Topher Payne: Three questions to ask yourself that will dramatically improve your relationship

This is the key difference I’ve found between dating life and married life. When you’re dating, your primary shared interest is each other, so that tends to be the major topic of conversation. In marriage, there are tête-à-têtes regarding bills, groceries, pets, cars, and your tendency to leave your underpants on the dining room floor. Your emotional needs, as compelling as I’m certain they are, simply cannot be on the agenda every damn day or you’ll go insane.

This is a good thing. Marriage incrementally teaches you, and by you I mean me, to be a little less self-centered. To focus on building a life with another person. To see the beauty and romance in a man who is willing to make sure Georgia Power doesn’t come over and shut off the lights. 

In my single days, I often lived without utilities for extended periods of time. With the exception of water, it was never too much of a hassle. Sometimes this was due to lack of funds, but more often it was because I simply forgot it was time to pay that bill. So now Preppy pays the bills, to which I contribute inequitably. It speaks worlds about his character that he was willing to marry a man who consistently lived without electricity because it slipped his mind.

The years we’ve spent together have taught me how to notice a red flag, when it’s time to forget about our life and just talk about us. The examination of how things are going is summed up in three questions, which I will reveal to you now, and I swear to God it’s going to change your relationship, for the better, FOREVER.  The three questions are:

“Are we fucking?  Often?  Is it any good?”

If the answer to all three is “yes,” then things are very likely okay. If the answer to any of the three is “no,” then it’s time to have a conversation. You will open the exchange thusly:

“Hey. Why aren’t we fucking?”

If the answer you get is competing work schedules, or the kids, or the alpaca ranch requires so much attention, please know this is bullshit. Everybody has time for fucking.

Good sex can happen in less time than it takes to steam broccoli. When you were first together, you MADE time for fucking. You were late to dinner with friends and everybody knew why.  You smelled like sex when you came back from the bathroom at a bar. 

If you’re not getting it on with your chosen mate, in whatever manner good sex happens for you, then you are choosing to ignore the most intimate physical interaction you have with anyone in your life. And that means something is wrong. 

The answer may be, “Because I’m in Idaho,” or “Because I have bird flu,” or “Because every time I look at you, I just want to slap you in your dumb face.” Whatever it is, it’s worth exploring, and you won’t get caught up on describing every blade of grass. 

Good people deserve good sex. It’s the simplest, purest pursuit of happiness. If you ain’t getting any, it’s up to you to find out why.

Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at