February 24, 2012

Mr. Sexsmith Says: You Can Get Your Needs Met Within Monogamy

by Sinclair Sexsmith

Dear B:

I’m sorry to hear about the dilemma you’re in—and I think it’s, sadly, pretty common. It’s really difficult to maintain satisfying sex in a long term relationship, and I think in order to do that requires both a) admitting and agreeing that sex is a priority between you, and b) being honest with ourselves and each other about what our sexual needs are as they evolve.

It sounds like you’re being pretty honest about what you want and what you desire. And as far as either of us knows, she’s being honest about what she wants, too. For whatever reason, though you did connect sexually and physically in the beginning, things have shifted. I believe that she loves you and wants to be with you and finds you attractive, but that doesn’t mean that she has the drive that she used to, for whatever reasons. Thus, your current dilemma.

From all I know about sex and relationships, it’s not uncommon. And as we’ve put more and more value (rightfully so) on sex and sexual satisfaction, I think this is frequently the cause for breaking up long term relationships—and sometimes with good reason. Since it’s generally expected for couples to be monogamous, many people have ended up in partnerships—expected to be lifelong commitments—which are sexually unsatisfying.

I think it’s incredibly important to see monogamy as a contract to meet each other’s sexual needs—or at least to openly discuss the needs and figure out solutions to getting them met. It is absolutely true that your partner can’t be expected to meet all your needs all the time, and on any individual basis it might not be possible to get that need met, but over the long haul, more often than not, those needs should be validated and met as best as possible. And if they aren’t possible to be met, I think it’s important to try to figure out how to get them met—either by opening up the relationship to include some sexual satisfaction, or by leaving the relationship if opening up isn’t a possibility.

There are folks who would advise cheating, I suppose, as an acceptable solution—the logic being that you end up in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation if your monogamous partner won’t formally allow opening up or won’t talk about it and still refuses to meet your needs. I don’t know about you, but I know I couldn’t really cheat, because I’m a terrible liar and would feel too guilty. But if you have tried communicating about it, tried expressing how important it is to you to get these needs met, and your partner still can’t or won’t do it for you, then it might be time to think about what’s next.

And—what is next? Before you give her an ultimatum and explore all your options, I encourage you to sit her down again and lay it out. Think about what you want: do you want to stay with her? Do you want to have a relatively low sexual relationship and maintain your domestic partnership and co-parenting? Is it important to stay together—living together in the same house—for your kids? It might be. There are many ways to continue being partners. The problems arise when resentment builds and the two of you aren't loving, kind, or compassionate toward each other. I don't know about you, but I would start to get resentful very quickly if my sexual needs weren't being met.

So if you are going to stay together, what are you willing to compromise? What is she willing to compromise? Is she willing to fuck you —well and to your satisfaction—on a regular basis even if she isn't necessarily in the mood? How many times or how intense or how regularly do you need that sexual connection?

Make a plan, if you can. Tell her that you are willing to do x if she is willing to do y. Set a date to check in after implementing this plan, after six weeks or two months. Reflect on whether this plan has worked. Reflect—together—on whether or not you’re happy. Make a new plan, if you discover new needs or new ways to tweak the plan that are worth experimenting.

Ask yourself: What are you willing to do to be happy? To have your sexual needs satisfied? Are you willing to change things? To put your needs forward and stand by them? You might disrupt some lives—but you will be much better capable of supporting and interacting and bringing your whole self to your relationships if you are being fueled and energized in the ways that you desire and deserve.