Today’s question is common when couples open up and/or try polyamory. A married woman wonders how to manage her feelings when her husband says he wants sex with other women.

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When I received it, this question broke my heart. It also triggered a lot of things for me, and my first response was, to say the least, harsh. So a friend of mine generously provided a kinder response with a lot more perspective than I could have.

I have been married to my husband for 11 years and have recently discovered that his sex drive is much higher than mine and that he desires sex with other women (variety). I have tried to accommodate him and have 3ways but that doesn’t seem to be enough. I want to make it work and I want to make him happy. The part I’m having trouble with is that sex isn’t just sex to me, never has been. My husband is the only one I’ve been with. So I guess my question is, how do I give my husband what he needs without completely losing my sanity? How do I handle it when my husband is having sex with another woman without me?

Dear Ash,

Differences in sex drive are far more common than we are led to believe or willing to admit as a culture. However, they don’t have to be the end of a relationship, nor the cause for infidelity and misery. The process of unwinding our tight knot of connecting sex to love can be a painful and challenging one, but it is possible.

I hope that your husband has already shown and expressed his appreciation for your efforts to meet his needs. You pushed way outside you comfort zone and have found you can’t sustain it. That is okay. You set your boundaries.

Here’s the thing: sex is just one of many parts of a well-functioning relationship. There is the friendship, the enjoyment of each other’s perspective, and the connection that comes from planning your lives together. You have many common interests and ways that you meet each other’s needs outside of sex.

The assumption and belief that creates so much pain around this subject is the one that says we have to be the end-all-be-all of physical intimacy to our husband or wife. What if that was not true? What if we could excuse ourselves from that burden?

It isn’t easy to find comfort with this. It goes against all cultural programming. In my marriage, it took almost a year before my husband and I could both see that we are so much more to each other than sex partners…and that one of us being physically intimate with another person did not destroy or devalue the intimacy we have with each other. It is different.

A year and a bit ago, we began this journey and there have been so many nights of tearful conversation. However, my husband learned to trust that just because I wanted sex with another man did not mean I loved him less or was going to leave him. Yes, I was the one who wanted a different kind of sexual relationship and my husband had to come to terms with that. He was extremely brave to go through that. It still requires a lot of communication and reassurance both ways.

Your husband loves you. I’m sure that’s why he wanted to tell you about his sex drive and find solutions that you could live with. But you don’t need the threesomes because you don’t have those sexual needs. Don’t do things you don’t want to do. But recognize that for your husband, he may be capable of having sex and intimacy with another woman without it changing his feelings for you.

You may need other things from your husband, like his cuddles or companionship or sense of fun. You don’t need to have casual sex to please him. And though he may want sex with others, it doesn’t diminish his love for you.

I recommend reading about polyamory and mono-poly relationships. Recognize this is not an issue that will resolve itself quickly. It will take an investment of time, trust, and communication. But there’s no need to give up a good marriage just because one ingredient is out of sync. Talk talk talk talk… and let it take time.

-Indigo

 


Thank you Indigo, for your refreshing perspective.

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