’s really great, and it works to keep going — and at the same time, taking that time to just switch off sometimes. And what do you need to have in place so that the switch can be turned off? Because sometimes there’s like, duct tape on it. There’s this rule, I always have to be “on.” So even when people go on vacations, they can take they’re “on-ness” on vacation. And then you’re spending a lot of money to be on vacation, and be “on,” and get to see this place, and that place, and actually have really good sex in the room that we get, that overlooks this beautiful space — or whatever. So, turning off, shutting down a little bit of the ambition and achievements and accomplishing. Take the goals out of it. And I would encourage them to seek expansiveness and rest, more so than achieving the sex, or enough sex.
Karen Yates: I’ll return to the discussion in a moment. Would you like to ask a revolving group of experts a question? Become a Wild & Sublime Patreon member for as little as $5 a month. Members get monthly content, discounts to shows and merchandise, and more. And you’ll be helping support Wild & Sublime’s sex-positive mission. Go to patreon.com/wildandsublime. And now, for the second half of the discussion with Tazima Parris and Matthew Amador. So, one of our Patreon listeners just posted a comment. “One wants to figure out how to set one’s boundaries.” Which brings me to the question: You know, it does sound like maybe the other partner could be more ambitious than the one who’s writing the question. What happens when your partner, or you yourself, are, like, so work driven? How does the other partner set the boundary? What happens? Because this is a very real thing that happens a lot, where the one partner is always just taken up with work. And it is the other relationship, Matthew, as you pointed out. What do you say? What do you say to your partner, in moments like that? How do you begin that conversation?
Tazima Parris: I would say before the conversation even begins, what I encourage people to do is embrace pleasure as a need. And if it’s a need, then you can then have a “needs” conversation. And pleasure can be anything. It can be something mundane, it can be something sensual, it can be something sexual, yes, but pleasure as a need can be brought into a conversation about needs. So, I have a need — you can say something like, I need to be touched, or I need to have a certain amount of time. So, needs help us to determine what our boundaries are. So sort of, I hold boundaries as, like, the circle. And then needs and desires fall within that circle. And then things that are outside of that circle are what’s outside of your boundaries, and what you won’t tolerate, and what are deal breakers. So, if you think about the needs and desires in that space — we have a need for pleasure, you have a need for closeness with a partner, and a desire for certain specific kinds of activities. And as you come to the conversation, that is that boundary space. It’s within that boundary space. So thinking about having a ‘needs’ conversation is very different from, we’re not spending enough time together, and, you know, I’m hurting, or whatever. And that’s not to discourage anyone from whatever conversation spaces they’ve been creating so far. And it’s really important to put this into the conversation as a need, not so much as a complaint of like, what I’m not getting. Versus, hey, here’s what I’m moving toward, rather than, like, here’s what I’m not getting. People can respond better, they have more capacity to respond, when they know what they’re moving into, or what the desire is, or where the other person wants to go. So that’s the language that I would encourage the person to use, as they’re talking about a needs conversation and a need for pleasure in particular.
Matthew Amador: Yeah, I think it’s all about trying to find balance. As much as I appreciate, I think there’s an absolute place for “I” language. I need this, I want this. Sometimes when you’re talking about a relationship, about something really sensitive — that could be sex, that can be finances — this may not be the best place for, “I need this, I want this.” It’s “we.” It’s a lot of “we” speak. It’s a lot of we, maybe I sense the balance is off, what can we do? Because also, it’s really easy then just have those I statements slip into, what can I do to fix this? Or, what can you do to fix this? And no matter how much we try, we’re only 50% of this relationship. No matter how much extra credit we try to do, we are only going to account for 50% of this relationship. So it’s really about us, and what can we do to find balance? Not necessarily, what can I do to shift things? What can you do to make something better?
Karen Yates: So wise, so wise?
Tazima Parris: Totally agree.
Karen Yates: Yeah, I have been in that — “No, I have enough will to drive us through to…!”
Tazima Parris: Collaboration is key. I will fix it!
Karen Yates: I will fix this. I know I will! Any final thoughts? Some very good stuff coming up in this conversation.
Tazima Parris: Take it easy. That’s really my biggest — like, take it easy. Like, I get it. It feels really hard and uncomfortable. And like, so just, be easy on yourself. Both of you are doing the best you can at any given time of your life. I promise you, you’re always, always, always doing your best. You just gotta take it down. It’s okay.
