Candid Conversations: Managing the ‘Work Spouse’ and Therapy Avoidance

In this Q&A, Jess and Brandon weigh in on listener queries related to “work spouses”, dealing with a partner who refuses to go to therapy and “love tattoos”:

“My husband has a coworker who introduced herself to me as his work wife. I didn’t even know how to respond. When I talked to him about it, he said she was just kidding around. I think it’s inappropriate. He says it’s no big deal. Who is right?”

“What do you do if your partner refuses; to go to therapy – but the relationship is on the rocks? Asking for a friend.”

“I just turned 18, and I’ve been dating a guy – who is a few years older than me. He comes from money, so he’s shown me a lot of things I’ve never seen before. It has only been a few months, and he wants me to get a matching tattoo. What should I do?”

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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

Episode 339

Candid Conversations: Managing the ‘Work Spouse’ and Therapy Avoidance

[00:00:00] You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and relationship advice you can use tonight.

[00:00:15] Brandon Ware: Welcome to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. I’m your cohost, Brandon Ware here with my lovely other half, Dr. Jess. Hey, how are you doing?

[00:00:22] Jess O’Reilly: I’m good. I can see that you’re putting on a brave face. I am putting on a brave face.

[00:00:26] Jess O’Reilly: You know how I know you’re having a date.

[00:00:29] Brandon Ware: How? What’s my tell? What’s my tell? Is it Terry’s?

[00:00:33] Jess O’Reilly: It’s your, it’s your left peck. It’s my left peck. It’s your left peck. It’s that I saw the app from your ring on your phone and your stress was way up at the top.

[00:00:42] Brandon Ware: So I have an Aura ring and it monitors all your vitals and they just released a stress feature.

[00:00:48] Brandon Ware: I’m stressed out today.

[00:00:49] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, left peck going hard.

[00:00:51] Brandon Ware: I feel like some people need to talk it out with somebody other than me.

[00:00:55] Jess O’Reilly: So I think so many of us run into this. I’m not going to obviously speak specifically about your situation. I know what’s going on, but I think that sometimes you have people in your lives.

[00:01:05] Jess O’Reilly: Whether they be friends, or clients, or co workers, or just people in your family, who, they have their own anxiety, and they try and attenuate that anxiety through you. And I don’t mean they’re dumping their problems on you, but they may be actually, in your case, they are actually saying, here are my problems, fix them, even though you can’t.

[00:01:25] Jess O’Reilly: But, They expect you to kind of jump and dance and twist and twirl around their anxiety as though their urgency is your emergency.

[00:01:36] Brandon Ware: Ooh, that’s a good one. I have heard that before, but their urgency is my emergency. Yes.

[00:01:40] Jess O’Reilly: I think it’s Luna who I first heard say that.

[00:01:42] Brandon Ware: Was that Luna? Luna Matadas?

[00:01:43] Jess O’Reilly: It rhymes, you know.

[00:01:44] Brandon Ware: It rhymes. I love that. She’s a rhymer. She’s a plumber. Uh, I, I would agree with that wholeheartedly, and I think once you start paying attention to that, it’s easier for me to realize that, Hey, listen, this isn’t my problem. This is your problem. And I want to support you. I’m going to be compassionate in [00:02:00] understanding maybe the situation that you’re going through, but also taking a step back and saying, you know what, though, at the end of the day, this isn’t my problem.

[00:02:05] Brandon Ware: This is your problem.

[00:02:06] Jess O’Reilly: Well, that’s the hard thing when you’re a natural people pleaser. So I learned something about myself this week, which is that a lot of my behavior. That involves not setting any boundaries for myself or pretending to set them and letting them all be violated has to do with anxiety and impulsivity where I feel like, Oh, this person’s upset.

[00:02:23] Jess O’Reilly: I better fix it for them.

[00:02:25] Brandon Ware: Agreed. And do you also find that that impulsivity, the immediate need to respond? It’s not, not only are you just impulsive in nature, but it’s like in your immediate need to respond to that inquiry.

[00:02:36] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. It’s like life is like an inbox and email inbox. And I just want to clear it and clear it and clear it as fast as I can.

[00:02:41] Jess O’Reilly: And one, one thing that I’ve learned.

[00:02:43] Brandon Ware: Hold up. Hold up, hold up. You want to clear that inbox? How many unread messages do you have in your email inbox? I’m doing my best. No, no, no. I want to know. Is it, is it over a hundred? Okay, yes, but… Is it, is it over a thousand? Okay, yes. Is it over two thousand?

[00:02:58] Jess O’Reilly: It is not over two thousand five hundred thirty nine.

