First, thank you for having such a great blog. You don’t know how much it means to have a resource where you can ask questions that are otherwise taboo. I do have a question for you. I was reading your blog post about nonmonogamy and it fascinated me. I have a follow-up question to it. How do you approach the subject with your partner? My partner and I have been together for 5 years and married two years ago. However, sex is almost nonexistent. He is vehemently opposed to nonmonogamy, but my sexual needs aren’t being met. I want to approach the topic with him and discuss that physical needs doesn’t equate to love. He has a “heteronormative” outlook on marriage and sex. But yet he isn’t satisfying me. What advice would you have? It’s most appreciated. Thanks!
You’ve talked to him about this enough to know he’s “vehemently opposed” to nonmonogamy, so you’ve already made at least one attempt. My friend, it sounds to me like you’ve run into the dealbreaker.
Not just a dealbreaker, but the dealbreaker — the most common one which most people never realize they’ve come to. This dealbreaker is tricky to spot. It rarely ends relationships suddenly the way a lie or really bad fight can. Instead, it creates a gradual, smoldering resentment that erodes a relationship over time.
Let me explain. Most differences can be managed with open and honest communication. However, there are three differences — three dealbreakers — that can’t:
You’re asking for ways to make nonmonogamy look less threatening to someone who’s already threatened by it — ways to broach the subject in order to get a “yes.” I’ve learned through failed relationships that if you encounter a “no” here, it’s a hard no.
Why? Because even if he consents to a few permissions here and there after some persuasion, you will always feel like you are dragging him out of his comfort zone. You will feel like you are on a leash, and you will resent him for it, and he will probably resent you for it, too. You will feel selfish for something that isn’t selfish — your basic sexual needs. You will feel stifled, forced to filter yourself for his feelings. And you will do so out of love.
My sincere belief is that every couple in a monogamous relationship will find themselves here. They may not be aware that they’ve arrived here, but everyone does, because at some point we all run into the reality of our animalism, our need for sex and pleasure. It is possible to quiet and stifle these desires and train yourself into not feeling them, and some people do exactly that for their entire lives, but doing so isn’t natural to our species, and it’s not healthy.
Most people never consider the possibility of nonmonogamy. Most people have never heard of the idea. Most people — my religious parents, for example — choose a life of self-denial. The body ages, they reason. We’re not made to be as sexual as we once were, they tell themselves. This is what we should be doing, they say. You can make yourself believe anything and force your body to follow suit.
Their libido tanks and they settle into lives that at some point no longer feel like settling. They live without much sex — sometimes without any sex at all. Other pleasures and pastimes may suffice — work, “projects,” the kids, the house, travel, golf — but still, they are living without sex. That self-denial may be self-enforced by religious conservatism and countless social and economic factors until they no longer notice the bars of the cage. They simply see the world and their lives and believe this is how it operates, with no idea that they are trapped.
You never have to get there, because you’ve found a word and concept: nonmonogamy. A powerful, dirty, beautiful little gem of a truth, a quiet act of revolt against a centuries-old system of human sexual oppression that starts in your mind and floods your body until you, my friend, demand more, and thereby state and claim your true humanity.
You’ve stumbled across the fact that you can have wild, satisfying, diverse sex and the comforts and security of a happy, healthy relationship (far healthier than the stifled, self-denying setups you see others in). But you probably cannot have such a relationship with this person, at least not right now. Because he wants one kind of relationship, and you want another.
My best advice: end things with him as quickly, kindly, and honestly as you can, and after a healing period, seek someone who wants the same kind of relationship you want now. It’s hard, but freedom and integrity in love are worth it.