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All work and no foreplay

My husband and I are entrepreneurs, developing a new product. We're both working long hours. He's miserable because he has no time for his art (painting), and our sex life is in shambles. There isn't a lot of blame or anger. We simply go about our entire days with little or no flirting and fall into bed completely exhausted at night. Even if we crave sex, we're too tired. We kiss goodnight and promise it'll be different tomorrow or on the weekend, but it never is, and I see no reason to believe things will change. We used to race home from work to have wild sex and then do silly things together in the evenings. People always called us "the sensual couple" because we couldn't keep our hands off each other. How can we get the zing back? — Accidental Celibate

Eighty percent of sex is just showing up. (The other 20 percent is remaining conscious while you're having it.)

Of course, you'd need to leave work at a reasonable hour to make your role-play in bed more dirty doctor/naughty nurse than adjacent coma patients. I know, that's not what it says you're supposed to do on your printout of the Puritan Work Ethic. Former Harvard psychology professor Shawn Achor writes in The Happiness Advantage that we're taught that we have to sacrifice happiness for success and told that only when we're successful will we be happy. Achor counters that happiness isn't something that falls in your lap when you attain some level of accomplishment; it's "a work ethic." He cites a decade of research suggesting that happiness "raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37 percent, productivity by 31 percent, and accuracy on tasks by 19 percent, as well as (leading to myriad) health and quality of life improvements."

Remember, people called you "the sensual couple" because you couldn't keep your hands off each other, not because you couldn't take your eyes off the clock. Ditching the clock for at least some of the day is essential. It's activities that make you lose track of time that make you happy — activities like sex (and painting) that also make you forget yourself and that package your husband neglected to bring to the post office. To put this in entrepreneurial terms, you need to relaunch your sex life and take it as seriously as you would a business launch. Look at sex as a mandatory meeting you need to have naked. And replace any motivational posters decorating your office with ones that reflect your newfound knowledge of trickle-down happy-nomics. For example: "As you climb the ladder of success, be sure to stop every now and then to let your husband look up your dress" and "Behind every successful woman is a man with his pants down."

The benefit of the dowdy

I'm a recently divorced 40-something mom who's having trouble making female friends. I'm excluded from group activities, and my attempts at get-togethers fall flat. I attributed this to my being a bit quiet and reserved until a mom at school — previously a friend — casually remarked, "You're one of the moms we all love to hate!" What?! What am I doing that makes me hateable? Male friends say it's because I am "hot" and "have a killer body" and other women are jealous. — Lone Mom

Middle-aged women who've gotten a little frumpy, schlumpy and stretchmarky cling to how "what's on the inside is what really matters" ... right until what's on the outside is a hot, shapely, newly available divorcee collecting their husbands' eyeballs like the Pied Piper commandeering the rodent population of Hamelin. Being "reserved" surely doesn't help. If you were mousy, you'd probably be considered shy. Being a looker and reserved possibly marks you as a snob. To take this less personally, recognize that these women are probably driven by fear, envy, admiration and/or intimidation. To get them to see you more as a person than a hot person, you need to extend yourself: Be assertively friendly; join a volunteer organization so people get to know you through your actions; and seek out women who seem happy and secure. All in all, you need to be realistic. Understand that the first thing in some women's minds will always be how much cuter they are when they aren't standing next to you — unless you're dressed in something that's figure-hugging in the manner of those bags they zip the dead bodies into at the morgue.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society.

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