Domestic Relief

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend sent me a message containing those magical words that every woman longs to hear: ‘don’t worry love, I’ve already got the milk.’

Simple words. Romantic words. Words akin to: ‘you just stay in bed’ and ‘but I love putting the seat down’ and ‘here’s an idea, why don’t I do both our tax returns’. (I’ve never had to do a tax return, but can imagine that someone offering to do it for me would feel like the most solicitous of marriage proposals.)

When I got this text I was driving home through London traffic having just completed a gruelling 12-hour shift. The thought of stopping to buy milk had been tormenting me ever since I noticed we were out first thing this morning. In the intervening hours I had decided that my boyfriend never bought milk, or bread, or did anything around the house for that matter, and that I might as well just end it (and him) (and me while I was at it) right now, because what future could we possibly have together?  In fact, he’d already got the milk. And so our relationship was saved.

We didn’t have any plans for Valentine’s Day, but as good fortune would have it, the boy chose this of all days to clean the bathroom (N.B. it was definitely his turn). I found him kneeling over the bathtub wearing nothing but marigolds and a pair of long johns, and was overcome with desire. Refreshed after a solid night’s sleep, I interrupted him mid-scrub and lured him back to bed, where we spent a lazy morning making each other feel 100% loved. Happy February 14!

Couple drinking champagne in bathtub.

Combined, these experiences made me feel as though I’d had the most romantic Valentine’s Day of my life. From this, you might infer that I have unusually low standards. Not so. In the past, I’ve been whisked off to Barcelona, punted down the River Cam (not a euphemism), and given the entire Sex and the City Box Set, a romantic gift if only for the personal sacrifice it represented. But to this tired midwife, my boyfriend’s lightening of the domestic load constituted the greatest gift of all.

I discussed this with my big sister who knows everything and is always right. She agreed it’s good to have a partner who is handy around the house. ‘But,’ she added, ‘if there are things they can’t do, you can always remove the issue altogether’. Here, she was talking about washing up; specifically, her husband’s inability to do it. Throughout the early, impoverished years of their relationship, his bad washing up was an endless sticking point. Then, they hit the big time (i.e. qualified as teachers) and could afford a dishwasher. Today, thanks to this common household appliance, happiness reigns: while terrible at washing up, the husband is a mean stacker. Vive la domestic revolution!

For the busy grown up, it is undoubtedly a treat to have one less thing to do. But, as far as those squishy love feelings go, it’s about so much more than that. In my experience, the nurturing love that – if we’re lucky – we receive from our parents comes along rarely in a romantic form. It is a great thing to be with someone who can put your needs before their own; it is joyous thing to be with someone who actually seems to enjoy doing it.

young couple painting baby nursery in new home pink

My boyfriend is far from perfect (he has an uncanny knack of getting rubber gloves wet on the inside), and he is more than capable of looking out for himself. But on a good day, through a multitude of gestures, he makes me feel infinitely cared for. This makes me want to care for him in return. In this way, we waste little energy on resentment.

In my 20s, love was an ego-fuelled rollercoaster ride of fulfilled then thwarted wants. In my 30s, it is a coffee pressed into my hand made with milk that I didn’t have to buy. And I’m fine with that.

Written by Midwife X


What I Learnt About Sex from Game of Thrones

A week ago, I intended to write an article about tantric sex. Then I started watching season one of Game of Thrones. Now, and until I’ve caught up on seasons two, three and four, my boyfriend will be lucky if we have any sex at all, let alone sex of the tantric variety, which, let’s face it, takes ages.
Fortunately, my complete immersion in Game of Thrones has not precluded sexual exploration, because the show is bursting with nooky. If you find yourself watching one of the rare scenes with no sexual content, all you have to do is close your eyes, count to 60, and when you open them again, you will almost certainly be confronted with a nice pair of buttocks or breasts. If the plot does not permit any of the main actors to be naked at this particular time, the producers will have festooned the scene with a handful of naked extras (if Game of Thrones teaches us one thing, it is that serious political conversation and semi-clad prostitutes are by no means mutually exclusive).

For someone who likes to talk (a lot), I’m surprisingly coy when it comes to having serious conversations about sex within my relationships. Rather than be explicit about what I want, I tend to try to prod my partners in the right direction. Sometimes this works, sometimes not; often this approach results in me, and possibly them, settling for something that’s not quite right.

But after watching Game of Thrones at my boyfriend’s side, I thought its content could be a good springboard for some more direct chat – we were watching sex, so why not talk about it?

