Changing relationship dynamic?

Nonmonagamum

New member
For context’s sake: I have been in a nesting relationship with my anchor partner for 16 years. We’ve been married for 13 of those years. I identified as poly about 6 years ago, while he is staunchly monogamous, but has been as supportive as possible of my other relationships as we’ve learned and grown into this new phase of relationship together.

My sexual attraction to my husband has diminished over the course of our relationship, and perhaps more notably so over the last 2-3 years. While sex with him is never “bad”, I just don’t feel a drive to initiate it and don’t feel enthusiastic about the suggestion of it. This has long been a sticking point for us, as he often expresses his attraction and desire to be sexual with me, and I struggle to respond in even a mildly positive fashion. It’s a terribly uncomfortable situation, which we have discussed many times over, and I can’t conceive of a way to overcome.

This is exacerbated for my husband by the fact that I have been involved with another partner for about 16months; we see each other regularly once a week for an evening/sleepover. While the specifics of this “other” relationship are not discussed between my husband and I, he understands that it does involve a strong physical attraction and is actively sexual.

I just don’t know how to manage the situation with my husband. I love him dearly, respect him very much, we parent well together and enjoy a wonderful family/social circle together. But he obviously wants more from me and has expressed he’s not interested in a platonic relationship between us. That just makes me feel guilt and shame and a sense that no matter how else I demonstrate my love and care for him, the sexual aspect of our relationship (or lack thereof) will continue to weigh on us and ultimately cause our relationship to fracture irrevocably.
Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Any suggestions or words of wisdom?
 

TomSloan

New member
Your marriage to your husband must always come first. If you cannot maintain your sexual relationship with both your husband and the secondary, then clearly you need to end the secondary relationship and focus on rebuilding the intimacy with your husband. Otherwise, you’re basically asking your husband to become an involuntary cuckold.
 

Eyegor

New member
Your situation is complex and I can feel all the emotions going on. Your "guilt and shame" really speak to me as I would probably feel the same even though a lot is not in our control.

Unfortunately, in my experience, re-injecting romantic love into a relationship that has lost it is very difficult if not impossible. It's possible that your husband is in a platonic relationship right now whether they want it or not. You may not have the capacity to re-engage at a sexual level and still be happy. From my experience, I probably couldn't.

The only firm advice I'd give is something from my personal experience. I had a similar situation and I broke up with the secondary during a crisis with my primary and immediately regretted it. It really highlighted the "secondary" for her and cast our relationship in a light that didn't match the way I actually felt. I was eventually able to grovel sufficiently to get back together with her, but it's still a sore spot for us, and rightly so.

You seem to be really connected with your secondary and good relationships are hard to find...I wouldn't break up without evaluating all your relationships and how your needs are being met (or not).
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member
Your marriage to your husband must always come first. If you cannot maintain your sexual relationship with both your husband and the secondary, then clearly you need to end the secondary relationship and focus on rebuilding the intimacy with your husband. Otherwise, you’re basically asking your husband to become an involuntary cuckold.

That's a .... remarkably judgmental and prescriptive approach to @Nonmonagamum's current relationship issues. Not everyone does poly in a hierarchical (primary/secondary) kind of way, even in mono/poly situations. It *may* be that ending the OP's other relationship increases intimacy in her marriage... more likely, though, that sort of "solution" will just add resentment to the situation and make it worse.

My sexual attraction to my husband has diminished over the course of our relationship, and perhaps more notably so over the last 2-3 years. While sex with him is never “bad”, I just don’t feel a drive to initiate it and don’t feel enthusiastic about the suggestion of it. This has long been a sticking point for us, as he often expresses his attraction and desire to be sexual with me, and I struggle to respond in even a mildly positive fashion. It’s a terribly uncomfortable situation, which we have discussed many times over, and I can’t conceive of a way to overcome.
<snip>
I just don’t know how to manage the situation with my husband. I love him dearly, respect him very much, we parent well together and enjoy a wonderful family/social circle together. But he obviously wants more from me and has expressed he’s not interested in a platonic relationship between us. That just makes me feel guilt and shame and a sense that no matter how else I demonstrate my love and care for him, the sexual aspect of our relationship (or lack thereof) will continue to weigh on us and ultimately cause our relationship to fracture irrevocably.
Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Any suggestions or words of wisdom?

