I have a small problem. My husband is no longer interested in me. Everything else is pretty good. House, jobs, kids, money, are all fine. He just doesn’t want to be that close anymore. I understand that people sometimes prefer their own company as they grow older but I am lonely. We still love each other and are friends, but we don’t have conversations, hold hands or fool around. Solitude and celibacy are kinda lame.
So here’s the question: Is an “open” relationship feasible at all in this situation? Could I have a boyfriend or a hook-up and not destroy everything else I have with my family? How would I ever bring it up? I’m not going to do this behind his back either. Hell, he might be relieved when I stop bugging him about getting close when he’s not into it. Are “open” relationships just tabloid nonsense anyway?
—Still got game but no one to play with
Dear still got game,
I’m sorry to hear about your predicament. It’s a tough one, although I can’t say a particularly unique one.
What is unique, however, is your willingness to explore alternative solutions instead of pretending the problem doesn’t exist, living in a state of perpetual denial and inner turmoil, or going behind your husband’s back and spending the rest of your life cloaked in lies, guilt and self-doubt.
I’ve read online several times that there are lots of different types of love. Some say three, some say six, some say four, etc. The theme is always this: there is committed love, passionate love and what I would call consummate love (these are labels others have come up with that I agree with.)
Committed love is just that: commitment. You are committed to someone, you have a strong bond, the foundation of which is loyalty, trust and respect and you probably cannot imagine a life without each other. Commitment can and often does last or form without passion.
Passionate love is all the intimate, sexual, physical attraction. Most committed couples have probably shared this at some point, even if it has waned after either remaining together or splitting up. Passionate love often sacrifices commitment.
Consummate love is both. According to the people who came up with all these theories, consummate love is what we should and usually do strive for in a lifelong commitment and, unfortunately, rarely actually occurs.
It sounds like you and your husband are in a committed relationship without the passion.
This, in and of itself, doesn’t sound lame at all. What troubles me, however, is that you call this a “small” problem and that you say you and your husband do not have conversations anymore. Before I chime in on whether I think an open relationship is feasible, I think that’s worth exploring, too.
When passion dies in a relationship, at least in my experience, the absolute hardest part is that the conversations, the laughing, the hand-holding and even the more “platonic” forms of affection remain, but the sexual urges diminish, disappear and then become almost unthinkable.
Every experience is different, but the greatest friends I have, including the male friends who will let me fall asleep on their chests when I’m lonely or sad and who will come over and hold my hand whenever I want them to, the ones I want in my life forever and ever and ever, share one thing in common: we will never stop having conversations or stop being able to connect and relate to each other. We share affection. We just don’t do that in a sexual way.
Furthermore, the fact you do not crave solitude and celibacy — I’m with you on that, sister — and that is what you perceive your marriage to have collapsed into, is not “small.” That is one, big effing deal. Do not diminish that and do not try to minimize your feelings. Women are just as sexual as men, and just as deserving of listing that as a priority for a happy life.
We are also entirely allowed to decide for ourselves what that looks like.
Which brings me to my next point — open relationships. I think it’s healthy and worth exploring if you think this is an option for both of you. I don’t know either of you personally, but I do know that sex and intimacy are of different importance to different people, even men.
What I do know about open relationships is that each party must be all in and you must form clear and agreed upon rules about every aspect of what “open” means.
This is hard. You need to consider all possible situations — coworkers, friends, age limits, do you want to know about it every time it happens, protection, STD testing, etc. — and be open about addressing curve balls as they occur.
So yes, I think they are feasible, but I think you must also accept that many, many people consider open relationships to be a hard no and your husband might be one of those people.
I also think that open relationships can often disguise one or both parties’ wishes to cheat to fulfill sexual needs they actually want from a committed partner in the long run, but they are so afraid to leave a long term relationship that has gone stale — particularly when kids, houses and marriage certificates are involved — they sort of trick themselves into thinking open is what they want.
Don’t get caught in that trap. It never, ever ends wells.
I think you should talk to him first and foremost about the issues you’re having. Find out if he is also feeling the same way. Perhaps talk about if you think the passion could return, maybe with the help of couples therapy, a short separation, a romantic vacation, etc.
Bring up the option of an open relationship honestly and frankly. At this point you don’t really have anything to lose.
I could caution you to be attuned to ensuring your husband doesn’t agree to let you see other people because he feels it’s the only way he won’t lose everything. If you explore this option you have to be on the same page. I would also get a therapist if you agree to be open, at least to help you out initially because this stuff will get confusing.
You don’t deserve to live the rest of your life in compromise mode, no matter how tough or painful it is to switch gears.