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KantWaitForGodot

Nearly Sexless 20y marriage; suspect partner is unidentified ace; what to do next?

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Juliace

This thread is really interesting for me because I'm in a similar situation. We've been married for over 25 years, from when we were both quite young; we are each other's only family and have been for a long time. We've both struggled for years with my increasing lack of desire, so when I learned about asexuality and had that "So that's what I am!" moment, it did clarify a lot of things for me. And for him--now he knows that it's not that I'm not attracted *to him anymore* but that I've slowly realized that I was doing sex things almost entirely to make him happy. (It's mind-blowing how many straight women are in this situation, ace or not). But now that I can't manage even that anymore, it leaves a gap in our relationship that makes him sad and unsatisfied. I'm not aromantic but for him it seems really hard to understand that separation and so we are mostly platonic and mostly like friends at this point. I wish he could find ways to be romantic without linking it to sexuality but that hasn't happened, also perhaps because we've had such a rough time over the years and distance has built up. We can still have great times together but there is a tension still, and a physical distance sometimes.

 

Unfortunately, we are at an impasse now. I agreed to open the marriage so that he could have outside sexual relationships with men (he's bi), which at first were mostly hookups or casual things. Of course, he was super careful, but still ended up with an STD which freaked us both out a lot. (It's gone now). But he realized he needed to find people he could trust. So now he's been seeing the same person for a few years, and because that guy's living in another city, this means staying with the lover for weeks at a time sometimes. And now I've come to realize that I can't handle it. I'm lonely when he's there, and I'm not a person who doesn't like being alone usually. In fact, I quite like alone time except when I know he's there being "not alone." I know he's an emotional person and it's natural that he bonds with people easily and deeply--he always has, in both sexual and non-sexual relationships. But I find myself feeling more and more negative about it, despite all the assurances (which I do believe) about how I'm his primary, I'm the only one he loves, etc. I know that's all true, and I don't blame him for needing a sexual relationship, but it seems like I can't figure out how to cope with it without becoming a bitter and snarky jealous wife. Which is totally not who I am! Yuck! I find my self-talk gets nasty and mean, expressing the ugly feelings this situation is bringing up for me. I'm not proud and I've tried to explain this to him, but that doesn't make it stop.

 

The fear of losing him is terrifying to me, because, as I say, he's my only family. We move a lot and friends come and go, blood relations thin and wither (or explode or die). So he's been my tether for decades, the only person "who knew me when" and who knows me deeply. I am tempted to just accept this situation so I can keep him in my life. He refuses to give up this other relationship and I understand why; at the same time, he insists he doesn't want to make it his primary and the lover doesn't either (he's single and non-monogamous).

 

It's weird to write this personal stuff here but I sense that a lot of you are struggling with similar things. We are working on sorting this out but I have no idea what will happen.

 

There's a young couple on Tales of the City who remind me of this dilemma in a way: they were lesbian monogamous lovers and one of them transitioned, so now the cis-woman partner feels strange because she still identifies as a lesbian, but of course also loves her lover who's a trans man. We're not at all in the same situation--but it reminds me of that sense of wanting to keep a relationship going after experiencing major shifts in identity because you are still in love with each other despite the changes. But something is different and maybe it's making you unhappy now. (Of course they're both cute and young and sexual so they won't have such a hard time finding another partner if they do break up--for me what would happen? And am I okay with being alone the rest of my life? I guess so?).

 

 

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Traveler40

Thank you for posting this @Juliace, I can relate as the sexual partner in the duo. You are wise to understand that your husband likely has deeper feelings for this other man than you realize.  At least in my case, I work to spare my husband’s feelings. However, it may not be as dire as you sometimes feel. It’s important to remember that just as you feel anchored in your decades together, he likely does as well. Why do I think this? He stays together, albeit not as much as he used to, he still remains with you.

 

I’m not sure how you stop the negative emotions. It’s likely similar to what a sexual feels when turned away time and again.  It’s simply a different relationship now that’s not as you once envisioned it would be, but it’s still a partnership.  Try to keep that connection alive if you want to keep it.

