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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’re in troubled waters. You’ve talked with him about this enough to know he’s “vehemently opposed” to non-monogamy, so you’ve already made an attempt to communicate and express your thoughts and needs. It sounds like you’ve come to a dealbreaker.
Not just any dealbreaker, but the dealbreaker — the most common one I hear about. Unless things significantly change, your relationship is probably over.
There are three major dealbreakers I tell people to look out for:
- One of you is out of the closet. The other one is not. This, as far as I know, is not your situation.
- Political differences. Some people disagree with me on this, but I think it’s a hard rule. If one of you leans left and the other leans right, that lens affects everything you do, every way you engage with the world. I can’t date a Republican who thinks I’m not deserving of basic human rights, and neither should any self-respecting gay man.
- You want two different relationships. This is you. This broad dealbreaker encompasses many different scenarios. For example, when one of you is ready to take things to the next level and the other is not, you want two different relationships and are at a (nearly insurmountable) impasse. In your case, one of you wants a monogamous relationship and the other person does not.
This third one is brutal and people who prefer non-monogamous relationships have all experienced it at one point because we generally only discover that we like non-monogamy through failed attempts at monogamy. We wake up one day and realize the rules no longer work for us and our needs aren’t being met. If he’s vehemently opposed to non-monogamy and you need it, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which you’ll be able to stay together.
I’ve been accused of being fatalistic in my relationship advice — my default answer always seems to be “end it now!” — but that shouldn’t be very surprising. Most relationships will fail. (Technically speaking, they all will. No human relationship lasts forever.) I don’t mean to discount the love you have for this person. I believe your love is real and wonderful. But you also can’t live sexually starved.
Not only is that not fair to you — it’s also unrealistic. You will, at some point, need sex, so you might cheat — or worse, you might grow resentful and bitter, and the relationship will end badly, meanly. It’s better to end it now without any screaming or slammed doors.
You’re asking me for ways to broach the subject of non-monogamy so that it appears less threatening to someone who’s already threatened by it — in other words, how to get a “yes” from someone who’s already given you a “no.” You will not get a yes. Take this as his final answer and decide what you’re going to do from this point.
Even if he consents at some later point (after cajoling and persuasion) to some permissions here and there, he will likely do so with grumbling bitterness because he didn’t come to this place of comfort on his own, naturally. I’ve watched countless relationships exactly like yours erode from this misalignment — including my own. You, in turn, will feel like you’re on a leash, and may even grow to resent him. (I grew to resent a past boyfriend who gave me limitations I didn’t like, and it caused a terrible breakup.)
My best advice: end things peacefully, suffer a bit, mend, and find someone who shares your willingness to explore non-monogamy. Non-monogamy only works if you both are enthusiastic about the idea. This might be the more painful road in the short term, but it’ll likely be the less painful road in the long term.