Is an open marriage right for us?

I see you don't want to break up with her, and that is fine. But you also are on the fence about asking about open marriage.

And you're worried about your son. But what exactly are you teaching your son to do? The same as you? Subsuming himself to a relationship? To stay in a sexless marriage just because it's his first relationship, he got married super young, and didn't address it sooner?

Yes, you are right: I allowed a sexless marriage to become normalized, and I regret not tackling it head-on more determinedly much earlier on.

And you might also be grieving that choice. But it doesn't have to be approached under a sunk-cost fallacy, or like, "I made my bed, now I have to lie in it."

What kind of marriage do you want to share with her NOW? TODAY? The same ol' thing, or something else?

Maybe it's time for you and wife to call it what it is, if she is asexual, and educate yourselves on what that means, and what it's like to be in a relationship with an asexual person, and talk about other forms of marriage/life partnership.

Maybe she's been doing this like you are, if she's from the same background-- religious, married young, scared to say something, etc., and she'd welcome/find relief in redrawing the marriage agreements to update them for 2024.

You have been together 30+ years. It isn't the '90s anymore, and you are not those 20-somethings anymore, either. In that time you may have changed jobs, homes, cars, clothes, and other things because time passed and things needed to be updated or to change.

It's okay to talk about how you want to be in THIS decade.

Galagirl
 
Yeah, I'd hate my friend to go through what you're going through decade after decade, but he says he's fine with getting a divorce once their kid (they just had one) turns 18. He loves his wife, but I think they'd be better off as platonic friends/coparents, for sure. How old is your son (approximately, I don't want to pry)?

I'd say that you two could be good candidates for an open marriage, or polyamory (along with reading the right books, such as Opening Up, and getting some good couples' counseling), as long as your religious beliefs aren't still getting in the way. You could also divorce and start over, but remain friends.

Our son is 15, it’s only 3 years until he is 18 but if, when he was younger, I already had in my mind it may end in divorce I don’t think I could have waiting very long. That’s the thing though, I don’t want to get a divorce. Our life together is so good in every other way. I want to find a way to preserve what I have but also find sexual fulfilment elsewhere.
 
Our son is 15, it’s only 3 years until he is 18 but if, when he was younger, I already had in my mind it may end in divorce I don’t think I could have waiting very long. That’s the thing though, I don’t want to get a divorce. Our life together is so good in every other way. I want to find a way to preserve what I have but also find sexual fulfilment elsewhere.
We say that to start being poly after years of monogamy, the old relationship form has to die for the new one to form. Even when you first start to contemplate how to change, to imagine new ways of being, you are starting to erode the old dynamic. So, you won't exactly preserve what you've had all these years. An upgrade, a renovation, requires tearing down walls, rewiring old circuits, discarding outdated systems. Sometimes you have to take things down to the studs. ;) But I adore old houses. They are the best. They have character. When you renovate, you can look to preserve all that is good, but make it all safer, cleaner, fresher and more useful for today.

It can get very messy, and it can take a lot more time than you'd like, but it's always worth it in the end! You might end up with a real gem.
 
I see you don't want to break up with her and that is fine. But you also are on the fence about asking about open marriage.

And you worry about son -- but what exactly are you teaching son to do? The same as you? Subsuming self tot he relationship? Keep going in a sexless marriage just because first relationship, got married super young, didn't address it sooner?



And you might also be grieving that choice. But it doesn't have to be like sunk cost fallacy or like "made my bed, now I have to lay in it" stuff.

What kind of marriage do you want to share with her NOW? TODAY?

Same ol' thing? Something else?

Maybe its time for you and wife to call it what it is if she is asexual?

And educate yourselves on what that means and what it is to be in a relationship with an asexual person?

And talk about other forms of marriage/life partnership?

Maybe she's been doing like you if from the same background -- religious, married young, scared to say something, etc. And she'd welcome/find relief in redrawing the marriage agreements to update for 2024?

If you have been together 30+ years it just isn't the 90s any more, and you just are not those 20 somethings any more either. In that time you may have changed jobs, homes, cars, clothes, and other things because time passed and things needed to update or change.