 

What I tell my husband is the relationship that is left is what we have. If he wishes things to last, he needs to focus on our friendship and life partnership, as well as foster the connections that brought us together in the first place.  We both work at it, we both feel saddened by the circumstances which are beyond our control, and we both value the history we’ve created. Focusing on what you have, as opposed to what you don’t, is critical and may help.

 

All the best.

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Traveler40
14 hours ago, Juliace said:

I am tempted to just accept this situation so I can keep him in my life.

 

14 hours ago, Juliace said:

for me what would happen? And am I okay with being alone the rest of my life? I guess so?)

Then there’s that @juliace. It seems you may be contemplating to let go slowly also?  Your post has stuck with me.  I understand the shift and live the changes you describe to some extent. Perhaps it simply comes down to how unhappy any one given party is?  While heartbreaking at the core, the option to call uncle is real.

 

There are all sorts of arrangements made and described across these forums.  No one is the only or correct way.  We only have a single shot at life, so communicate clearly and honestly with your husband.  What do you want? Need? How many ways might that look?  There are a multitude of unconventional structures; You’re living one now.  What could you tweak to make it better, or would walking away be your only viable solution when all has been weighed and measured?

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Juliace

Thanks for hearing me @Traveler40! It means a lot to just share this and be understood.

 

But what you say is also right: I and we need to decide. We're both definitely not satisfied with the current arrangement. I'm unhappy while he's there, and when we try to IM or chat while he's there I find it hard to be supportive (So glad you're having a great time! Except deep down I'm crushed...). This is the inner negativity (sad, bitter, resentful, angry) I'm talking about, and he's noticed it too. I try to repress it (never a good plan as we all know) to protect him but when I'm honest about it he's sad and feels bad too. So then nobody wins. What we essentially have is an unbalanced poly or open relationship where on he is with another person and I'm feeling left out and abandoned (deeper issues there too which doesn't help AT ALL). I've ready The Ethical Slut and various other poly stuff, and tried all the strategies for managing my feelings, but I basically feel like it's just not working. And I'm starting to resent the fact that (once again) it's me that needs fixing. For years before we knew what I was, I felt broken and like it was my responsibility to fix it, to try harder, to do sex despite not wanting it, etc. And so to feel again like the work all falls to me is starting to make me feel a little angry.

 

So I asked him if he's willing to limit the time he spends there and then we did an experiment with a calendar saying, okay, how many weeks a year do you need to go? And he asks me, how many weeks do you need me here? And I'm like, duh! All the weeks, I need you here. I'm trying to compromise but if you ask me that question I'm going to answer it. But he's not willing to give up this relationship for more casual kinds that don't involve the long visits. And the negotiation of how many weeks just made me feel like I'm yanking on the leash that causes him discomfort. Who wants to be that person? Or really who wants to be either of those people? Sigh. I do want the partnership but I fear that it's being transformed into something uglier and sadder lately, and I'm not sure if I want *that* partnership, I guess.

 

I just don't want to give up too early because truly I don't foresee another partner in my life, and like I said he's also my family not only my romantic partner. So it'll be like being orphaned all over again. ☹️

 

He's there now but we'll be back together later this month and I foresee plenty more tearful discussions to come. Thanks for the kindness and openness in listening and responding!

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Traveler40
On 6/10/2019 at 11:32 PM, Juliace said:

And I'm starting to resent the fact that (once again) it's me that needs fixing.

Compromise, for legitimate reasons, takes two.

 

On 6/10/2019 at 11:32 PM, Juliace said:

And he asks me, how many weeks do you need me here?

It’s hard when someone deflects by answering a question with a question. My comeback would be: “How many weeks do you want to be here?”  This makes it feel as if he’s only returning for the minimum time required to absolve himself from guilt which isn’t possible.  That alone makes it clear why you’re so unhappy as it doesn’t feel like a two way street and is dissatisfying at its core.

 

On 6/10/2019 at 11:32 PM, Juliace said:

I just don't want to give up too early because truly I don't foresee another partner in my life,

Of course you know best, but I tend to think this is as limiting as your mind and efforts make it. That doesn't always hold true, but mainly does.  Building a depth and breadth with someone takes time, effort and patience. It’s daunting, but I suppose my point is to try and not sell yourself or the possibilities short.  

