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question-mark-rutherford-0Dear Mark,

My partner and I have been together for 8 years. We have a great loving relationship. We are the only gay couple I know who do not have an open relationship.

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Dear Mark,

My partner and I have been together for 8 years. We have a great loving relationship. We are the only gay couple I know who do not have an open relationship.

For the past couple of years, I have found my eyes wandering. Although my partner and I still have sex on a regular basis, we have become very routine in what we do. I have tried to encourage my partner to try to experiment a little bit in that area. He just has no interest. Our sex life is satisfying for him, but I am finding myself unfulfilled. When I have discussed it with him he has told me that I should go out and get what I need outside our relationship. In some ways I think that is generous of him to want me to be fulfilled when he is not into doing anything more, but in other ways I think “how could he be ok with me having sex with someone else?” I asked him that question and he told me that he does not know how he would feel if I did that. He also told me to do it, but not tell him about it. I have not yet done it, though I have been close. I find myself chatting on line with guys who would like to have sex but I have not taken any steps to meet them in person. The truth is, I like that my partner and I have been exclusive all these years. I am not really interested in giving up our exclusivity. We are also both healthy and disease free so I am not willing to risk our health just for a little excitement with a stranger.

The lack of fulfillment I feel sexually is spilling over into other areas of our relationship. I find myself wondering if there is something more that I am missing. My partner and I are both in our mid 40s and have had other relationships and both have had periods of being single so it is not as if I have not dated lots of guys in the past. What if I gave up a great relationship to look for something more and there is nothing better? What if this is as good as it gets? Sometimes I think I should just wait it out. Maybe In a few years I will lose interest in sex and then this will be a non-issue.

What do you think? Stay in my comfortable, but routine partnership or throw caution to the wind and allow myself to seek a more exciting relationship?

Signed,

Conflicted

Dear Conflicted,

You ask a very poignant question. My sense is that even though your issue is about your sex life, what you are really questioning is your emotional connection with your partner. You wonder how he could not be concerned about your possible outside sexual encounters. And perhaps more important, why he is not interested in the concerns you bring to the table. This is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. You don’t always have to be on the same page, sexual or otherwise, but there does have to be some intentional effort to understand your partner’s point of view. Important difference — not agree — but understand.

The truth is you will not begin to know the answer to your questions until you engage him in a dialogue about your concerns. There is a chance he will be hesitant or resistant to having any sort of an in-depth conversation. He may feel attacked or judged by you. This is where you have to acknowledge how much this is bothering you. The conversation has to shift from a defensive argument into a collaborative conversation. “There is a problem I’m noticing… I want to work this out together with you.” Stick with “I” statements and “feelings” based language. You don’t have to decide how your relationship will “turn out” in the end. You just have to begin to communicate the feelings you are having in the moment so you can begin a step forward… together. The goal is not necessarily to ‘save’ the relationship. The goal is to being an environment of better communication so you can both figure out if you are still in the right relationship for you.

I hope this helps. Good Luck.

Sincerely,

Mark Rutherford LCSW

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