Hello Dear Reader, Welcome to my very first "Ask Shannon" where I respond to readers' questions with my usual Je ne sais pas! This one's an absolute must when it comes to dating advice. TAKE IT SLOW! If you find my advice useful be sure to OPT-IN to...

Let's set the scene, shall we? You're madly in love/lust with a God we'll call Val (if you're a male reader replace that with a Goddess we'll also call Val). Val is sexy and gorgeous and you're as whipped as Paris was by Helen of Troy. But being...

This post was originally published on my literary site, The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful. Sometimes married sex sucks. And it doesn't suck because we no longer love our spouse. It sucks because we've lost track of our spouse. Here's yet one more way I rediscovered...

How to Spice Up Your Marriage

This post originally appeared on my literary site, The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful. What I didn't know at the time I wrote this was that my friend had just been diagnosed with skin cancer. Fortunately she's cancer-free today, but that scare forced her to step out of her married sex box. Read on: I met my friend Mistress Justine for lunch on Friday. That's not her real name, but it should be. She and her husband, Raoul (also a pseudonym) have been married 15 years and the last time we spoke Justine admitted their sex life had stagnated. They'd just gone through a major house remodel, career remodels and are raising two high energy kids. But as I looked up from my vegan menu I was blinded by the vision of a smoking, hot, sex Goddess walking through the door. She wore a white column dress, sky-high white pumps snapped closed with metal buckles and a black, leather corset peeking from her decolletage. "What happened to you?" I asked Justine. Had she been to dominatrix school? Stripper school? What the heck was going on? "You lost weight!" I accused. She shrugged, "Maybe 15 pounds." Maybe 15 pounds? If I lost 15 pounds I'd take out an ad in the Enquirer. I'd tattoo it to my forehead. "How did you do it?" I breathed. "Sex twice a day with Raoul." It was at this moment I thought I might have to ditch the friendship. Sex twice a day with your own husband? In what universe does that happen? Apparently it happens when a marital dry patch leaves you so parched that you consider sexting one of your colleagues. Because you care about your marriage you go home and tell your husband you're considering sexting one of your colleagues, which effectively gets his attention. Then this happens:

How to Make Your Husband Happy

This piece was first published on The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful, my lit site. It was time. I could tell it was time because Henry, who usually traverses the house with the stealth of a Native American tracking a herd of jittery American Bison, had begun stomping around and inadvertently slamming into furniture as if he'd become a gutshot version of one of the American Bison he was tracking. (Henry doesn't actually track American Bison. It's a metaphor. For something. In this story. Good, right?) Bottom line. Henry needed sex. I know when Henry needs sex for these reasons: 1. The aforementioned slamming around the house like a punch-drunk buffalo. 2. He eats cereal in the dead of night. I find the corpses of empty Cheerios and Captain Crunch boxes splatter-shot all over the kitchen floor in the morning. 3. I annoy the crap out of him. Like when I ask him, "How come you put so many sugary items in our daughters' lunches?" he cries, "Why don't you do the lunches, if you're so worried about it? You try to get them to eat grilled chicken breasts and a Thermos of warm tomato soup, because they won't fucking do it!" 4. He goes to bed at 7 p.m. with one pillow slung over his head so you can only see his right shoulder sticking out. And his right  shoulder is blaming me. Just looking at it I know it's saying, "You are a bad wife. This worthy man brings home the bacon, fries it up in a pan and is so exhausted by all of his Giving that he collapses into bed without asking anything for himself. And frankly Shannon, he shouldn't have to ask!" Yes, his right shoulder says all of that. 5. He stops shaving. Because what's the point? It's a No-Sex self-fulfilling prophecy. Because Henry has a heavy beard. (He's an Irishman. They need foliage to combat the frigid Irish rains of January, February, March, April, May ... oh who am I kidding? It's rains all year on that fucking little island!) If I try to kiss Henry with that prickly, stubble it's like kissing razor blades. And no kissing means no Horizontal Mambo.

I was about to shake things up in my twelve-year marriage.

The idea was planted during season one, episode 15 of Modern Family when Clive Bixby's international playboy set out to seduce the mysterious Juliana, who bears a striking resemblance to Clive's altar ego, Phil Dunphy's wife, Claire. (By God, that was an unwieldy sentence!) My marriage was in flux as I'd recently developed an unhealthy obsession with Gavin DeGraw, a singer/pianist no one seems to've heard of. So I decided it was time to Take Action in order not to commit adultery in my heart. Something had to give. So on a Thursday night that chilly winter eve, Henry came home from taking our daughters to soccer practice and found our babysitter waiting for him with a note from me.

He had no idea this was going to happen.

The note told him to dress for-a-first-date (no orthopedic tennis shoes or white socks), to meet me in the bar at the Avalon Hotel at 8 p.m. sharp. I wrote that we would not know one another and could not be who we truly are. Also he should be cocky and entitled. And if he arrived before me he was to order me a Grey Goose martini straight up with two olives. Because that sounded like a drink Mrs. Robinson would have while smoking thin cigarettes. Unfortunately I arrived first and had to order my own martini. A harbinger of doom re: our tête-à-tête. The minutes driveled by. He was late. Did he get my note? Did the babysitter open it, read it and quit? Maybe he just wasn't coming?  I'd floated this idea by Henry over the years and his response had been, at best, lackluster. This just wasn't his thing. As I sat waiting I began to feel like an aged hooker with no John. I was wearing these items: married sex life Earlier they'd seemed hot, now they seemed a bit pathetic. Wait. Was that...? ...Henry had arrived! He strode through the lounge not looking at me once but going straight to the bar to order a beer. A red beer. Henry doesn't drink. He can't drink. Alcohol gives him blinding migraines. Could it be my reserved, buttoned-up husband was going for it?