It's ok to talk about how you want to be in THIS decade.

Galagirl

@GalaGirl, thank you for the benefit of your wisdom and experience. You have nailed a lot of it, and given me a lot to think about.

The thing about sex is that (for most people) it all happens behind closed doors. Everyone looking at us would think we had as close to a perfect marriage as it’s possible to get, and in every other way than sex I’d say they are right. It’s not like we are bickering, or sniping at each other all the time. We genuinely love spending time with each other and are each others best friend. We share normal kinds of affection that would be typical in public, holding hands, kissing (not snogging, if that’s even still a word and not too 1980’s school playground!) and hugging.

Kids never want to think about their parents having sex, so I’m sure it’s never occurred to him that we do not. I’m not a submissive brow beaten husband. We both are equal in our marriage. The issues are all under the covers (both literally and figuratively!)

I don’t think along the lines of “I made my bed…”. I’m still in the marriage because I actively want to be. I guess at 53 it’s starting to feel a little now or never. If I don’t make a change, nothing will change. But I don’t want to burn down what we have, which is pretty great.

I am just starting to get to grips with the concepts of asexuality and while previously I knew that nothing was likely to change after 30 plus years I think giving it that name and the little research I’ve done so far convinces me all the more.

I do think it might be a relief to her to say sex is now off the table. How she would react to me seeking it elsewhere I’m less certain of. I just want to be more certain it’s something I want before I raise it with her. Although either way we need to have a discussion about asexuality, even if not polyamory.

Again, thanks for your help and advice.
 
I think she might well be relieved not to feel like she had to do something, for my sake, that she really would prefer not to, out of obligation.
This might make things a lot easier for her and you... to take pressure off her.

She experiences vaginismus and we have never achieved penetrative sex
The fact that you haven't had penetrative sex is an interesting twist. As such, neither of you have experienced the bonding that can be very strong from it. From her end, she might not feel any fear or jealousy about you doing that, because she doesn't get it.

On the other hand, because you haven't experienced it, you could be overwhelmed by what you experience and it could change your relationship with your wife in ways you can't understand.

I hear and believe that you are very much in love with and devoted to your wife, but you haven't experienced anything else. To say you can't imagine loving anyone more than her is real to you, but you have never loved anyone else. You are clueless. If you choose to eventually try poly and choose to experience penetrative sex, be prepared for things to be completely unknown. Accept that things WILL change within you and your experience to have a huge impact on you, your life and probably your relationship.

If you stuck to cuddling and kissing someone new, you'd be better equipped. But frankly, you'd still need to figure out how you'd handle feelings developing. And what if the new partner decides cuddling isn't enough, and wants to have penetrative sex?

Can I see you having both your wife and another loving fully sexual relationship? Yes. But it will take a ton of work on your part to navigate feelings you’ve probably never had before. Both you and your wife should have a good poly counselor to help you navigate through everything that comes up.

I've loved many times in my life and each one was different. One thing I've learned though-- there is always someone that you can love more, connect with more and in different ways. Never think you cannot love someone more. Yes, you have long-term commitment, longevity, and a history of working through ups and downs that cannot be replaced or replicated. That bond is real. But that doesn't mean something new cannot be as powerful. People are different and light us up differently when they bring out parts of us others don't. Add penetrative sex and you are on another level.
 
One of the things I'd be looking for is not most people's definition of sex at all. I'd love to just lie in bed holding someone and being held, ideally both naked to feel the skin-on-skin contact, not doing much else. Maybe we'd be talking, or maybe not even that, just being together.
Does she know how much you miss that? (You don't have to answer.)
 
We say that to start being poly after years of monogamy, the old relationship form has to die for the new one to form. Even when you first start to contemplate how to change, to imagine new ways of being, you are starting to erode the old dynamic. So, you won't exactly preserve what you've had all these years. An upgrade, a renovation, requires tearing down walls, rewiring old circuits, discarding outdated systems. Sometimes you have to take things down to the studs. ;) But I adore old houses. They are the best. They have character. When you renovate, you can look to preserve all that is good, but make it all safer, cleaner, fresher and more useful for today.

