August 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm EDT | by Michael Radkowsky
The bottom line
booty, backside, butt, man, male, gay news, Washington Blade

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)

Dear Michael,

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?


Michael replies:

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 All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to

  • Michael: Your advice is spot on. Especially the second paragraph that talks to other important components to a marriage. But it goes even beyond sexual incompatibility. The same advice can be applied to couples encountering sexual dysfunction. Case in point: Four years ago, my partner underwent a radical prostatectomy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer at the relatively young age of 53. Thankfully the non-sexual components of our relationship were strong enough to get us through the trials associated with his diagnosis and surgery, and our relationship is actually stronger today, despite the fact that our sexual relationship has virtually evaporated.

  • I am a bottom it is hard to find a top.

  • Good advice. I am proud to see such advice being offered within GLBT circles. Excellent.

  • Good advice. Although I know this works for some, I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone, but needing a third party involved sexually in order to make things work.

    Because I know myself and the things I’m willing to do and not do, to avoid the mismatch problem down the line, I avoid getting involved in mismatched situations to begin with. Sure, it makes it more difficult to find “the one,” but it also saves on confusion too. And if one or both people decide to change roles down the road, then we’ll tackle it when we get there, but we don’t have to deal with that challenge from day one and let it fester until we have to add a third to make the original two work–at least not when you KNOW what things you like and don’t like sexually.

    To me, it’s like brussel sprouts. When you know you don’t like it (especially when it’s based on experience), you don’t set yourself up for failure by continuing to order them anyway in hopes that you’ll grow to one day enjoy them. If what you really want is steak, why settle? Just get the steak to begin with, and leave the brussel sprouts for those that like that sort of thing. LOL.

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