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NOWADAYS, WE GO, GO, GO - EVERYWHERE BUT TO BED

Q: It's an old story. My wife and I were intimate often for the first years of our marriage. Now, that has fallen off. I've tried to talk to her about it. But the reasons are all valid - two kids, she's a teacher and works many hours, she gets only five hours of sleep each night and is tired.

I am warding off resentment (so far) but I recognize this is causing friction now, and will only increase if we can't find a way to resolve it. Help!

A: Old story, new villain. Fatigue may be a valid reason for a drop-off in libido, and scant sleep might be a valid reason for fatigue - but two kids and a teaching job are not valid reasons for getting so little sleep every night.

People are doing too much, running too much, expecting too much (and, in an effort to find some relief, spending too much, eating too much, staying up too late, surfing online too much and/or watching too much TV).

What's my definition of "too much"? So much that you don't have sex with your spouse.

It's a dodge as old as mankind, getting busy literally to avoid it figuratively. However, our societal madness for being 18 people at once has promoted a dodge to "valid." We aren't just parents, we parent. We don't have jobs, we have careers. We don't just enroll our kids in an institution, we assume its burdens. Good thing we keep chic homes, cook locally grown food, recycle, host graciously, and stay fit! Despite that haven't-slept-since-'02 thing.

The best thing parents can do for their children is to give them a warm and functional home.

Yet the more they push to give children the best, the more they say no to each other. People need to take a stand against this.

I would argue against begging for sex. Sex is but one symptom, and focusing on the symptom that most affects you is a great way to get this response: (1) Clench your teeth. (2) Say, "Fine." You miss your wife. Yes? That's your argument.

I would also argue against arguing this before you put careful thought into how much you contribute, unwittingly, to her absence. She may well feed off martyrdom (that's a whole other column), but she may, too, feel that everything's dumped on her, and doing everything is faster than duking it out.

If you each wrote down what you had to do tonight before bed, would the lists be fair? If not, why not? Could any of it wait till the weekend without depriving anyone of food, shelter, clean underwear? If no, is she open to revisiting family priorities? Have you said this to her? Nothing whiny or accusatory, just - soon.

Write "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 ore-mail tellme@washpost.com.

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