It can get very messy, and it can take a lot more time than you'd like, but it's always worth it in the end! You might end up with a real gem.

To keep the metaphor going, I’m still mulling it over and I need to think about it more, but I think I’m ready to take on that work, to get my hands dirty and create something new and even more beautiful out of our old home.

I’m not sure that my wife wants to take on that job though, and I don’t want to put her through it if it would be an awful experience for her.

However, what I don’t want to do is sell up and look for a new home. The current one has almost everything I want in a home.
 
This might make things a lot easier for her and you... to take pressure off her.


The fact that you haven't had penetrative sex is an interesting twist. As such, neither of you have experienced the bonding that can be very strong from it. From her end, she might not feel any fear or jealousy about you doing that, because she doesn't get it.

[…]

If you stuck to cuddling and kissing someone new, you'd be better equipped. But frankly, you'd still need to figure out how you'd handle feelings developing. And what if the new partner decides cuddling isn't enough, and wants to have penetrative sex?

In thinking about all this, I’ve considered how I would feel if she were to seek another partner too. I guess you never know for sure until it happens, but I think I’d be happy for her. I want the best for her. I want her to be as happy as she can be, and if she could get that with someone else, I’d be happy for her. I think the word is compersion.

However, I would be unhappy if she had penetrative sex with someone else, and not with me. I would feel terribly hurt if she did something with someone else she didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t do with me.

In terms of cuddling, I really want that, but not instead of sex. I want that as well as sex.
 
To address the issues of vaginismus and possible vaginal atrophy, this information may be helpful.



 
I'm glad it helped you some.

The thing about sex is that (for most people) it all happens behind closed doors. Everyone looking at us would think we had as close to a perfect marriage as it’s possible to get, and in every other way than sex I’d say they are right.

But those other people are NOT part of your married sex life, are they? If you and wife are not talking about it, why aren't you? You are the stakeholders in it.

We share normal kinds of affection that would be typical in public, holding hands, kissing

So like friends do, or closer to a QPR thing? Something else? You and wife have to know what kind of relationship you share, right? You are the ones designing it.

Kids never want to think about their parents having sex, so I’m sure it’s never occurred to him that we do not. I’m not a submissive brow beaten husband. We both are equal in our marriage. The issues are all under the covers (both literally and figuratively!)

What I mean is that kids take some of their sex ed and relationship ed from their parents.

What are you teaching this child for sex education? Relationship education?

If you spent 30 years in a sexless marriage and regret not bringing it up, do you encourage your son to talk things out in his friendships, to nip things in the bud? To clear up misunderstandings early? Or are you teaching him to "bottle it up" and "grin and bear it?" Depending on his age, are you giving him access to books, classes, tools for his social skills? It starts with getting along with classmates and friends, but this kid will eventually grow up and start dating. Do you want him to have a different foundation than what you have?

I do think it might be a relief to her to say sex is now off the table. How she would react to me seeking it elsewhere I’m less certain of. I just want to be more certain it’s something I want before I raise it with her. Although either way we need to have a discussion about asexuality, even if not polyamory.

It can be just talking for a time. It's not like you make this announcement and then go out tomorrow and share sex with the first person you see.

Even without the asexual part of it, couples thinking about an open marriage of some kind do best if they take time to prepare. Some take years.

To keep the metaphor going, I’m still mulling it over and I need to think about it more, but I think I’m ready to take on that work. To get my hands dirty and create something new and even more beautiful out of our old home.

Okay. You think you are ready for a new chapter. You're at least thinking about it, talking about it, if not actually acting on it. So prepare to ask if she's up for that kind of contemplating. You cannot be a mind reader.

I’m not sure that my wife wants to take on that job, though.

Then you ASK her what she is up for.

and I don’t want to put her through it if it would be an awful experience for her.

What is the "terrible it" you would be putting her thru? Just talking and thinking?