My situation isn't exactly like yours - Knight and I are both polyamorous, and usually I'm the one pushing for sex more than he is despite the results being, hmm, not *bad* but not earth shattering. For me - and maybe your husband? - it isn't really that I need to have *good* sex within a relationship it's that the way we related to each other, the emotional intimacy between us, is very different when we are more physically connected as well as having the living together / parenting / best friend connection.

I do have a few suggestions, some are easier than others and some may not work for ya'll given that your husband *is* mono - for instance, I'd usually suggest adding more sensual but non-explicitly sexual touch - ie cuddling and massage, but I think this would be more frustrating than not for a partner that didn't have another sexual outlet. Maybe not - certainly it's something that's suggested in mono relationship counseling books too - but still a possibility.

There are some books I could recommend that might help, if you haven't read them - Esther Perel's "Mating in Captivity" being the top of the list. She goes into a lot of depth on the tension between having erotic mystery with a partner and having a day-to-day relationship, which might be the gap the two of you are falling into (certainly it is for me, so if I'm projecting there I'm sorry.)
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Not mentioned yet... but what are your ages? (and you don't have to answer here. Just think on this if it applies...)

Cuz I'm smack in the middle of weirdo perimenopause. And he's in andropause. I needed HRT to calm these psycho hot flashes, vaginal dryness/sensitivity, and other issues. Sex had become painful or he was all hot flashy or I was all hot flashy and nobody wanted MORE hotness from close body contact.

After some frustration on both sides, we had to negotiate "new sex" while I was seeking and then doing HRT. More outercourse, slower, more careful. I reminded him we did this before through "pregnancy chapters" of our life together as we accommodated my changing pregnant body. So this is just "perimenopause/andropause" chapter now and accommodating both bodies.

After finishing HRT therapy, I felt a million times better. My hot flashes are more manageable and not like "OMG! THIS IS HELL!!!!"
I'm interested in sex and in my spouse again. He's still all hot flashy and figuring his health things out. So we're not totally over this patch on his side of it, but it is better on my side.

So could some of that be part of your attraction problems? Entering a different chapter of life?

We're all in a global pandemic. Some people carry on in quarantine and there might be a little too much togetherness and maybe approaching cabin fever. Like if spouse is HERE all day long? What is there to talk about? And whatever pandemic stress, how that that affect your love life/sex life/attraction?

Could some of that be part of your attraction problems?

Then there the harder thing to sit with and contemplate.

I love him dearly, respect him very much, we parent well together and enjoy a wonderful family/social circle together. But he obviously wants more from me and has expressed he’s not interested in a platonic relationship between us. That just makes me feel guilt and shame and a sense that no matter how else I demonstrate my love and care for him, the sexual aspect of our relationship (or lack thereof) will continue to weigh on us and ultimately cause our relationship to fracture irrevocably.

Well, if he's monoamorous and wants to only have 1 lover/sweetie? And that's you right now as his spouse?

And on the lover front it is fading for you or already ended, but you are not quite at final acceptance on that? And because you are poly and have another lover, you'd be up for a platonic marriage and tempted to kick the can down the road and not deal with it?

Do you expect him to live out HIS life without having a lover? And for him to be ok with a platonic marriage?

You don't have to feel guilty or shame that you aren't attracted to him any more. But if this is not "solveable" in the sense that it is something like weathering out perimenopause/andropause? Or weathering out pandemic weirdness?

But a permanent change? Then the kindest and most loving thing to do might be to gently get out of his Sweetie spot.

Because that isn't you any more. You don't want to be his lover.

And he's not poly. So it's not like he's going to go meet new people if you still occupy that space.

So you have to leave it so he can move on to find a new Sweetie.

I think maybe you both could talk about continuing as exes and coparents and letting the marriage part that doesn't fit any more go.