[00:03:02] Jess O’Reilly: Phew. No, but can I just tell you why that is? Because you don’t actually see my email. You just see the icon. Rain your logic down. Oh my gosh, we have no focus here. It’s because an old inbox got imported in. It’s not like there’s 2000 messages I need to get to. There are probably like five messages I need to get to.

[00:03:21] Jess O’Reilly: I swear. I don’t, I don’t let my inbox pile up. I like to clean it out.

[00:03:25] Brandon Ware: I’m just playing with you. I know that you do. And I know that that was reason. Did you? I didn’t know that was the exact reason, but I figured that there must have been a reason. Even for me, I have 50, well actually I have 27 unread emails.

[00:03:36] Brandon Ware: And I definitely want to get through them all. And when I feel like if I get through them, I’ve accomplished something. But that’s not the case because that email inbox just continues to grow every day. But I will say that I love me a snooze button. Do you use the snooze button?

[00:03:49] Jess O’Reilly: No.

[00:03:50] Brandon Ware: Ooh, you gotta learn to use the snooze.

[00:03:52] Jess O’Reilly: Where you snooze people’s emails?

[00:03:53] Brandon Ware: You just snooze it. It’s just, it’s a reminder setting. I mean, I use a CRM, a database management system, to help me, you know, stay organized, but at the [00:04:00] same time, that snooze button? Love it.

[00:04:02] Jess O’Reilly: So what does it do? Like, the email comes back after a certain amount of time?

[00:04:05] Brandon Ware: Yeah, it’ll just show back up.

[00:04:07] Brandon Ware: Uh, in your email inbox. Yeah, it’s great. So you can set the snooze reminder. Is that through Gmail. Later in the day, a week later, a month later. It’s amazing. I love it.

[00:04:14] Jess O’Reilly: March 2026? Yeah. That’s when I want to get to your email.

[00:04:16] Brandon Ware: I’ll snooze you to, to never.

[00:04:18] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. Okay, we totally got off track. Cause I, I had asked you about the stress because I wanted to ask you about stress management.

[00:04:25] Jess O’Reilly: And then I veered into my own stuff around impulsivity. I’m going to tell you my one lesson that I’m kind of focused on this week. And that is to slow down before I respond. Slow down before I respond to work emails, to personal messages, to requests from family, to requests from friends, just to take a breath.

[00:04:42] Jess O’Reilly: And I have Carla, my therapist, in my head, who’s like, why do you have to do everything right away? Why do you, and as I said, it’s because I want that inbox empty other than the 200, 500, 2, 538 emails that are okay on red. So, I’m curious about you and stress management, because I see you smiling there. The weird smile?

[00:05:01] Jess O’Reilly: So, I know that you’re having a stressful afternoon. How are you coping? You took your shirt off.

[00:05:05] Brandon Ware: I did take my shirt off to attenuate some of the sweat that had been, uh, you know, accumulating.

[00:05:12] Jess O’Reilly: Will we get more listens if… We put video because you’re doing this topless.

[00:05:16] Brandon Ware: I am wearing a tank top and I don’t know if it’s the sexiest of tank tops But hey,

[00:05:20] Jess O’Reilly: it’s an undershirt as we say in jamaica.

[00:05:22] Jess O’Reilly: It’s a marina.

[00:05:22] Brandon Ware: It’s a marina What am I doing to attenuate my stress? I’m not doing much. That’s the truth I have a number of strategies that I normally employ right now I think i’m just i’m kind of ruminating in the stress, but you said something that was really great Which was take a beat before you reply back and I have found myself trying to do that My natural tendencies to fire back right away.

[00:05:46] Brandon Ware: I have quick thumbs Even I open my mouth sometimes and I think after why didn’t I just wait like five minutes? And I have tried to employ that. I know you probably haven’t noticed this but even in conversation. I [00:06:00] have thought to myself I don’t need to chime in right now. I need to wait. I need to focus and actively listen to what you’re saying and just Hold my commentary until you’re done.

[00:06:09] Brandon Ware: Whatever it is you’re saying and that’s helped given me a bit of clarity Even just in formulating my thoughts because I get to listen and really pay attention to you So i’m not doing anything right now to attenuate my stress I had thought about going and doing some physical activity. I did think about going to the gym, but I didn’t think I had enough time.

[00:06:28] Brandon Ware: You have time tonight. I have time later, definitely. But that was something that crossed my mind. And then, I mean, I have a number of other strategies that I can employ. I just didn’t. I mean, breathing. I’ve noticed that I pay attention to my physical response. I know that my physiological response through therapy and with assistance from my therapist been, you know, really focusing in on how I feel.