You are talking like she just HAS to do what you say and has no voice. You can always ASK her what she would like in this new chapter.

She is free to say:

"Yes, I want to talk about an update of our marriage agreements. And I like your ideas"
"Yes, I want to talk about it, but I have my own ideas, too."
"No, I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to change anything. This is all you will ever get here."
OR she says something else entirely.

You could ask her if she has things or needs that have been unmet. Maybe she has some herself.

In order to KNOW things, you must ASK.

However what I don’t want to do is sell up and look for a new home. The current one has almost everything I want in a home.

And that this where the home analogy poops out, because it takes a "two-people yes" to create and sustain a relationship.

People can't relate to a ghost. You can't have a relationship with someone who is not really here. One-sided relationships usually aren't sustainable.

Relationships sometimes end mutually, and both people agree it is best to part. But really a relationship only needs a "one-person no" to disband. You can't force someone to be in a relationship they do not want to participate in anymore.

Right now this relationship is a combo of shapes:
  • monogamous marriage
  • best friends
  • coparents
  • roomies
It's not so much a "lover shape." And it's the "monogamous marriage shape" that prevents you from seeking another lover ethically.
If "honesty" is a value you both share in this relationship, I think you could talk to a counselor on your own to get your thoughts in better order, and then tell her you want to talk.
  • You think she might be asexual. You want to talk about that and what being in a relationship with an asexual person means.
  • You've clocked 30 years in a sexless marriage and regret not bringing it up sooner.
    • You find you aren't ready to give up sex for good on your side.
    • You want to talk about meeting your sex needs elsewhere and remaining married, if she's up for that-- change the monogamous-marriage agreements.
    • And if she's not up for that, you want to talk about alternatives.
      • You still want to be her life partner, if she wants that, but a monogamous marriage shape may not be it.
      • You still want to be friends.
      • You still want to be coparents.
      • Maybe you want to be domestic partners, or something else.
      • If it has to be a divorce, because she's not up for open marriage, how can that be as peaceful as possible?
      • And over time, what might being exes, friends, and coparents look like, the shapes that DO still work?
Of course, you are going to like some options more than others. Change is challenging. Figure out what your "good, better, best" is. Ask her to think out what hers are. See what aligns and what doesn't.

I know there may be some tough feelings to navigate, but if this relationship is still active, get on with the active relating. Stop sitting around like bumps on a log.

If this is "we've been neglecting/taking the marriage for granted and in a rut" call it what it is. Address it.

If this is "going through the motions marriage only" call it what it is. Address it.

Maybe this helps you assess or articulate.


Does one just change marriage agreements or end a marriage on a whim? Of course not. It's a big life decision. You may need individual and couples' counseling to sort things and talk. But you're basically either tending to it, or not, talking about it, or not.

What is it here?

Galagirl
 
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Does she know how much you miss that? (You don't have to answer.)
I’ve come to realise there’s a big gulf between having been told something and knowing something. I have told her. I’m not sure she knows it. At least I’m not sure she has understood how important it is to me and how its absence affects me.
 
I’ve come to realise there’s a big gulf between having been told something and knowing something. I have told her. I’m not sure she knows it. At least I’m not sure she has understood how important it is to me and how its absence affects me.

Saying something is not making an actual request. It can be perceived as a "random announcement" or "passive communication.

I'd love to just lie in bed holding someone and being held, ideally both naked to feel the skin-on-skin contact, not doing much else. Maybe we'd be talking, or maybe not even that, just being together.

Telling her you miss that is not asking her, "Could we make some space for naked cuddles sometime this week/month?" It's just telling her you miss it.

GG
 
@GalaGirl thank you very much for such a detailed response. There is so much for me to think about and so much good advice in this.

One bit I want to pick up is:

What is the "terrible it" you would be putting her thru? Just talking and thinking?

You are talking like she just HAS to do what you say and has no voice.

If anything I’ve said suggests I think she HAS to do what I say, then I’ve chosen my words very poorly. She absolutely has a voice in this, as with every other aspect of our life together. What I’m concerned about is that, to her, even voicing this as something to think about might feel like betrayal. How could I even think about being with someone else?