What could that conversation look like so parting can go well? Like letting go of one thing with one hand, and take up something else with another? Maybe you can try to transition toward good exes/friends and coparents?

And you talk about it BECAUSE you love him dearly, respect him very much, parent well together and enjoy a wonderful family/social circle together. And don't want some ugly divorce fight to wreck everything in its midst, when it's only the lover/marriage part that needs to disband.

When you start becoming exes? You don't have to stop being coparents. You don't have to stop being friends.

You can't help falling out of love. You can help how you behave through a divorce.

Galagirl
 
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AlwaysGrowing

Well-known member
I often find my physical attraction for my husband waning, for a variety of reasons. It is by far the biggest issue in our relationship. For me? I make an effort to say yes every time he initiates UNLESS I have a reason other than "I'm not in the mood." Because, honestly, I'm hardly ever in the mood with him. I say yes anyway though because I know it's important to him, I know I'll have fun once we start, and in general I don't have a reason not to. If I'm too tired, not feeling well, feeling icky from not showering yet, just cranky with him and not feeling it, etc... I decline and explain why. He is now more in tune with my energy level, mood, etc and almost never asks on bad days. If I say no, he doesn't show any disappointment. It has been amazing for us.

Since switching from "enthusiastic yes" needed to a "firm no" being needed... We rarely struggle. Even though I still don't feel crazy horny for him, we have sex anywhere from once to 3 times a week - and I enjoy myself every time. It has gotten rid of the main conflict in our relationship (all that's left now is the occasional spat over chores and the like), he is happier and feels more connected, I am happier because orgasms are great even when I wasn't craving them and he's happier, I get less pressure and more nonsexual cuddles/touch that I want, and yeah. It works great for us.

I wouldn't recommend this for everyone, but I relate to the situation of having lots of love for someone but not lots of sex drive for that person. If sex isn't UNPLEASANT, sometimes viewing it as something you do for the person you love might just work. I still get kinda cranky occasionally, and vent in my blog here about it, when he doesn't make the efforts to do the things I value when I feel like I'm making effort for the things he values, but overall... Vast improvement.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello Nonmonagamum,

You and your husband need a second honeymoon. You must plan a special trip with him, perhaps to some paradisiacal island where the two of you can enjoy drinks together under the palm trees on the beach. You must revive the special feelings you and he once had. You get out of a relationship what you put into it. Invest more in what you have with your husband. This does not mean you must stop seeing your other partner, it just means you must make your relationship with your husband be as special as you want it to be.

Just some thoughts,
Kevin T.
 

Marcus

Well-known member
While sex with him is never “bad”, I just don’t feel a drive to initiate it and don’t feel enthusiastic about the suggestion of it.
But he obviously wants more from me and has expressed he’s not interested in a platonic relationship between us.

These two qualities tell me that you guys may need to start getting comfortable with restructuring your association.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with his wanting to have sex with you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your not wanting to have sex with him. The only problem is that these two realities are opposite to each other, which doesn't leave you guys with a lot of options.

Maybe you'll be one of the rare couples that can change around your sex life by "spicing it up" or "couples therapy", so you can always try those things? For me, I would rather just put my energy into coming to terms with the reality that I am not entitled to get everything that I want, exactly the way I want it. Sometimes people who were once apparently compatible, are simply no longer compatible.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Any suggestions or words of wisdom?

Live your best life, support your loved ones in living their best life, and make adjustments to relationships when they stand as barriers against this goal.
 

Marcus

Well-known member
Your marriage to your husband must always come first. If you cannot maintain your sexual relationship with both your husband and the secondary, then clearly you need to end the secondary relationship and focus on rebuilding the intimacy with your husband. Otherwise, you’re basically asking your husband to become an involuntary cuckold.

It's important to remember that everyone posting here is responding within our best understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. While my advice will always have a focus of living authentically, and seeking to have relationships that exist within natural personality overlap, others have a vastly different list of priorities.

