Being willing to try to accommodate your partner sexually while also recognizing that it’s unrealistic for your partner to meet all your wants and needs, is a good approach to successful marriage gay or straight, especially when there is sexual incompatibility issues. (Photo by Bigstock)
My husband and I recently decided to open up our relationship to resolve a top/bottom mismatch issue between the two of us. But in your recent column about open relationships, you wrote that hooking up to alleviate sexual boredom makes it unlikely that people will make the effort to improve sex with their long-term partners. While we want to get what we’ve both been missing, we don’t want to endanger our marriage.
We’re wondering if opening up our relationship because of top/bottom issues is an example of kicking the can down the road. Should we work harder to figure out some resolution between the two of us? Or is our having sex with other guys OK, as long we’re both getting fulfilled?
Opening your marriage to resolve a top/bottom mismatch is a way for both of you to have the kind of sex you haven’t been having with each other, but it isn’t likely to do much good for your relationship, sexual or otherwise. When the hottest sex is happening outside of your relationship, your dedication to your marriage is likely to wane as you put your attention, fantasies and warm feelings elsewhere.
I suggest you consider a different approach.
For starters, let’s normalize what’s going on in your relationship. Because every person has different interests and preferences, no couple can be a perfect sexual fit. Even if you start out on the same page, all people change over time, in all sorts of ways. So at some point, if you are committed to staying together, you will have to find a way to address your differences in a way that does not undermine your relationship. This is true for all couples.
Here are a few points for both of you to consider:
First, if your husband wants to be sexual with you in a way that does not interest you or that makes you anxious, consider being flexible and stepping out of your comfort zone in order to make sex more interesting for him (and perhaps also for you). While we don’t have to comply with our spouses’ requests, sexual or otherwise, it’s generally worth doing so — unless you have a very good reason not to. Marriage is hard and it’s made easier when both partners make ongoing earnest efforts to be collaborative.
Second, when your husband does not want to do what you are asking for, it may well be worth respecting his decision and accepting that you aren’t going to have all your sexual desires fulfilled in your relationship. That’s life: we don’t get everything we want and at times we are bound to be disappointed by our partners, by our sex lives and by our relationships. When this happens, look for ways to see the good things that your relationship and your husband offer. While sex is important, there are other important components of a marriage. Are you there for each other in tough times? Are you pursuing a shared vision of living a meaningful life together? And is it worth endangering or leaving the relationship you have in order to pursue a hotter sex life?
Third, know that as we get closer to our partners, we are often increasingly less comfortable being intensely sexual with them. It can be scary to have someone be so close and know us so well because the closer we are, the more vulnerable we are. While we actually do have to be vulnerable if we are going to be in a relationship, we may make all kinds of moves, including limiting our sexual connectedness with our partners and opening our relationships, to keep what feels like a safe level of distance. But safety leads to boredom … and more distance … and more boredom. An antidote to this downward spiral: make moves to be closer, such as shaking up your sexual routine and roles, even if doing so makes you anxious.
There may well be ways for the two of you to work on this issue as a couple before taking a step that could negatively impact your marriage. And if you get stuck as you explore the possibilities, consider enlisting the help of a skilled couples therapist.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@personalgrowthzone.com.