We can talk and decide between us if it’s something we want to explore further, but we can’t talk about whether we should talk about it. Once it’s said it can’t be un-said.

As far as I see it, the idea of polyamory is so far outside of many people’s concept of what a marriage should or could be. that even admitting having thought about the possibility is a step too far. Now obviously this is a projection of my fear, rather than anything relating to her actual response, but is it an unreasonable one? What if, by simply saying it, I’ve already done the damage?
 
Telling her you miss that, is not asking her, "Could we make some space for naked cuddles sometime this week/month?" It's just telling her you miss it.
What I actually said was that I would really like if we could just cuddle up, naked together, without the thought that it would lead to anything more, with no pressure for it to turn into sex, in fact, with the intention for it not to turn into sex, just as an end in itself.

What I didn’t do was put a timeframe on it like this week/month.
 
What I’m concerned about is that to her even voicing this as something to think about might feel like betrayal. How could I even think about being with someone else?

Does she believes in "thought crimes"? If you even think or wonder about someone else, is that as bad as having a cheating affair? Is this a reasonable and rational belief to you?

If she thinks things like that and feels hurt when you bring it up, okay. So then what? (I don't say that to be mean. I really mean it like "Okay, and then what?" What would happen next in the conversation?)

Is it her expectation that you would NEVER think things, wonder about things, notice beauty in the world?

You are human and alive and have been in a sexless marriage for 30 years. It's new year, a common time (like birthdays) for people to look back on life, and reflect and think about how to spent their next chunk of time. Why would coming to learn that you think about things be a shocker to her?

We can talk and decide between us if it’s something we want to explore further, but we can’t talk about whether we should talk about it. Once it’s said it can’t be un-said.

So it can't be unsaid. That's usually true for all the words people say. Once said out loud they cannot be unsaid. People just cope with what was said. Is that all it takes to wreck this 30-year marriage, talking about stuff that has been on your mind? Saying that you are tired of a sexless marriage and still have sex needs, admitting that you wonder about polyamory (which may, or may not, actually come to pass)?

What if, by simply saying it, I’ve already done the damage?

Damage to WHAT exactly, an incorrect picture she has of you? Do you want her to have an accurate picture of who you are now, or not? Do you want to have an accurate picture of HER?

I'm not sure what religion you are now, and were when you got married. You do not have to say. But when people take traditional monogamous vows, which include things like "forsake all others," it means don't date/take up with other people outside the marriage. It does not mean gouge out your eyes, never notice or feel attraction, never even THINK other people are cute, and just become like the walking dead. It just means don't take up with other people outside the monogamous marriage. That would be cheating on agreements.

Even if you NEVER do poly, does your wife care to know the things you think about on the inside? Does she want to share emotional intimacy, mental intimacy, or not really? Does she just want a "surface" relationship that looks good to other people looking in from the outside?

Long time ago in my blog thread I wrote this. Maybe it helps you.

As far as I see it, the idea of polyamory is so far outside of many people’s concept of what a marriage should or could be that even admitting having thought about the possibility is a step too far. Now, obviously this is a projection of my fear rather than anything relating to her actual response, but is it an unreasonable one? What if, by simply saying it, I’ve already done the damage?

If you are going to contemplate changes, and making new ones with your wife, is it reasonable to deconstruct, challenge old ideas, assumptions, and beliefs, examine them, curate them, and keep what still works and drop what no longer works?

Maybe this is okay "damage" to do. Is it "actual damage" or is it "necessary growth in order to continue together in a healthy way?" An oak tree cannot become a tree if it never breaks the acorn seedling coat.

This "thought crime betrayal" thing-- would you clarify? Does she have it? You know from experience and living with her this long. Is what you grapple with YOUR deconstruction process with a person like that? Or do you think she MIGHT have it? Maybe BOTH of you have that idea? I can't tell over the internet what is actually present, or if you are caught up in anxious thoughts.