Tom's response here is from the perspective of strict, traditional hierarchy. There's certainly nothing wrong with having traditional views of how to value a relationship, but if this isn't the type of relationship that you have (or want) then it's good to take responses with a grain of salt when the results of that advice run contrary to your goals. So, if your interest is in adhering to traditional hierarchical values, then Tom's advice is probably spot on, but if that's not what you are going for this advice is pretty bonkers.
 

Evie

Kaitiaki
There's certainly nothing wrong with having traditional views of how to value a relationship...
I'm afraid I don't agree with this statement when it means that the secondary is not treated respectfully and the advice is to dispose of them like they are practically nothing. The "dump the secondary" approach as suggested above is dehumanising, and that *is* wrong. It's gone beyond "traditional" hierarchy to toxic hierarchy.
 

Marcus

Well-known member
I'm afraid I don't agree with this statement when it means that the secondary is not treated respectfully and the advice is to dispose of them like they are practically nothing. The "dump the secondary" approach as suggested above is dehumanising, and that *is* wrong. It's gone beyond "traditional" hierarchy to toxic hierarchy.

I get what you are going for, but really I don't see that looking down on a secondary is particularly toxic within the realm of strict hierarchy; they call them "secondary" for a reason, because they are secondary. I certainly have a negative emotional reaction to people like Tom who respect the "old ways", but I just don't think it's particularly interesting or needing of an clarifying prefix like toxic. So I suppose I don't disagree with you, I just don't think the distinction is actually informative.

My response was really only an attempt to remind the original poster that folks like Tom are out there, they tend to be pretty vocal, and to scrape the opinion off if it traditional hierarchy isn't what you're trying to achieve.
 

Evie

Kaitiaki
I get what you are going for, but really I don't see that looking down on a secondary is particularly toxic within the realm of strict hierarchy; they call them "secondary" for a reason, because they are secondary. I certainly have a negative emotional reaction to people like Tom who respect the "old ways", but I just don't think it's particularly interesting or needing of an clarifying prefix like toxic. So I suppose I don't disagree with you, I just don't think the distinction is actually informative.

Using descriptors like toxic are a way to inspect and ideas that are controversial. I chose the word toxic because to me, "dump the secondary" (to protect the "couple") is an indicator that there is something inherently unhealthy in the primary relationship but rather than deal with that separately to the secondary relationship, the secondary is severed despite not having its own problems. The dis-ease in the primary relationship is harmful to the secondary one.

I suppose this isn't informative if you're familiar with the issues around couple's privilege and ethical treatment of a secondary partner, but if these are unfamiliar concepts to someone, then maybe there's some value in examining the ability for "strict heirarchy" and something like the "secondary bill of rights" to coexist.

I get heirarchy as a practicality, hell, for all intents and purposes that's my relationship structure since I'm married, and so is my other significant other. We have responsibilities at our respective homes that we don't have to each other. But there's no way I'd dump OSO because of a problem between me and hubby.
 

Inaniel

Active member
There are many layers to these types issues and the problem can be exacerbated by poly. How is someone who you already have dwindling desire for going to compete with the NRE fueled desire for a new partner? Fantastic sex with a new partner can have an overshadowing effect…. Consider the effect NRE might be having on your feelings at this moment, and remember that this is something that fades over time.

If the sexual desire is not there and you want to maintain the relationship with hubby for all the good it brings you. You may be able think of it as compensatory sex…. It can be a divisive subject, however I’m not one to be polarized against it. I’m sure not every blow job I received this year was the result of uncontrollable burning desire within a partner… Again there are layers to these types of issues

Another approach would be to string him along without sex for as long as he can stand it, I think some men will stay in a sexless relationship for a very long time. It is a sad existence by the way, and I would consider it an alternative that is low compassion…. However, it’s possible he would stick around until the kids are raised, if that is your priority. I think this how a lot of people would handle it, the consequence being the resentment that breeds in such conditions.

If none of the above is your thing, letting him go now will probably give you the best chance at having an amicable separation and decent co-parenting dynamic.

While I think there is a chance therapy could help, I actually think it’s unlikely. And I think poly can make it even harder to find motivation to mend a broken sex life when you have a blossoming sex life with someone else.