 

Life is finite, and if you’re ultimately being disrespected at levels you cannot condone, change makes sense.  If he’s truly your family at heart, it may morph yet not disappear. You never know, but how things might look in the event of a break-up is a discussion worth having.

 

Lastly, why couldn’t you open your end of the relationship as well?  While the cat’s away...

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BeakLove
On 6/3/2019 at 8:33 PM, KantWaitForGodot said:

I'm a bisexual cis-male (45), my wife is cis-female (43).  We've been in a committed relationship for nearly 25 years, and married nearly 20 years. We love each other very much, and our values match deeply: we care about the same things, we both work for charities that address important causes, we both don't want nor have children, and we have cared for each other emotionally for this long period through tough problems and extended family situations that were/are painful.  Despite what I say below, I consider her my best possible life partner of all the people I've ever met, and love her deeply.

Hi OP. Sorry to read you're in such a muddle. It must be difficult dealing with a relationship where the other partner isn't attracted to you.

 

Quote

Second, we need to negotiate a solution to my sexual needs.  I love her dearly, and our life together, and I would be completely glad to remain with her as my nesting partner: sharing everything except sexual contact and romance, but my non-negotiable is that I need to be able to pursue romantic and sexual relationships with other people (of multiple genders).

It seems apparent that your romantic (read: love) needs are also not being fulfilled. And depending on the scope of "romance", that can be much of what you want from a partner. So when you say you would be sharing everything "except sex and romance" with your wife, that implies the arrangement would be more of roommates sharing the bills.  Can your wife accept that? After all you said she doesn't want you to date, which implies she doesn't want you to have romantic/sexual encounters that involve any emotion or expectation of permanence, a complete contradiction to your "non-negotiable".

 

My opinion (a stranger on the internet) is that you will have to end the relationship in order to have the kind of relationships you want. The reason your wife suspects that opening it is the pathway to divorce, is because usually it is. She will see you having fun hot sex with other people, gradually being pulled more towards them, finding that romantic spark that's missing from her, and feel crappy and rejected. Crappy and rejected in the same way that you feel because your relationship lacks that spark. @Juliace's experience attests to that. 

 

Polyamory usually falls to pieces in practice, because it only works for one or two of the people involved. I think The Ethical Slut is manifesto for selfishness, personally. 

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Traveler40

Each situation is unique and perspectives will vary. Having actually experienced a bit of what both the OP and @Juliace have, I tend to think it’s not as dire as the above insinuation of inevitable doom and gloom.

 

Keep searching for answers since it’s clearly not as simple as just walking away.  The initial key to compromise is both parties willingness to consider a potential solution,  even if it doesn’t end up working forever.

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Juliace

@BeakLove and @Traveler40 What's driving me crazy is that I agree with both of you at the same time! Some of the time I'm optimistic and want to take it slow and keep trying so as not to give up too soon if there's any chance to save what we have. But other times it feels like I'm kidding myself and I should start getting used to being alone sooner instead of dragging it out. I'm talking to a therapist who's really good and nonjudgmental, who knows about asexuality and polyamory, and she's gently pushing me to look harder at what I need and what will make me feel better, both short term and long term. But I don't know! Basically I'm not happy now and I don't expect I'll be happy alone and without my only real family. I haven't always been so indecisive, though in past relationships I have put off recognizing certain truths about where my feelings were going, and ended up hurting the person more than necessary by protracted indecision. (That was ages ago though and maybe I'm a bit more self-aware now, though I don't feel like it).

 

I need to have another talk with him and try to really figure out whether I can be happy in our relationship while he is also quite close to the other person. That feels like the crux of it, and it is making me unhappy and self-destructive this time (he's there now), once again. My big solution when I feel really bummed about it is either drinking or over-working, neither of which is healthy but both of which help me focus on other stuff (sometimes). So obviously this tendency isn't good for me and I don't feel I can direct my negativity in another more positive direction at this point. If he's going to spend a few weeks with his lover several times a year, I don't know if I can keep doing this.

 

Thanks for you question, @Traveler40; it would be great if I could feel more balance in the open situation by dating. But I have no interest in finding anybody else to date or have a romantic relationship with. And even if I did, I live in a really small city and don't know any others like me. I'm not out to anybody here, and I'm not actually a very people-oriented person (meaning I kind of don't like most people and find it hard to make friends).

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