I began with a question about the apparently favored position of men doing it in made-up medieval Westeros: ‘Do you think they did doggy style more back then, or are the producers trying to make a point?’ (We were on episode three, and Daenerys had just succumbed to her first, and not very nice, experience of marital love.) There followed a brief debate on the extent to which the sexual content of Game of Thrones was well-researched. Our conclusion: not very. But, shortly after, my question was answered by the events unfolding on screen. Daenerys, keen to make her bow-legged husband happy, learns a few tricks from her slave, and, soon she is riding Drogo like the lady she is. On top.

And he likes it!

My next question brought the topic back round to us: ‘Do you like doing it doggy style?’

‘Sometimes,’ the boy slapped and squeezed my bum, ‘when I’m feeling like a Dothraki’.

‘But what’s your favourite position,’ I asked, confident that I already knew the answer.

‘On top.’


I wanted to be sure we were on the same page, ‘You or me?’

‘Me,’ he said.

And this was unexpected. Because everything I had observed during the two plus years of our relationship had told me otherwise. ‘But I thought you liked it best when I was on top…’

‘I do,’ he clarified, ‘at the end. But I like starting with me on top’.

This was interesting. ‘Why?’

‘Because I like doing what I want for a bit.’

This answer shouldn’t have surprised me (not least, because his reason for liking being on top is exactly the same as mine), but it did, because we hardly ever do it missionary style. I wondered why he had never mentioned this to me before, but, of course, I already knew the answer: the fact was, I had never asked.

Now I know that this reluctance to talk about the finer details of sex cannot be restricted to me. I have talked about sex on stage and at work, with friends and complete strangers. I reckon I have pretty relaxed boundaries when it comes to discussing matters of the body, but I still find it hard to say: this is what I want from you, now what do you want from me? Until now, I’ve not thought much about how to change this. When I came across articles about being vocal in bed, I would think with a touch of regret, ‘That’s just not me,’ before moving on to the next one. But what these articles are often lacking are tips on how to initiate these oh-so-personal conversations. Game of Thrones has taught me that, by talking about the sex we see on TV, we can find a more natural way into talking about our own sex lives.


Last night the boy and I had sex. He took the lead, and I got a lot of pleasure from knowing that, this time, we were doing what he wanted – not just for a bit, but the whole way through. The pace of our sex was slightly different; for once, he stayed on top throughout, and, for both of us, it felt great.

Afterwards I asked him if he knew why it had been so good.

He thought for a second, ‘Because we haven’t done it for ages?’

I shook my head, ‘Because of Game of Thrones’.

He wasn’t convinced. But I knew…

Getting My Needs Met Under the Covers

I write this article knowing it is likely to be my most divisive to date. For it contains the following shocking truth: my boyfriend and I sleep with two single duvets. And we are not yet in our 70s (at which point, apparently, this kind of behavior becomes acceptable). No, we are just two 30-somethings who really like our sleep. So when we realized that we hated – truly hated – sleeping in the same bed, we put our heads together and thought our way out of the box and into our current sleeping arrangement. This process marked a transformative and empowering moment in our relationship. For it was one of the first times that we bothered to fly in the face of convention and find a solution that really worked for us.

Picture this: once upon a time, my partner and I shared a duvet. Throughout the night, we would wake up at least once an hour, sometimes too hot, often too cold. Resentment grew, minor disagreements morphed into physical spats, knees found their way into backs, humans found their way onto floors. It was an intolerable situation that could not go on. And yet, many couples continue like this their whole lives.

You might think I’m exaggerating the significance of our single duvets, but they really do seem to offend some people. A few friends have reacted to the news of them as though we have just revealed we like to take small mammals to bed with us; others see them as deeply unromantic; a sign that we are inherently divided, and probably never touch each other, let alone have sex.

In fact, this change marked an improvement in our sex life. Because, let us be clear on this, tiredness is not sexy. Sleep deprivation has been used throughout history as a method of torture; there is a reason for this.

And not all our friends disapprove of our decision to sleep with separate duvets. For those who have suffered similarly miserable nights at the hands of their loved ones, our sleep solution is akin to the secret of alchemy. When these same friends learn that the Swedes do it (and make it look really rather stylish) they are often officially sold.

These days, however, we generally sleep the whole night through completely oblivious to the other’s presence. It is marvelous. In the morning we wake up after eight hours’ uninterrupted sleep and get to discover each other all over again. One of us will usually slip under the other’s duvet for a toasty morning cuddle. If anything, we now enjoy more physically intimacy, because we like each other the whole night through.

I’m not saying single duvets are for everyone, but this issue reminds us of the importance of making choices in our relationships that are right for us. Marriage is for some people, but not for everyone; children, date nights, swinging likewise. If we want to be happy in love, we need to question our decisions, so that we can be sure they are motivated by what we truly want, and not simply by the fact that ‘everyone else is doing it’. Others will always judge our choices, but this matters not one jot if we are able to wear them with pride.