Maybe that’s what the hierarchical comment was trying to say…. In that regard I can’t say a hierarchal approach wouldn’t help. However it certainly is not guaranteed to help.

As far as hurting people goes… People getting hurt is par for the course in human relations. Maybe I’m having a bad day but I tend to think every single human is pretty shitty and self serving in general. Regardless, the only person who can navigate the complexity of this situation is you, OP. No one here can judge you because we don’t know the intricacies of your commitments, desires, and priorities.

With all of that said, Good Luck!
 

dingedheart

Well-known member
For context’s sake: I have been in a nesting relationship with my anchor partner for 16 years. We’ve been married for 13 of those years. I identified as poly about 6 years ago, while he is staunchly monogamous, but has been as supportive as possible of my other relationships as we’ve learned and grown into this new phase of relationship together.
Did this loss of attraction or some sexual disconnect help drive you to finding your poly identity.


My sexual attraction to my husband has diminished over the course of our relationship, and perhaps more notably so over the last 2-3 years. While sex with him is never “bad”, I just don’t feel a drive to initiate it and don’t feel enthusiastic about the suggestion of it. This has long been a sticking point for us, as he often expresses his attraction and desire to be sexual with me, and I struggle to respond in even a mildly positive fashion. It’s a terribly uncomfortable situation, which we have discussed many times over, and I can’t conceive of a way to overcome.

“Terribly uncomfortable situation “ seems polite and understating it.

You've discussed this issue many time over in a direct and blunt manner so he’s crystal clear that your sexual desires lay else where and if he’s lucky enough to catch you in the right mood or with nothing better to do or in a generous mood you grant him a go. HE understands this ?? and agrees to settle for that ?


That just makes me feel guilt and shame and a sense that no matter how else I demonstrate my love and care for him, the sexual aspect of our relationship (or lack thereof) will continue to weigh on us and ultimately cause our relationship to fracture irrevocably.
Sorry to say this but I think you’re past that point already. He wants a romantic /sexual relationship with the woman he married ….you are happy outsourcing that. Incompatibility IMO.
 
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fuchka

Active member
When you say "I struggle to respond in even a mildly positive fashion" I wonder what your experience of / thinking about sexual desire is.

I used to have a block with a partner who initiated more than me. And I would think, I need to feel sexual desire before I want to be sexual with him. So if I wasn't in the mood, or very quickly in the mood, I would brush off his advances. And this started to happen a lot.

It helped me to learn more about so-called "responsive" desire; something that might take longer to reciprocate if someone else initiates. There's a lot you can read about that - for example https://www.thecut.com/2018/04/the-misunderstood-science-of-sexual-desire.html

Similar to @icesong, I could be projecting here. Perhaps this isn't going on for you at all.

If you can't navigate a consensual sexual dynamic, it seems that the most compassionate path to take, for your husband (and for yourself, really), would be to transition to being co-parents and ex-romantic partners.
 

AlwaysGrowing

Well-known member
When you say "I struggle to respond in even a mildly positive fashion" I wonder what your experience of / thinking about sexual desire is.

I used to have a block with a partner who initiated more than me. And I would think, I need to feel sexual desire before I want to be sexual with him. So if I wasn't in the mood, or very quickly in the mood, I would brush off his advances. And this started to happen a lot.

It helped me to learn more about so-called "responsive" desire; something that might take longer to reciprocate if someone else initiates. There's a lot you can read about that - for example https://www.thecut.com/2018/04/the-misunderstood-science-of-sexual-desire.html

Similar to @icesong, I could be projecting here. Perhaps this isn't going on for you at all.

If you can't navigate a consensual sexual dynamic, it seems that the most compassionate path to take, for your husband (and for yourself, really), would be to transition to being co-parents and ex-romantic partners.

Thank you for a resource that explains my relationship with Hubby perfectly. 😁
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member

Marcus

Well-known member
That was a good article - I was familiar with the concept but the emphasis on it being an “everyone” thing and not just a “women” thing was really nice.