I had a high school BF with wonky beliefs. We went to a movie. I said the actor was cute. BF wigged out that I was going to leave him for the actor. I stared at him.

1) I can think some actor is cute in a movie role. I can notice beauty around me in the world. It doesn't mean I'm gonna jump someone's bones.

2) Even if said actor showed up and wanted to ride off into the sunset with me, I don't get into cars with strangers. I have control over my choices. The age gap in real life was gross. (We were 15 then.)

3) I loved my BF. If I wanted to break up because I no longer loved him, I'd tell him to his face. No cute actors need to be around for that. I could decide I want to break up because I want to be ALONE.

4) I wasn't going to gush about it or shove it in his face, but it's reasonable to have a movie date and talk about the actors, the movie, all of it. I was going to be my natural self. If he didn't like that, he could break up with me. I'm not a jerk to people, but neither do I shrink myself into a box because they have baggage.

He got over it eventually and outgrew that, even though we didn't stay together (because we were 15).

I'll be frank. You are in a weird position of having all these first relationship things and the weirdness that people usually have to go through and sort out in their teens and 20s, usually, through various dating experiences with different partners, figuring out what you really think about love, relationships, what matters to you, what does not.

But you married young. You had strict religious stuff. It sounds like you lacked adequate sex ed and relationship ed and you both were just "trying to be good spouses." So you didn't really sort the stuff, maybe just "shelved" it. Maybe you put both your wife and marriage on a pedestal.

But now that it's been 30 years of a sexless marriage, you are wondering if this is all there is and if anything can change here. You want something else, but don't want to lose the comfort of what you already know, even if you might be outgrowing parts of it. Change can be scary, even little changes, just in your mind. So the things you know are better, even if they are not the right fit, than the scary unknown stuff.

All that is NORMAL. You are going through an internal deconstruction process. (That's why I think you could benefit from talking to a counselor).

But maybe you or your wife have "thought crime" beliefs, like if you think or admit someone on TV is cute, it means you don't love the partner enough, or she thinks that, or you both have childish beliefs about love and relationships like that, which were not outgrown earlier on. You have a WHOLE bunch of stuff to unpack and detangle before you even GET to the poly questions.

Maybe it's okay to start outgrowing some of this stuff at 50-something. Is hanging on to it causing damage?
 
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You know, GG, you asked a lot of questions of this poor guy about common thoughts and beliefs most people have about mono marriage. Most people give lip service to the idea that forsaking all others means never looking at another person and thinking they are attractive. Even if we aren't fundamentalist evangelical Christians, we are trained through mainstream media to say, "He's the one. He's my world. Everyone else pales in comparison."

My ex-husband was raised fundamentalist Christian. He held many of these beliefs. He hid his desires for other women. He didn't admit, for 20 years of our relationship, that he ever looked at another woman. He lied (as I finally found out in couples' counseling). I admitted to finding others attractive, and he let me know he thought I was evil for that. I felt evil. I felt like there was something wrong with me, even though I was not raised Christian as he was.

Our sex life didn't die, but we went through long dry periods in the 30 years we were together, and I didn't have vaginismus, nor was I asexual! Our lack of trust and emotional intimacy often killed my desire for him, Mr Pure, Mr Jealous, Mr I Never Look at Another Woman. Ugh.

Many people put their marriages above their own happiness. Many people put other's happiness before their own, especially Christians. My ex was literally taught Jesus first, others' needs next, myself last. He was no longer into Christianity at all when we started dating at age 20, but the training had gone deep, to the center of his soul.

And from my upbringing in the 1960s, I thought his jealousy was a sign he loved me, and was true to me, and I tried to live up to his "ideal," while being frustrated and deeply angry deep down.

I was so glad when we finally admitted we were through.
 
As far as I see it, the idea of polyamory is so far outside of many people’s concept of what a marriage should or could be, that even admitting having thought about the possibility is a step too far. Now obviously, this is a projection of my fear, rather than anything relating to her actual response, but is it an unreasonable one? What if, by simply saying it I’ve already done the damage?
I don’t think this is an unreasonable fear. She might take it badly if you propose to open. Some monogamous people do feel betrayed. Most feel fearful. However, I think that it’s totally worth the risk.