A few months back a man named Larry wrote to thank me for my married sex series. He told me he'd been thinking of doing "something foolish" in his 20+ year marriage, but after reading my posts about the sometimes embarrassing ignominies of keeping sex vital in my own long-term marriage, he could finally have a sense of humor about his situation, and for him, that changed everything. I have no idea what the "foolish thing" was that Larry decided not to do, but I did receive an unexpected 50$ Starbucks gift card from Larry in my mailbox as thanks, and the story of how he fell in love with his wife. Both of those things made my month. So here is the post from my site, The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful that started my married sex series where I believe humor may be the most important ingredient in maintaining a healthy marriage. I've given Henry and I pseudonyms. I hope you enjoy: Sarah and Simon had been married ten years.  They had two children, Octavia and Penelope, ages two and four.  Their angels and their succubae.  The couple shared a post-partum stress disorder that manifested in the certainty that their daughters would be felled by whooping cough, kidnapped by infertile women, attacked by the neighbor’s Labradoodle or would, just generally, be short-lived. Doctors prescribed them both a regimen of anti-depressants to eliminate their symptoms of anxiety, which included insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Dendrophobia (an inordinate fear of trees).  The medication held the insanity of raising small children at bay, but Zen didn't come cheap.  They paid for it in the currency of lust.  Leaving none between them. When every living creature was asleep, well after a long day of the various ministrations that came with the role of wife, mother and pet owner, Sarah had taken to ... pleasuring herself while watching Cabo San Lucas Nights on TV; soft porn included in the basic cable package. She’d burrow beneath the family afghan, one hand clutching the TV remote lest a sleepless child interrupt, the other hand thrust beneath her underwear.  She became a rigid mass of perspiration and effort, her orgasm as elusive as calculus.  She was twelve-years old again, in the basement of her childhood home, furtively reading Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club, a novel sensitively detailing the gang rape of an abducted movie star by a nefarious quartet, one of whom manages to bring her to orgasm. Sarah worried that, should she ever interact with other adults again, she might have an affair.  That her languishing libido would rear its ever-morphing, capricious, hela-monster head and she'd be compelled to consider their fifty-something gardener, Porfidio, as something other than the person who mowed and watered their lawn every Thursday at three. Suddenly she'd notice he was tall for a Mexican, over six feet.  Did that mean he was Oaxacan?  Perhaps he wasn't Mexican at all?  Were men taller in Ecuador?  She'd notice his stoop from hard labor, his composure and dignity, his bemusement at her fumbling Spanish.  She'd notice his hands, the long, calloused fingers that might have coaxed sonatas from a baby grand, or steadfastly repaired an aortic tear, an esophageal rupture, a pre-frontal aneurism.  Not to mention what they might elicit from the female body.

One of the most unexpected and sneaky tactics of a veteran narcissist/Asshat to keep you in an emotionally abusive relationship is ... drumroll please ... the C-word. Not that C-word! Jeez, guys.

No, the word I'm referring to is CRITICISM.

It would be unfair to say that, prior to the Asshat coming along, we had unmitigated self regard. At least that wasn't the case for me. When I started college I was just emerging from a fairly horrific awkward phase which included that Triumvirate of Terror:
  1. Zits
  2. Naturally frizzy hair aka pubic head
  3. Non-existent breast flesh.
Having said that, by the time my freshman year of college rolled around the zits were gone, the boobs filled a small B-cup and the pubic head ebbed and flowed with the ever-evolving curling iron/hair gel technology. There was a light at the end of that spit-curl tunnel. But then I fell in love with the Greek God. I've mentioned him previously and have to reiterate that there was some real love in our 5-year relationship, but it was always undercut by a current of Asshattery on his part, and masochism on mine. When the three-month honeymoon period ended that C-word reared its ugly head. We were sitting on my dorm bed. I was wearing shorts when he reached over, pinched my thigh and a few little dimples appeared. "Oh man, you've got cellulite," he said. "Cellulite?" I queried. At 18 I didn't know what cellulite was. I'd spent puberty and beyond pretty much skin-and-bones, just wishing I could put on a few pounds to fill out my Jordache jeans, so cellulite was, as yet, unknown to me. I learned a great deal about cellulite from the Greek God.
  1. It's disgusting and verges on sinful.
  2. It's caused by laziness and lack of discipline.
  3. It's unattractive and makes men not want to have sex with you.
  4. You'll never be good enough until that cellulite is gone.
This is what I looked like with my cellulite: [caption id="attachment_14601" align="aligncenter" width="600"]signs of an emotionally abusive relationship               (This is a blurry action shot, but I think you might see the point I'm making.)[/caption]

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship!

You know you're doing it, aren't you? Giving the Asshat credit for doing the absolute minimum required to keep a relationship trudging along? What do I mean by Asshat? This:
  • They don't call when they say they will.
  • They don't show up when expected.
  • They brood at social gatherings with friends and family.
  • You're fairly certain they're cheating on you in office cubicles, toilet stalls and perhaps even in your own bed.
These are all the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship. There are some people for whom the dyed-in-Charmin Asshat holds no charm. These emotionally healthy people kick Asshats to the curb once they've disappointed them for the very first time. Then there are the rest of us. We will suffer Asshats gladly for weeks, months, nay years at a time. I was an Asshat-magnet for approximately ten years. Asshats could sniff out my needy co-dependence from 100 miles away as the crow flies. And one of the things that kept me trapped in my Asshatalicious relationship FOR FIVE YEARS was my ability to take the Asshat's bread crumbs and whip them into a rustic loaf, because I absolutely wanted to make a case for staying in the relationship. For example: