ROSIE arrives for supper at the house of an old school friend bubbling with enthusiasm. She has finally found someone to back her new venture so at last she will get out of secretarial work and into her own design business. She only needs another pounds 5,000 for brochures and such and she's away.
Also at supper is an enterprising but unrealistic charmer, Robert, another friend of the hostess, who has had lots of business failures. Before the guests have mopped up the sauce from the moules marinieres, Robert has sworn he can get the money by next week and proposed a partnership.
As they leave, his wife whispers to Sheila, the hostess, 'Isn't it marvellous? I think this is a venture he could really pull off.' Sheila knows that every business venture Robert has touched in the past has turned to ashes. Does she warn Rosie?
YES OR NO? Should Angus sleep with his glamorous colleague, Trish, who was offering a 'no strings' affair? His wife, Sandra, mother of his two young children, had refused sex - and counselling for the problem - for a year. This was the problem we asked you to help solve - and it was gratifying to read so many thoughtful letters.
We can get the yes votes out of the way fairly quickly, because there was only one. It came from a man in Dorset who had the original idea of suggesting that Angus made love to Trish, but only in the interests of science: to find out 'if there is something in his technique which should be improved'.
The rest of you said no. Angus had made his marriage vows; he should stick to them. Anne Crocker from Bath spoke eloquently for many. 'There's no such thing as a 'no strings' involvement. Strings are spun by ourselves within close relationships, and they can be woven into mats that bear other legends than 'Welcome'.'
Chris Frederick of Somerset argued powerfully against affairs in general. 'By having an affair with Trish, Angus will be weakened by agonising guilt. Or, in order to escape from guilt, he will have to sever himself from Sandra in his heart. I think he would gradually grow away from her emotionally, and probably move away from her physically.'
Jean Summers of Brentwood went even further: 'If a situation in a marriage is so intolerable, then the couple should part before even considering finding another partner. This should be the law, and a punishable offence if not adhered to.'
But if Angus isn't going to have an affair, what should he do instead?
A woman in Oxford suggested Angus should chicken out of the decision altogether and 'ask his wife what to do'. A retired GP said that if he asked Sandra first 'there is always the possibility that she won't mind'. (Frankly, the chances of her telling him to go ahead are about as likely as her buying the story of him going off with someone else because he was just 'checking up on his technique'.)
Anyway, involving Sandra in the decision is cowardly. So, too, is Alan Parker's suggestion that he lean on Trish. 'When Angus is with Trish, he should refer to his family, show her photographs of his wife and children and put Trish firmly into the moral position of knowing what she is disrupting if she tries to attract him away. That way he is not the only one grappling with his conscience.' But surely he must be the only one to grapple with his conscience? He can't lean on either Trish or his wife to help him to make up his mind.
Then there is one man's advice; understandably he asks me not to publish his name. 'I have experienced Angus's situation and my advice is that he should decline Trish's offer, desist from trying to interest his wife in sex and instead practise masturbation, a much under-rated sexual activity. That, and the mere fact of still being found desirable by an attractive woman, coupled with the achievement of resisting her advances and the continuation of his marriage, is likely to prove more fulfilling than a transient affair.'
Others recommended that Angus should woo his wife again. Anne Bliss of Wembley said: 'He should take Sandra on that business trip. Sandra is tired; she needs a break. And who knows what effect that will have on her, the combination of glamour and jealousy - Trish is so beautiful] Angus's problem may well be solved on that first night.'
'I suggest the in-laws be cajoled into having the children. Angus and Sandra should both have a lazy day and an early night,' suggested another reader. 'Next day Angus prepares - for midday consumption - a great meal with just a little good wine. He puts good music on and puts the massage oil to good use. He ensures that the ambience is created for a little loving . . .' On similar lines M D Trehearne suggested 'whisking Sandra off to a romantic week in Paris or Rome'.
These are well-meaning, but trite, women's magazine approaches to Sandra's sexual problems, which can't be solved by wine, roses and Paris cafes any more than a man's impotence can be cured by his wife wearing skimpy nighties and perfume; the answers lie in the head.
Lots of readers wondered whether post-natal depression, tiredness, or fear of pregnancy might be at the root of Sandra's sexual gloom. Whatever the reasons, as Martin Smith of Oxford says, 'It would certainly be difficult to argue that an individual woman or man does not have an absolute right to say no to sex. But in saying no they have also to accept that it does not stop there: the relationship they are now in is no longer the one that they are both committed to.'
Something must be done. But what? Liz Tucker gets nearer to the answer, I feel, by rightly pointing out that 'Surely if Sandra no longer wants to sleep with Angus, that is a problem for both of them, not just her?' But Vanessa Dunmore of Wakefield hits the nail on the head: 'He must not tell Sandra of Trish's suggestion. If Sandra has lost confidence in her sexuality, the knowledge that her husband fancied someone else would only exacerbate her lack of confidence and also lead her to distrust Angus's activities.'
He should make an appointment to see a counsellor, she says, get some literature on the subject, and 'tell Sandra that he loves her but he's feeling unhappy and rejected. He should tell her he is going to counselling and that it would make him happy if she would go along
with him. He should at least try
to get her to promise to think about it.'
As so often, sex isn't the real issue here. The real issue is that Angus feels unloved. Does Sandra love him enough - not enough to 'lie back and think of England' as one correspondent insisted - but enough just to try to get help? The trying would show she loved him, not the sex. And if he knew she was trying, would the problem of sex really loom so large? I doubt it.
Rosie arrives for supper at the house of an old school friend, bubbling with enthusiasm. She has finally found someone to back her new venture, so at last she will get out of secretarial work and into her own design business. She only needs another pounds 5,000 for brochures etc and she's away.
Also at supper is an energetic but unrealistic charmer, Robert, another good friend of the hostess, who has had a lot of business failures. Before the guests have mopped up the sauce from the moules marinieres, Robert has stepped into the breach, swearing he can get the money by next week and proposing a partnership.
As they leave, his wife whispers to Sheila, the hostess, 'Isn't it marvellous? I think this is one of the few ventures he could really pull off.' Sheila knows that every business venture Robert has touched in the past has turned to ashes. Does she warn Rosie?Reuse content