Matthew Amador: Absolutely. Yeah, I wish you all the good juju that you can possibly use. Honestly, if you’re in Chicago, and if you’re used to backroom scenes, and they just haven’t really been around through COVID, if it’s something that you’re into, a lot of those are coming back. A lot of those places are re-opening. So that could be an opportunity, if that’s just easier for you.
Karen Yates: Right. Now, see, I thought Touche was already open. Is that not true?
Matthew Amador: It’s open, but it’s not — actually, well, you want to go? Here we go. So, when Jackhammer closed, a lot of people went over to Touche because it was next door. It’s not the same experience. When I — I had someone who lived across the hall from me, and it was very, very unclean. And that person actually got evicted. And when they got evicted, after a not-too-long amount of time, the roaches from their place crossed the hallway, and I saw them come under the door into my place. Now, once they got to my place, they did not find it as hospitable as the place across the hall. And I don’t mean to call everyone from Jackhammer roaches, because I’ve been there. One of those roaches has been over there. But once I went across the hallway, it was not the same experience that I had experienced in the lovely dankness that was the apartment across the hall. So, yeah, Touche is there, but it’s not Jackhammer. There’s also Banana Video. You can go to Banana Video — there’s some glory holes over there, and some video screens. There’s also Cellblock. Cellblock has a backroom that’s open throughout the week.
Karen Yates: And there’s always Steamworks.
Matthew Amador: And there’s always Steamworks! There’s always a bathhouse right there. Yes.
Karen Yates: There’s always a bathhouse when you need it. So come on, come on…
Tazima Parris: And maybe that could be the vacation. Who knows?
Karen Yates: Right!
Matthew Amador: It would be a really cheap hotel room. A really cheap hotel room. I gotta tell you. They do have a really cheap gym membership — because they have a gym on the top floor. The gym membership is an “on your honor” type of thing. Like, you promise that you aren’t going to go in and only go to the gym and then only come back out. I’m not going to dabble in everything else. But it’s like, the cheapest gym membership in town.
Karen Yates: Yeah. Well, you know, I took a tour, and that gym is pretty fantastic.
Matthew Amador: It’s a really good gym.
Karen Yates: It is, it is. I would go there, if they would let me. But they’re probably not gonna let me.
Matthew Amador: I don’t think — not even for gym membership. I don’t think so. No.
Karen Yates: [laughing] I don’t think so. Because, I don’t know, you know, I don’t know if I could just make it straight from the door to the gym.
Matthew Amador: I don’t know if anyone who has the gym membership makes it straight from the door to the gym! [laughter] There are a couple steps for cardio on the way up to the weights…
Karen Yates: [laughing] There you go.
Tazima Parris: Check your circulation!
Karen Yates: Hot sauce, hot sauce!
Matthew Amador: Sorry, that’s all stuff for you to edit out. Okay. TripAdvisor, Wild & Sublime TripAdvisor. It gives Cellblock three stars.
Tazima Parris: If you’re in Chicago looking for backroom scenes….
Karen Yates: I love it. I love it. To learn more about Matthew and Tazima, go to the show notes. And the holidays are right around the corner, and the Wild & Sublime store is fully stocked. Get totes, mugs and tees with our iconic cat logo before the holiday cut off o n December 12. The link is in the show notes. Wild & Sublime is supported in part by our Sublime Supporter, Full Color Life Therapy, therapy for all of you at fullcolorlifetherapy.com. Well, that’s it, folks. Have a very pleasurable week. Thank you for listening. If you know someone who might be interested in this episode, send it to them. Do you like what you heard? Then give us a nice review on your podcast app. You can follow us on social media @wildandsublime and sign up for newsletters at wildandsublime.com. I’d like to thank associate producer Julia Williams and design guru Jean-Francois Gervais. Theme Music by David Ben-Porat. This episode was edited by The Creative Imposter studios. Our media sponsor is Rebellious Magazine, feminist media, at rebelliousmagazine.com.
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- Tazima Parris – Sex Coach & Pleasure Mentor
- Matthew Amador – Psychotherapist for love, sex, and gender rebels
- Chicago backroom travel tips – Touché, Banana Video, Steamworks
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