I agree, it seemed like it was interested in discussing how we are similar as opposed to why one of us is broken (and there to be blamed).

I expect lots of those studies that were done back in the 60's and 70's are going to need to be broken down and re-discussed. The social traditions those researchers were functioning under were pretty old school, riding the wave of older social tradition. It's good to see people reassessing those studies with cooler heads; now if only we can keep that data from being skewed hard the other way :)
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
For context’s sake: I have been in a nesting relationship with my anchor partner for 16 years. We’ve been married for 13 of those years. I identified as poly about 6 years ago, while he is staunchly monogamous, but has been as supportive as possible of my other relationships as we’ve learned and grown into this new phase of relationship together.

My sexual attraction to my husband has diminished over the course of our relationship, and perhaps more notably so over the last 2-3 years. While sex with him is never “bad”, I just don’t feel a drive to initiate it and don’t feel enthusiastic about the suggestion of it. This has long been a sticking point for us, as he often expresses his attraction and desire to be sexual with me, and I struggle to respond in even a mildly positive fashion. It’s a terribly uncomfortable situation, which we have discussed many times over, and I can’t conceive of a way to overcome.
Do you have any reasons for not desiring sex with your husband? You must know why you stopped feeling hot for him. This answer would help a lot to narrow down the advice you're getting here. The advice is all over the place!
Dump the "secondary"!
Dump the husband!
You "must" take a second honeymoon! (Really, Kevin? No one gets to tell someone, other than their kid or student, what they "must" do, and even then it can be negotiable.)
Give him sex, even if you're not in the mood; you might enjoy it.
Give him sex, even if you hardly ever enjoy it; "take one for the team."
It's NRE for new person. That will fade and you'll enjoy sex with hubs again some day, maybe soon.
This is exacerbated for my husband by the fact that I have been involved with another partner for about 16months; we see each other regularly once a week for an evening/sleepover. While the specifics of this “other” relationship are not discussed between my husband and I, he understands that it does involve a strong physical attraction and is actively sexual.

I just don’t know how to manage the situation with my husband. I love him dearly, respect him very much, we parent well together and enjoy a wonderful family/social circle together. But he obviously wants more from me and has expressed he’s not interested in a platonic relationship between us. That just makes me feel guilt and shame and a sense that no matter how else I demonstrate my love and care for him, the sexual aspect of our relationship (or lack thereof) will continue to weigh on us and ultimately cause our relationship to fracture irrevocably.
Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Any suggestions or words of wisdom?
It might help if you pinpoint why you've lost desire for hubs. Has he stopped grooming himself properly? Is he passive aggressive? Is he lacking in emotional response to you? Is he lax with childcare or household tasks? Has he just changed psychologically and stopped looking cute to you? Is he a bad lover? This list could go on and on. If you can't figure it out, and you really feel bad and want to desire him again, you could look into couple or individual counseling to help figure things out.

This isn't necessarily a poly problem. Then again, maybe you turned to poly as a band-aid when your desire for hubs faded. There's nothing wrong with losing desire for one's long term partner. It's so common, some people think it's inevitable. I am here to say it's not inevitable. My desire for my ex of 30 years waxed and waned (and I know the reasons for both feelings). We ended our relationship during a time when we were having sex every day! I'd fallen out of love with him and vice versa by that point, but we were fuckbuddies, I guess. lol

My desire for my current partner of 12 years has never waned. My NRE transitioned to ERI (what I call established relationship energy) and I just think she's super hot.

I hope you figure it out. A good book to read is Sex at Dawn, which thoroughly explores how and why humans and other large primates (the apes) mate, and why we are wired to be promiscuous.
 

Emmjay

Member
This is an awesome thread with so much great information for everyone. I have to say, for myself, I backtracked a little on the primary relationship and we are focused on the foundation, the friendship. Then we started exploring eachother sexually, and I was very specific on communicating what I liked and what I wasn't and then giving in the same way. That's made for more exciting sex. Still have work to do and I think that means as a couple and individually and it's going to take consistency. I think communication is so key and honor you for doing that.
 
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