[00:06:47] Brandon Ware: Physically feel and noticing those feelings

[00:06:49] Jess O’Reilly: and if you don’t notice the ring will notice and if I don’t off the charts

[00:06:53] Brandon Ware: I love that data I really do appreciate because I feel like I can marry the psychological components with the physiological components and I like To understand I like to understand number one and I also like to think that I might be able to control some of that So there’s a physical physical activity checking in, you know, breathing is a big one for me

[00:07:12] Jess O’Reilly: What about your top and your tail?

[00:07:13] Jess O’Reilly: My top and my tail? You’re supposed to check in with your head and your tail. Oh, yeah. As your butthole trunk. Skunk to trunk. No, that’s something different. That’s the perineum. That’s from the butt to the penis.

[00:07:24] Brandon Ware: I thought the trunk was maybe, you know, like your neck.

[00:07:27] Jess O’Reilly: Oh, I didn’t know that. No, I’m pretty sure…

[00:07:29] Brandon Ware: How do I know? The skunk to trunk. I’m pretty sure the trunk is something else. Ah, yes. How’s your butthole? Now that I’m thinking about it… Relaxed.

[00:07:38] Jess O’Reilly: How’s your forehead?

[00:07:38] Brandon Ware: Tense.

[00:07:39] Jess O’Reilly: Cause your vein is out.

[00:07:40] Brandon Ware: Is the vein? I have a vein that pops out as soon as I’m intense.

[00:07:44] Jess O’Reilly: Alright, I think we need to cut off enough about Brandon.

[00:07:47] Jess O’Reilly: I was trying to get to one thing, we went to a whole bunch because we have a bunch of questions actually we’re going to answer. The first one’s from a young person so I really want to get to this because hopefully I get to the answer. Before they get to the tattoo,[00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Jess O’Reilly: I hope not. I hope not. So before we dive into that question, we’ve got Adam and Eve. com who have reactivated the Dr. Jess 50 discount. So if you are in the market for lingerie, for vibrators, for dildos, for butt plugs, for King gear, for sex furniture, for lube, and anything. To do with pleasure, Adam and eve.com has you covered and you can save 50% off almost any single item plus free shipping, plus free rush handling with code Dr.

[00:08:30] Jess O’Reilly: Jess 50 and Doctor is shortened to Dr. So check that [email protected]. Alright, uh, our first question is from an 18 year old and I’m hoping that I’m answering it urgently enough. Here we go. I just turned 18 and I’ve been dating a guy who’s a few years older than me. He comes from money, so he’s shown me a lot of things I’ve never seen before.

[00:08:54] Jess O’Reilly: It’s only been a few months and he wants me to get a matching tattoo. Why are you laughing?

[00:09:00] Brandon Ware: I’m not. I’m listening. I’m taking a beat.

[00:09:02] Jess O’Reilly: Are you taking a beat? Oh, well, first of all, your body, you do what you want. And I’ve, I’ve actually come across a question similar to this when I was doing interviews on celebrities in the past.

[00:09:13] Jess O’Reilly: And, you know, one thing that Always comes to mind is that when you commit to something like a tattoo, I think it intensifies the pressure on the relationship, but not the pressure to invest in the relationship, not the pressure to thrive and ensure that the relationship is fulfilling, but the pressure to stay together.

[00:09:30] Jess O’Reilly: And that can be really overwhelming. So I’m wondering if you can wait it out a bit because you’ve taken the time to DM me, thank you, which means you’re not being impulsive about it and you know it’s not you’re out one night and you decide to do it like I would do. So I’m wondering if taking a little more time to contemplate is that doable for you and if you decide to hopefully you stand behind it but I just wonder what the benefits of a tattoo might be right now.

[00:09:56] Jess O’Reilly: I think it’s a great answer. Yeah. You know, I remember this with, is it [00:10:00] Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian? Could be. I think that, that’s the correct name. And I always think about the parallels, you know, that piece around one of you having money or both of you in this case for, for the celebrities and when the necessities of life are…

[00:10:13] Jess O’Reilly: all taken care of at this kind of extreme or superfluous level. So often we’ll start to seek thrills and take risks that other people who have to actually look out for basic needs and safety can’t imagine. And so I’m thinking about, you know, this, this guy comes from money and sometimes those risks can be physical, like, you know, purposefully seeking.

[00:10:32] Jess O’Reilly: Pain, which can in fact be pleasurable in the right context with the rush of endorphins and adrenaline. And they can also be emotional too, like diving headfirst into relationships with someone new and maybe not always checking in to see if they’re, you know, on board or in line with you. So, If you want to get the tattoo, of course, that’s your call and there’s no judgment, but I do think there’s value in waiting.

