You’ve been unhappy with how sex is going in your marriage for years—probably since the kids were born. Maybe you noticed the months and years pass with no conjugal visits; maybe you didn’t. But the kids have brought much more fulfillment than anything you could have imagined so the lack of sex hasn’t been such a big deal. Until now.
It helped that you knew to expect there’d be less sex right after the first kid was born but perhaps what you didn’t anticipate was that the entire dynamic between you and your spouse would also change. The children have unwittingly facilitated a divide between the two of you and you’ve slipped into a romantic-less, co-parenting existence.
As much as part of you may want physical closeness and you feel entitled to get your needs met, there is probably another part of you that believes putting the needs of the kids and family first is paramount. The idea of having an affair to have some kind of sexual connection with someone crossed your mind and you could justify going that route if you had to—as long as your spouse doesn’t find out (after all, you don’t want to hurt him or her).
You have become what I call “affair-ready.” You find yourself living a life you didn’t fully choose because you have no intimacy. You want more yet, sneaking around to get your needs met isn’t appealing.
When you’re at this juncture, it feels like you have no good options. You can’t will the sexual connection back into your relationship and you can’t bring yourself to blow up the family just because you want sex.
There is simply no way to reconcile, so you just keep the status quo.
You May Have More Choices Than You Realize
Couples that have outgrown their baseline nuptials have begun breaking the traditional rules of marriage in recent years. There’s more talk today about polyamory, open relationships and being “monogam-ish,” for example. Couples no longer have to live under the same roof and we even have names for these couples: “apartners,” or “LATs” (live apart—or alone—together couples). Another dramatic change is that increasing numbers of people who are not in love are coming together to (sometimes even living together) to have and raise a family. There’s a lot of latitude for creative living arrangements these days if you are brave enough to buck the norms.
That may sound great in theory but how can you apply this to you and your spouse?
For starters, I want to let you know that you don’t need to continue suffering in silence. There will always be people who cannot say their truth out loud (often conflict avoidants) and who will continue to die a quiet death until they can’t take it anymore at which time they will abruptly announce to their spouse that they are done. There will always be folks who go off and have affairs or act out sexually in clandestine settings and who seemingly have no trouble leading a double life. But these are the less mature and less actualized people.
Those who have a stronger sense of self can ask openly for what they need and can state their desires honestly. It’s definitely the harder way as it takes courage to say something to your spouse you know may hurt them or may cause them to reject you but if done thoughtfully and carefully, it can help you and your spouse get your needs met with integrity. (If you are not feeling strong enough to do this yet, try saying your truth in smaller ways and see if you can’t “build a muscle” for saying your truth.)
Two New Agreements Need To Be Introduced
There are two parts to creating the new marriage model that you’ll want to introduce to your mate. The first has to do with not wanting to blow up the family; the next has to do with wanting to explore being sexual outside of the marriage.
The advantages include the fact that your kids’ lives don’t change much if at all, your finances don’t change much and your home life doesn’t change much. The challenges are that it can be tough to let go of the dream you had of your spouse being “The One” and it can be scary to go outside of a model you’ve known your entire life in order to try something new. But, if you think about it, you’re already doing this part.
It’s the second part that couples find the most challenging and it is the idea of opening up the marriage so that you or your significant other can either have sex outside of the connubial quarters or even have an O.S.O. (Other Significant Other). It’s a lot to swallow—especially if you have never allowed yourself to entertain such thoughts. And it’s also a huge shift to think you could actually have an open, honest conversation with your husband or wife about this (there’s a reason people have been sneaking around—this is hard!).
The advantages of this lifestyle are that you are getting your physical and sometimes spiritual needs met, your life is enriched by new experiences and you are not having to live dishonestly. The challenges are that you might feel jealous or you might be the recipient of your mate’s jealousy. Also, new relationships of any kind complicate things and there is certainly no guarantee that you won’t fall in love with a new person so the family may still end up splitting.
If you’re ready to explore these ideas, I recommend you get some professional guidance before setting sail. If you’re not ready, I recommend that you contemplate this article and do your own research as to what is out there in the way of creating personalized nuptial agreements. For better or worse, it’s really a whole new world out there.
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