QUESTION: I have been with my husband for 24 years and we’ve had a great marriage in most ways, with four lovely children.
However, we’ve always been better friends than lovers, and for the past 15 years it’s been clear we don’t desire one another – although we both feel attracted to other people.
We’ve had five years of marital therapy and have tried every avenue to spice things up. Should we just admit there are times when sex lives can’t be rekindled?
Answer: I wish I could proffer some miraculous, hitherto unknown strategy that instantly revives couples’ sex lives but, sadly, nothing in the realms of desire is that simple. What works for one person and their partner is anathema to another.
Viagra was hailed as a wonder pill. But while it helps with hydraulics, it can’t instil lust where none exists.
Long weekends alone together can work marvels for couples whose love lives have been derailed by work, stress and child care. But for those who feel the spark died long ago, the exercise often serves only to prove how disengaged they feel. Sex toys and role-play can just underline how passionless a couple feel.
What is more complicated is summoning the will power to desire someone you have turned away from. Couples often say they have tried everything to reinvigorate their love lives, but the real story is that they have gone through the motions without any real wish to make their relationship work.
This may not be true of you and your husband. However, you must both ask yourself the question: do you (or did you ever) want to find your way back to one another? If the answer is not yes, then no amount of therapy, “you time” or bedroom innovation will work.
What is key in your letter is the admission that you and your husband find other people attractive. It’s hardly abnormal for people in long-term relationships to see charm in other individuals, but it’s easy to overstep the mark when you feel jaded at home.
It does at least demonstrate you are both still interested in sex, just not, it seems, with each other. But your flirtations raise the possibility that fantasies of other lovers sabotaged your therapy. You can’t save your relationship if your erotic interest is focused elsewhere.
I have great sympathy for you and your spouse. Numerous couples in their late forties and fifties tell strikingly similar stories; they feel mutual love and friendship, but desire has waned or disappeared.
Over-familiarity may not lead to contempt, but it can mean spouses feel more like siblings. They added that if they were in their seventies, the lack of attraction wouldn’t be a huge issue; companionship would prove enough.
However, for many middle-aged people an active sex life is still a top priority. It’s as futile to tell them to stifle their urges as to demand that a gourmand lives on dry bread.
Nor can anyone demand that a couple rekindle desire because it suits others. Our emotions aren’t at the beck and call of family and friends. Only the two people mourning lost desire can know the truth, and only they can resolve the issue between themselves.
Pondering your close bond with your husband, I would like to think the pair of you can find a way through this that does not involve divorce – for your own sakes as much as for your children’s.
Can you allow each other marital exeats to pursue other passions, whether they be music, travel or, in the most extreme instance, flirtations with other people?
It’s quite possible that if you can grant one another a little leeway, you may swiftly find you do not want it.
My strongest advice is not to close any doors to one another.
In final answer to your query, experience sadly demonstrates there are times when cooling coals can’t be reignited. But it’s equally true that most people find the bonds of lust offer diminishing returns as they age.
Sit down with your husband and try to work out where you want to be in 15 years. Perhaps, to your surprise, the answer will be “together”.
QUESTION: My husband and I have always allowed each other space to pursue different interests and social lives. This worked well until the other night when I got drunk with two friends at a party and kissed a stranger. I felt awful the next day and am unsure how to deal with the situation.
One friend says I should tell my husband and that he’ll understand, the other says a drunken kiss doesn’t count and not to mention it. Who’s right?
Answer: A drunken kiss may not “count” to the person who’s just embraced a stranger in an alcoholic fog. However, their partner may think it signifies a great deal. Just ask yourself how you would feel if your husband came home and said he’d had a tipsy embrace with a girl in a bar.
It’s not nothing, is it? You would probably feel furious, mistrustful, jealous and confused. A misplaced kiss may not carry the same gravity as adulterous sex, but it’s still wounding.
What your behaviour flags is the danger of leading separate social lives. I understand that it doesn’t suit every couple to be joined at the hip. But the point about allowing each other space to pursue separate interests is that trust is involved – and when you break that trust the arrangement can fall apart.
If one idle kiss doesn’t mean anything, there’s scant reason not to grab another. I can’t help wondering if your determined pursuit of different agendas has led to you feeling like a singleton when you’re out.
If you are never part of a couple when socialising, it can become harder to behave like you’re in a committed relationship. You seem to be spending your time hanging out with female friends in pre-marital mode, so it’s small wonder that you’ve slid into behaving like a teenager.
And generally there are consequences. Someone will have seen your drunken embrace, which means there’s a chance gossip will reach your husband’s circle. Are his mates going to say “that doesn’t count, it was just harmless fun”?
There are times when ignorance is bliss, but that works only when there’s a good chance the ignorant person won’t become painfully enlightened. When that’s the case, any delays in coming clean will just seem insulting. The policy of keeping schtum is often more effective when it comes to full-blown sexual flings.
Why so? Because spouses tend to know when their other half has been unfaithful, but don’t want confirmation of the facts because they’re scared their relationship won’t withstand the revelation.
However, most partners can overcome the betrayal if an apology is swift, and there’s a genuine intention never to behave so thoughtlessly again.
Has it occurred to you that you might be angry your husband allows you to have so much leeway?
Surely this is a good time for “a state of relationship” talk, in which you try to thrash out whether your separate social lives policy works.
A confession now will act as a curb on future impulses, because you know your husband has his eye on you.
The conversation may not be easy, but it should make your life easier. – Daily Mail