[00:10:54] Jess O’Reilly: And I don’t want to say, no, just you’re young. Cause it’s not just that you’re 18. I get it. And I think it’s great that you’re seeing some new, exciting things. I also think it’s great that you’re recognizing that maybe there are some levels of potential inequity in the relationship if he’s a little bit older and he has a little bit more money.

[00:11:13] Jess O’Reilly: So just being aware of what that can lead to in terms of, in terms of influence.

[00:11:18] Brandon Ware: I just want to comment on how mature I think this person is to be 18 years old and reaching out for advice and reflecting on this and and even just thinking this through and I think it’s great that they’re doing it I think back to the ideas I had all my friends were getting tattoos 16 17 18 years old and man I think back though to the idea some of the some of the things that I wanted to get tattooed when I was 18.

[00:11:39] Brandon Ware: Was it a barbed wire? I know it wasn’t a barbed wire but it might have been an airwalk symbol or it might have been like Calvin and Hobbes or something and I’m like the shoe yeah man and I’m like I am so glad that I just waited a little bit. You didn’t even skateboard. I snowboarded a long time ago.

[00:11:57] Brandon Ware: Was airwalk a I don’t know man, like maybe it [00:12:00] was. Listen, I didn’t get it, that’s my point. I’m very happy that I didn’t get anything. I still think that, you know, a lot of my friends are very happy with the art, the ink that they have. And perhaps this person will be too. I’m just very thankful that I, I took a beat.

[00:12:13] Brandon Ware: And didn’t get what I wanted to get at that point.

[00:12:16] Jess O’Reilly: I know so many people who have had tattoos removed. So many people Or covered. Yeah, or covered. It’s a big industry, actually. I think it’s a very, very profitable industry. Anyhow, you do what’s right for you, and I love the idea of taking a beat here. Okay, I have another question from another younger listener, uh, who provides quite a bit of context, but the short version is, What do I do about an uncle who is mean to my face right at the dinner table?

[00:12:38] Jess O’Reilly: He’ll criticize me, he’ll mock me. I don’t know how to deal with him. or make it stop. That sucks. I’m really sorry. And you don’t deserve that and you don’t have to put up with it. And I know it’s not as easy as I think sometimes, you know, in some of the chat groups I’m in, people will say, just speak your mind, you know, tell them to stop, stand up for yourself, set your boundaries.

[00:12:56] Jess O’Reilly: But if you’re writing in, it’s because maybe you don’t feel comfortable doing that. Right. And so I wonder who the allies are in your family. who might have a different relationship with your uncle and can potentially stand up to him. Maybe because of their age, maybe because of their role, maybe because of their status in the family, maybe because of their gender.

[00:13:16] Jess O’Reilly: I wonder if you can let them know what’s happening if they aren’t seeing it. Maybe they’re not picking up on just how harmful his comments are. And ask them If they’ll stand up, however you feel comfortable. Like maybe you want them to speak to him privately. Maybe you want them to intervene. Maybe you want them to stand up at the table and say cut that out.

[00:13:37] Jess O’Reilly: Maybe you’d rather them do it in a lighter way. I think you have to figure out what you’re comfortable with because sometimes in the past where I, when I haven’t been comfortable standing up for myself, somebody else stepped in and it’s made me feel worse. Because I’m so conflict averse or I don’t, I didn’t feel like conflict was safe in that space.

[00:13:55] Jess O’Reilly: So just look for those allies and think about what it is you want them to do for you.

[00:13:59] Brandon Ware: Well, [00:14:00] hopefully this person has the opportunity to also not attend those family gatherings. And I’m not saying that they do, but it would be, you know, maybe somebody else will pick up on it when you start realizing that I’m not gonna show up.

[00:14:12] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, that is a way of communicating. Withdrawal is a form of communication. And especially if you feel they’re being abusive and it’s adversely affecting how you feel about yourself, which I imagine it is if you’ve sent me this note. Uh, you, you have choice around those boundaries, hopefully. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.

[00:14:26] Jess O’Reilly: Maybe you live in the home where the, maybe you all live together, I don’t know. So can you set boundaries and not spend time with them? Like maybe you don’t skip every family function, but maybe you bring a friend or a partner as a buffer. Maybe you sit on a different side of the room. Maybe you tell them like you’re not engaging with it and you have to kind of figure out what works, works for you.

[00:14:44] Jess O’Reilly: One thing that I’ve seen with young people communicating with aunties and uncles and usually intergenerational communication in families. Sometimes it’s effective to write a letter or an email or a text to kind of more clearly communicate what you’re feeling and make really specific requests, right?

[00:15:01] Jess O’Reilly: Like, you know, stop referring to me by that rude nickname or stop joking about that incident or I don’t want to be called this sometimes reading it in writing. Can be helpful. And I think we have to also be sensitive to the fact that if your uncle’s older than you, which they usually are, he may not be responsive.