Lingerie Rules for Sexual Success

In theory, I love sexy underwear. I own the requisite number of suspender belts (two), a multitude of thongs, have previously bought crotchless pants (although God knows where they are now), and, occasionally, I even wear these items.  And we all know how sexy underwear is supposed to work: you wear it, he is blown away with lust and gratitude, and you both have the best sex ever.

Except, of course, in real life, things are rarely so simple.

My lingerie heyday was undoubtedly during my student years. Back then, my 20-year-old boyfriend was delightfully responsive to any effort on my part in the underwear department. The merest whiff of stockings and suspenders and he was a shoo-in. My current 30-something man, however, is much less predictable.

Think of it like this: in the world of lighting, your 20-something male is a bog-standard lamp – he has a switch, you flick it, you turn him on. But by the time a man hits his 30s, he has matured into a more complex system altogether, a kind of finely-tuned motion sensor light. On a good day, this means you get to kick back and enjoy his advanced technology. On a bad day, it leaves you standing in the middle of the room, waving your arms around wildly, and wondering how the hell you turn the damn thing on.
Sexy Young Woman Wearing White Bride Underwear

The problem is, when we put on sexy underwear at the start of a night, we are making a firm commitment to both us and them wanting to have sex at the end of it. It’s a down payment on mutual lust; in my experience, couples often buckle under this kind of pressure. And even if our man does want to have sex, he might be totally unfussed by our undies. As my housemate – a relatively sensitive guy – put it: ‘By the time you’re down to that layer, your main concern is getting beyond it; it’s just an extra shiny barrier.’ Such a lack of enthusiasm on their part can easily lead to disappointment on ours.

These pitfalls are only exacerbated by the financial cost of decent lingerie. My boyfriend would probably enjoy an Agent Provocateur basque more if it didn’t represent a 50% reduction in our monthly savings. These days, nothing gives him a hard on quite like the thought of making it onto the property ladder. Conversely, nothing is likely to kill his passion quite like the thought of our future home disappearing in a cloud of lace and tassles. If I splash out on lingerie, then, we’re both going to want to see a pretty high return.

So you can see why my relationship with sexy underwear is not as simple as it once was. But this doesn’t mean I’m ready to quit the game altogether. No, instead I have developed three simple rules to help me (and people like me) enjoy a healthy relationship with my undies.

Rule #1 – No Surprises

One girlfriend of mine has sexy lingerie nailed. Firstly, she does not give a damn about the cost. Secondly, she is in awe of all female beauty, including her own (she sends me links to high-end corsets asking which I think would make her look the most adorable). Thirdly, (and this is key), she involves her boyfriend in deciding when the lingerie should be worn. Last Christmas, she bought ‘him’ a stunning corset. After its first outing, he wanted to know what would happen next, i.e. would she wear it all the time or only occasionally? Was it a one-off thing?

She explained to him, ‘This corset is your Christmas present. And now it can be Christmas anytime you want to it to be. All you have to do is say “Can we have Christmas today, please?” And I’ll make it happen.’

You see, the girl’s a genius.  Because it is the ‘tada’ aspect of sexy lingerie that so often backfires. I ran this theory by my boyfriend, and he agreed: ‘If we don’t know it’s coming, you can’t blame us if we don’t rise to the challenge. At least give us a hint!’

Rule # 2 – Know your Man

In the case of my man, this means sexy lingerie is best aired by day. When we were ‘courting’, our nights out usually culminated in wild, drunken sex. Now, they are more likely to end in wild, drunken promises to do it first thing in the morning.  My bloke peaks in the day; I must use this to my advantage.

Sexy lingerie woman

Rule #3 – Know your Budget

Sexy underwear can be fun and experimental, but invest too much and the stakes are raised. With this in mind, I recently did some browsing on ebay (‘refine’ – ‘condition’ – ‘new with tags’), and managed to get some rather nice Victoria Secret undies at a 75% discount. They arrived today and, I’m pleased to say, they make my bottom look lovely. My only concern is that the lacing running down my bum crack rather draws the attention to the wrong hole (a hole that is, by long-standing agreement, out of play).  Still, at that price it’s hard to complain. And, as the saying goes, never say never…

Tomorrow morning, my boyfriend and I have a rare shared lie in. I intend to get up, spruce up, put on my sexy budget knickers and one of his shirts (I have it on good authority that this is a winning combination). Then, I’ll come back to bed and wake him up with a hot brew and my own delicious self. He has been duly warned that this is coming. So, this time, he’d better wake up and smell the coffee.