BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

My Wife Doesn’t Think I’m Masculine Enough

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(Question has been modified for space and clarity.)

I am a 45-year-old British schoolteacher living in Vietnam with my 53-year-old Vietnamese wife, to whom I’ve been married for 14 years.

Five years ago, my wife contracted stage 3 lung cancer. I am very thankful she’s still alive, as many people in her position haven’t been as lucky.

However, right before she was diagnosed, she had said she was bored with our marriage, and our sex life in particular.

Since then, I have studied sex skills to improve my performance. But when I’ve tried to use them, my wife wasn’t receptive, because I hadn’t turned her on yet. I read some more online and found out that this was because I wasn’t behaving in masculine ways, so I am now learning to do that.

Currently, I am going to coffee shops and speaking to other women, just to develop my masculinity. I have no interest in these women, nor do I have any intention of cheating. I just want to perfect these skills so I can later use them with my wife. I believe this will turn her on, enhance our sex life and make her happy in our marriage.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure what to say or do, and I don’t know how to behave in a dominant way. Any suggestions?
–OLLY; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

For I don’t know how long, I’ve been reading and re-reading this question, unsure of how to answer it.

Typically, my strategy is to come up with and incorporate a relevant, parallel story, be it from pop culture, my own life or somewhere else.

I do this not only in the name of narrative, but in hopes of better illustrating my point and letting the questioner know s/he is not alone.

This is an advice column, and I want to do everything I can to help anyone who reads it.

And though it sometimes takes awhile to get my message across, for the analogy I’m drawing to become clear, (I hope) the payoff is worth the wait.

Sadly, that strategy is failing me thus far with this article. I’ve got nothing. I’ve got no story to tell and no movie to reference. I’m stuck.

While my heart might be in the right place, it’s leading me in the wrong direction.

And now that I think about it, the same could be said about you, OLLY.

You love and cherish your wife. That much is clear. You love and cherish her so much you’re willing to do anything to make her happy — even if that means learning sex skills from lord-knows-where and faux-flirting with women in coffee shops so you can, eventually, properly flirt with her.

Unfortunately, your roundabout strategy has been working as well as mine.

You’re not getting anywhere with your wife. And I’m not getting anywhere with this article.

So maybe it’s time we learn from our mirrored mistake.

If the most efficient path between two points is a straight line, the paths we’ve chosen to reach our respective goals resemble a kindergartener’s scribbles — meaning we need to recalibrate.

Instead of taking the scenic route, let’s both try a more straightforward approach.

No misdirection. No attempts at being cute or clever. No circumventing the system.

Just the bottom line.

In that spirit, I believe you can do the following three things to improve your sex life, and in turn, your marriage:

1) Talk to Your Wife

Based on the info provided, you and your wife spoke about your bedroom issues five years ago.

And presumably, there was some degree of discussion regarding her disinterest/dissatisfaction with your newfound skills.

But has there been further discussion since?

While it’s admirable you’re working so hard to find solutions, you’re not going to find them if you don’t know what the problem is.

What does your wife want out of your sex life? What does she like (and not like)? What turns her on? What moves move her? Is she even interested in romance while she’s battling cancer?

These are the questions you need to be asking.

You’ve been looking for (how to provide) love in all the wrong places. But the right “place” has been lying next to you all along.

It doesn’t matter what women want; it only matters what one woman in particular wants.

2) Be With Your Wife

As a married man, you shouldn’t be working on your game with other women, even if you have no intention of anything happening.

For starters, it’s not fair to those women. But more importantly, it’s not fair to your wife.

How would you feel if she was doing the same with other men?

You’re no longer the fiance looking to surprise his bride by secretly learning to waltz.

You are a husband looking to reconnect with his wife.

And that’s something that must be done, and can only be done, with your partner.

When you got married, you committed to support each other in good times and bad.

You’ve supported your wife through the bad times of cancer.

And my guess is that, if you give her the chance — and when she’s ready — your wife will support your efforts for future good times in the bedroom.

You’re a team. And teams practice together so they can effectively play together.

3) Be a Man

From fixing a busted carburetor to warding off home intruders, there are plenty of times when it pays to unleash your inner alpha male.

But if you want to be the type of man your wife can’t resist, try being honest about your feelings, and owning your vulnerability, and putting her needs ahead of your own.

She won’t find anything more masculine than that.

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This originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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