[00:15:16] Jess O’Reilly: If you call him out in front of everyone, right, that could be more explosive. And you have to be mindful of what kind of support you’re going to get. And I don’t know what your situation is, but I do hope that you take some action, that you have someone who’s an ally or that, and, or that you can speak up and set some boundaries.

[00:15:30] Brandon Ware: Yeah, I hope so too. And it’s easy to look in from the outside and say, just do this. I see that all the time. Just do this, just do that. And it’s like, well, you’re not there. So. You know, in this context or in this environment, I’m not comfortable. I like the idea of, of just maybe giving somebody who is an ally, somebody that you do trust a little nudge and be like, would you mind just hanging out with me at this family function today?

[00:15:48] Brandon Ware: Because in the past, you know, I’ve been made to feel really crappy by Uncle Dick.

[00:15:53] Jess O’Reilly: Uncle Dick. You know, I’m thinking about some of the things that folks in, in our families, let’s just say, have said to [00:16:00] me over the years and how I always just laughed it off. because it felt more comfortable than standing up to them and because in the moment my people pleasing impulsivity is how do I make this less awkward for everyone else rather than how do I make this safe for myself so I think that we have to kind of think about okay so how do I prioritize my safety here as well

[00:16:19] Brandon Ware: and as you said my the problem that I have is that I, my response is going to be very explosive.

[00:16:25] Brandon Ware: When I think about the circumstances where somebody might have said or done something, I think of, you know, being more confident and being more self assured of my beliefs and my, my core values today. I think if somebody did say something, I’m with certain people, I, I’d. fly off the handle like I’d have to do what you said before, which is take a beat

[00:16:41] Jess O’Reilly: and think about if you’re supposedly standing up for me, are you doing it in a way that’s supportive of me or supportive of yourself.

[00:16:47] Brandon Ware: And that’s what I was I was going towards, which is, am I just making things worse for you?

[00:16:52] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, absolutely. I thank you for your question. I hope I hope it works out and you can have some good meals without all the nonsense. Okay, next topic is also from a fairly young couple. They’re newly wed and she says, my husband.

[00:17:04] Jess O’Reilly: has a coworker who just introduced herself to me as his work wife. I didn’t even know how to respond. When I talked to him about it after, he said she’s just kidding around. I think it’s inappropriate. He says it’s no big deal. Who is right?

[00:17:20] Brandon Ware: You ever had somebody refer to you as their work wife?

[00:17:22] Jess O’Reilly: No one would want me as a work wife.

[00:17:24] Jess O’Reilly: There’s no, no one even wants to work with me. Come near me. But you, do you remember years ago? I do remember. You worked with someone who we both knew and they were, I would, like a friend ish and a friendly acquaintance. And they called you. She said you were her work husband, and to me, that’s not something that personally bothered me, but it bothered you.

[00:17:47] Brandon Ware: Yeah, I spoke up.

[00:17:47] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah.

[00:17:48] Brandon Ware: And it was more the principle. It’s like, we are friends, this is, there is no sort of intimate relationship between us, so I don’t want you to call me your work husband. You were just afraid. Because I’m not. [00:18:00]

[00:18:00] Jess O’Reilly: You were afraid all of them are going to start calling you their work husband.

[00:18:02] Brandon Ware: No, I, I, I felt like it crossed a line. Okay. I felt that it was… I felt it was inappropriate and I understand that it was just a joke and I understand that there was nothing about our relationship that could have been interpreted any other way. But for me, it was just, I’m not going to play this game. And I wanted to nip it in the bud.

[00:18:23] Jess O’Reilly: Do you think you would feel that way universally? Or do you think that it was that specific circumstance?

[00:18:29] Brandon Ware: No, I think I would feel that way universally.

[00:18:33] Jess O’Reilly: This man only wants one wife. He’s like, I do not want a second wife, a third wife.

[00:18:37] Brandon Ware: I’m happy with

[00:18:38] Brandon Ware: the one I got. I am over the moon.

[00:18:40] Jess O’Reilly: You’ve got your hands full.

[00:18:41] Brandon Ware: I’ve got my hands full, for sure.

[00:18:44] Jess O’Reilly: No more wives. I’m gonna get you a t shirt that says no more wives. No more wives. So this person says, I think it’s appropriate. He says, it’s no big deal who is right. So I don’t think I have the answer on who is right, but I do think about relationships and labels and how consent is so important.

[00:19:02] Jess O’Reilly: And so if he says it’s a joke, I would hope that all parties involved enjoy the joke and then go ahead and joke away, but if it’s making one of you. Presumably the person who’s more important to him because you’re his actual partner in life that he lives with. If it’s making you uncomfortable, and in some way is, I don’t know, like I don’t want to say undermining your relationship with him.

[00:19:23] Jess O’Reilly: I would hope that he would at least be open to that conversation around, yeah, maybe this isn’t right. Now, he can’t control. What she does nobody can control your feelings. You’re allowed to feel however you want And it sounds like they might have a fairly close relationship at work And if that’s the case you would think that He would also want you guys to potentially get along because you’ve already met her It sounds like, and I’m sure you’re going to see her again.

[00:19:48] Jess O’Reilly: So I think that there are ways to express appreciation for close relationships that make all parties comfortable. And I’m, listen, I get it. Not everybody just has one partner. Some [00:20:00] people have multiple partners. But if you only have one partner and you only have one husband and you only have one wife, I get why you might not want somebody else to use that title.

[00:20:07] Jess O’Reilly: Do you have control? Are you right? Like, do you have the moral higher ground? I don’t think so. But I, what I do think is that if you prioritize. Your personal relationships probably over your workplace relationships. You probably, he probably wants to hopefully make you feel a bit more comfortable and at least show you some support in this respect.

[00:20:25] Jess O’Reilly: Did I kind of dodge that question? I’m not trying to dodge it.

[00:20:28] Brandon Ware: The question, I think you answered it. I have something to add, like, what about even the idea of a workplace brother or workplace sister or workplace sibling? Could that not replace the idea of workplace? Partner, or spouse, or husband, or wife.

[00:20:40] Jess O’Reilly: It could be your work sister wife.

[00:20:42] Brandon Ware: Your work sister wife, yeah, for sure. But, even the idea of a husband or wife, to me, there’s a, there’s a sexual element, there’s an intimate element to it. So, would you be okay… With a sibling instead like I just that’s where my mind goes Like I’m just kind of going down and I’m not saying hey, listen, you need to go and be like no You’re my workplace sibling.

[00:21:04] Brandon Ware: But if you want to have that close of a relationship, why does it need why can’t it be? Sibling rather than you know a partner

[00:21:11] Jess O’Reilly: Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t really think about it that way. And I guess it does have to do with personal values, like what is a husband to you, what is a wife to you, what is a sibling to you.

[00:21:18] Jess O’Reilly: But bottom line, if you’re not comfortable with it, I really hope he’s open to that conversation and at least showing you some support. Again, he can’t force her to stop. But he can express his discomfort with it. He can be like, eh, I only got one wife. Like, it’s kind of an easy thing to say. He doesn’t need to sit her down and say, you know what, my wife said that this is how it makes her feel and I’m gonna be on my wife’s side.

[00:21:37] Jess O’Reilly: I think that it’s usually easy to diffuse the situation. Like, I’m thinking about… when you had that situation. You were just like, Hey, don’t call me that. It wasn’t a letter you wrote her.

[00:21:46] Brandon Ware: It was short and sweet. And I mean, I think now that I think about it, I would be like, Hey, I don’t need another wife, but I could use a, I could use a sister.

[00:21:53] Jess O’Reilly: And I don’t think it affected your relationship when you said it, did it? Not at all. Like you guys are still friendly. Yeah. Okay. Well, good luck with that. [00:22:00] Ah, all right. Now we have a question that I know I’ve received before. And this one, they actually signed it asking for a friend. What do you do if your partner refuses to go to therapy but the relationship is on the rocks?

[00:22:13] Jess O’Reilly: Okay, so this happens all the time. One partner wants to go to therapy, the other doesn’t. Uh, I always say please don’t let your partner’s resistance to therapy hold you back. If you think you can benefit from therapy as a couple, you can absolutely benefit from therapy on your own. So, if your partner refuses to go to therapy, quite simply, Go on your own, because a therapist can help you learn to identify and communicate what it is you want and need more effectively.

[00:22:38] Jess O’Reilly: They can help you to process your feelings, they can help you perhaps with more compassion for yourself and for your partner. It can help, I think a therapist can also help you to better understand your own triggers, explore all the different styles with which, and experience with which you approach this relationship.

[00:22:53] Jess O’Reilly: And, it helps you to work on yourself. And, I will say that sometimes, when one partner… Once the other to attend therapy with them, it can be motivated by a desire to change the partner, change your partner’s attitude, change your partner’s behavior, but that is not within your control. You can make adjustments to your own thoughts.

[00:23:11] Jess O’Reilly: You can adjust your own behavior. You can attenuate some of your reactions to your partner’s behavior. You can learn new skills that can improve your own functioning in the relationship. But, I don’t want to say that’s a wrap, but that’s, that’s really the focus of therapy itself. So, if they won’t go to therapy, you go and derive all those benefits, please.

[00:23:34] Jess O’Reilly: Now, if your partner refuses to work on the relationship more generally, That’s when we run into trouble and I think this is a really important and nuanced discussion because sometimes people will say well If they won’t go to therapy, they’re not invested in the relationship And I do want to challenge that because although I’m a proponent of therapy It’s also only one way to work on the relationship.

[00:23:55] Jess O’Reilly: It’s not the only way it’s one way to work on yourself But it’s not the only way so again you [00:24:00] see value in it go on your own, but your partner might not see value in it for many reasons, right? Therapy wasn’t designed for everyone. And you may not have access to a therapist who reflects your needs. So maybe your partner sees value in other approaches.

[00:24:16] Jess O’Reilly: So you want to make space for those as well. So if you’re not on the same page and you’re getting nowhere together without therapy, you can go to therapy, but also you want to kind of not keep doing what isn’t working. So if they won’t go to therapy, I think what I want to know is. What are they willing to do?

[00:24:32] Jess O’Reilly: Like, ask them, and I don’t mean in an accusatory, demanding, or judgmental way, but with real curiosity. So, if you didn’t want to go to therapy and I did, I might say something like, you know, I feel like we’re struggling, whether that’s generally or with a specific issue, and I love you and I want to make this work, and I remember when we were in sync and thriving in this respect, and I want to get back to that.

[00:24:54] Jess O’Reilly: I’m doing some work on myself in therapy, and I know you’re doing your part on your own. And I get that therapy isn’t your thing. I do. So I want to figure out what our thing can be. How can we work on this relationship or issue together? And that doesn’t mean that we close the book forever on therapy.

[00:25:10] Jess O’Reilly: Like, maybe I do want you to stay open to it because I do think facilitated conversations with someone who’s supportive of both of you can be helpful. But I try and figure out, okay, so they don’t want to take that route. What route do they want to take? And I have heard people kind of throw therapy in their partner’s faces.

[00:25:26] Jess O’Reilly: Like, well, you won’t even go to therapy or if you don’t want to do therapy, what is it you want to do? I’m not talking about that kind of approach. I really mean real. Curiosity.

[00:25:34] Brandon Ware: Yeah, I agree.

[00:25:34] Brandon Ware: I mean, learning about The colonial nature of therapy. I’ve come to realize that yeah, it’s not necessarily for everyone But just because you’re not doing it as you said doesn’t mean that you’re not doing something But I think what you said there really resonates with me, which is like what are you doing?

[00:25:51] Brandon Ware: What are you willing to do? Like I I don’t have anything else to add to this I just sitting here listening and on agreeing with everything that it is you have to say and hopefully your partner [00:26:00] is number one recognizes That there is a problem, that you’re out of sync. And then from there, hopefully a conversation will emerge where it’s like, as you said, like, this is what I’m willing to do.

[00:26:09] Brandon Ware: I’m not willing to go to therapy, but I’m willing to do this or do that. And hopefully you can get on board so that it gets better.

[00:26:14] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, I mean, that might be working through a self help book. It might be working on conversations together to help you to better understand one another. I, it might be going to a workshop.

[00:26:23] Jess O’Reilly: It might be just making small changes to your daily routine. It kind of depends what the problem is, right? And I will say though, I see so often that people no longer want to work on their relationship. Like we do see couples arrive at this impasse where one person is like, how do we fix this? And the other one is like, like whatever.

[00:26:40] Jess O’Reilly: They’re just kind of resigned to live together unhappily or miserably or in an Non consensual sexless relationship or whatever the case may be. They’re like, well, we’re together now So that’s that and I do think that sometimes we take our partners for granted and we take the relationship for granted and we think That you know what we’ve been miserable for six years.

[00:26:59] Jess O’Reilly: We’ve been miserable for 11 years We haven’t been intimate or sexual in 12 years And again some people can opt into not having sex but I’m talking about people who are unhappy with being in sexless relationships And they think, well, we’ve gone this far. So subconsciously, or they’ve convinced themselves that in five years, they’ll still be together.

[00:27:15] Jess O’Reilly: And that’s not necessarily the case. Like there comes a point where people say, okay, I’ve got this short life to live. I would love to invest with a partner, but I, with my partner, but I want to invest with a partner who’s also invested. So if you’ve checked out of the relationship, just know that you can’t necessarily count on your partner staying.

[00:27:31] Brandon Ware: Well, for me, if you were to say that you’re not interested in working on something that was an issue for me, that would, I would, I would probably start to harbor some resentment there. And I feel like that would grow into something a lot bigger. Like it wouldn’t just be this one particular issue. It would probably expand and seep its way into other parts of our relationship.

[00:27:49] Jess O’Reilly: And that’s exactly what we see, right? Like it’s. It starts with one issue, and then it creeps into the bedroom, it creeps into the kitchen, it creeps into the living room, it creeps into every realm of the relationship. Now, having [00:28:00] said that, you don’t have

[00:28:00]

[00:28:00] Jess O’Reilly: to resolve every issue. That’s the other, like the flip side of this, that we’re seeing, I see oftentimes with kind of younger, newer couples, is that they want to solve every damn thing.

[00:28:10] Jess O’Reilly: They want to reconcile every damn difference. And I mean like little things. I’m not talking about big value stuff. And sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t have everything you want from a single partner, right? They can’t be everything. They can’t do everything. You can’t align on every value, but hopefully on the core ones.

[00:28:29] Jess O’Reilly: And again, hopefully you want your partner to have the best life possible, right? Again, that’s like my baseline. Am I with someone who wants the best life for me? And that is defined differently for you and me versus, you know, everybody else.

[00:28:42] Brandon Ware: Agreed. Bell hooks. What is love?

[00:28:45] Jess O’Reilly: Giving them space to grow.

[00:28:46] Brandon Ware: Yeah.

[00:28:47] Brandon Ware: Why? I mean, the way I interpret it was like just wanting that person to be the best version of themselves and supporting them to be that. I mean, it’s such a beautiful way to want for your partner.

[00:28:58] Jess O’Reilly: And it creates space for all different types of relationships. And that’s why when I get a question, like for example, the previous one about the work wife.

[00:29:04] Jess O’Reilly: I guess the other side is like, can we let go of some of this stuff? Can I be like, you know what, that upsets me, but I’m gonna get over it. ’cause sometimes stuff has happened over the course of our 22 or three years together where it’s like, okay, so that didn’t feel good. I don’t need to figure it all out and get to the root of it and always get an apology or always get you on my side.

[00:29:24] Jess O’Reilly: Sometimes it’s like, oh, here’s this thing that happened and I’m just gonna deal with it. For sure.

[00:29:27] Brandon Ware: Things have happened. And, as you said, gotta move on. Otherwise we’d never stop talking. Ever. Absolutely. About anything.

[00:29:34] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, and I think I’ve been very guilty of that in the past where like, a little thing is bothering me and then I bring it up and then it blows up into something bigger and I look back and I’m like, why did I even bring that up?

[00:29:44] Jess O’Reilly: Like, could I not have just, like, dealt with that in my head? Shut up and move on? Like a minor issue though. Yeah, a minor issue. Yeah, like I’ll bring, I used to bring up like every little thing and I think it comes back to perfectionism. Which is… The devil, like the devil in me, where trying to be [00:30:00] perfect is just always setting yourself up for failure.

[00:30:02] Jess O’Reilly: And I think there’s pressure on relationships today too, to be perfect.

[00:30:05] Brandon Ware: Well, because they’re in the spotlight too, right? It’s like you have to have this perfect relationship because it’s on, it’s, it’s in the spotlight all the time. If you’re on social, if you’re out, you know, and kind of comparing yourself to other people in other relationships.

[00:30:17] Jess O’Reilly: It’s become another status symbol, right? We talked about like they had trophy wives and then trophy children and then trophy marriages. And it’s not that I don’t see value in a fabulous partnership. Of course, like, I, I mean, I wouldn’t do this work if I didn’t love you and love life and love all of it.

[00:30:33] Jess O’Reilly: But this idea that it ought to be perfect all the time is just, it’s absurd. So, okay. I think we’re going to stop there. I have a whole bunch more questions and we’re going to have to save them for next week. But I do appreciate you writing in about these kind of range of topics. Don’t necessarily have firm answers on all of them, but hopefully we’ve given you something to think about.

[00:30:51] Jess O’Reilly: And if these aren’t your questions, hopefully they give you some insights on what’s going on. In your life, and you’ll start more conversations with more people around you about these relationship topics, because they’re interesting, they’re layered, they’re nuanced, and the more we talk about them, the more we bring them into the light and out of the shadows of shame.

[00:31:10] Jess O’Reilly: With that, AdamandEve. com, just a reminder, if you are shopping there for all the fun stuff that vibrates. Or sucks in a good way. , or is Lacey, or Leathery, all that jazz. Adam and eve.com use code, Dr. Jess 54, 50% off almost any single item plus free shipping. Plus super fast handling.

[00:31:31] Brandon Ware: Super fast. They’ll handle your

[00:31:33] Brandon Ware: goods.

[00:31:33] Jess O’Reilly: Oh God. Okay folks, have a great one and shipping it quickly. Cutting this off now. ,

[00:31:39] Jess O’Reilly: you’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.

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