@GalaGirl Wow, you do come on strong! Those posts are not even for me and I already feel a bit intimidated. ;)
 
Does she believes in "thought crimes"? If you even think or wonder about someone else, is that as bad as having a cheating affair? Is this a reasonable and rational belief to you?

I think, no sorry, I know, she would see a distinction between seeing someone and finding them attractive, and having sexual thoughts about them, whether that was someone you see on a screen, in the street, or your social/work circle, and giving actual consideration to having sex with them.

If she thinks things like that and feels hurt when you bring it up, okay. So then what? (I don't say that to be mean. I really mean it like "Okay, and then what?" What would happen next in the conversation?)

Here we do get into some of my psychology, and you might think I have martyr syndrome.

I was brought up to put the thoughts and feelings of other people before my own. I could never deliberately say or do something to hurt anyone else, least of all my wife. And if/when I inadvertently do so by accident, my first response is guilt and wanting to "make it better". Especially when it comes to people close to me, that means that if it's a choice between hurting someone or accepting the hurt myself, my default would always be the latter.

What I'm struggling with is how big the hurt to me has to grow before I'm willing to risk the hurt to my wife, which is not helped by only having an inkling of how big her hurt would actually be.

I'm not sure what religion you are now, and were when you got married. You do not have to say. But when people take traditional monogamous vows, which include things like "forsake all others," it means don't date/take up with other people outside the marriage. It does not mean gouge out your eyes, never notice or feel attraction, never even THINK other people are cute, and just become like the walking dead. It just means don't take up with other people outside the monogamous marriage. That would be cheating on agreements.

We were Christian. Neither of us were brought up that way. We both came to it ourselves in our early/mid teens. We actually met through a church group. In fact, the Bible does say you can't even look. In Matthew 5:28 it says "But I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

I now consider myself an atheist, while my wife still defines herself as Christian, but neither of us has been to church except for hatches, matches and dispatches for years. In any case, I know she wouldn't be upset to know that I've looked at others in that way, but I'm certain there would be upset if she knew I were seriously contemplating acting on it. What may make a difference in this situation is that I'm not saying I have found someone I want to have sex with, I'm (potentially) saying I would like to try to find someone I might want to have sex with, so it's a bit more meta.

Maybe this is okay "damage" to do. Is it "actual damage" or is it "necessary growth in order to continue together in a healthy way?" An oak tree cannot become a tree if it never breaks the acorn seedling coat.

This is absolutely at the crux of this dilemma for me. I know that nothing will change unless I make it change. I know that all change is the end of something, as well as the start of something else. In this case, it's potentially the end of what my wife thinks our marriage is or should be. Probably the really scary part is it's also the end of what I thought our marriage was or should be.

This "thought crime betrayal" thing-- would you clarify? Does she have it? You know from experience and living with her this long. Is what you grapple with YOUR deconstruction process with a person like that? Or do you think she MIGHT have it? Maybe BOTH of you have that idea? I can't tell over the internet what is actually present, or if you are caught up in anxious thoughts.

I don't know from experience. This is the one area of myself I keep hidden from her. We think similarly about most other things. Differences are rarely about anything either of us would get upset about. So yes, I'm projecting how I think she might react and I may be entirely caught up in anxious thoughts and worries that may never come to pass.

It's frequently the things you are most anxious about that turn out to be easy in the end, and it's the things you never considered that floor you. I'm aware of this. It's just that sex is so personal and so key to who we are that it seems like dangerous territory. At least it is to me, From my reading about asexuality, it may not be to her.

But now that it's been 30 years of a sexless marriage, you are wondering if this is all there is and if anything can change here. You want something else, but don't want to lose the comfort of what you already know, even if you might be outgrowing parts of it. Change can be scary, even little changes, just in your mind. So the things you know are better, even if they are not the right fit, than the scary unknown stuff.

All that is NORMAL. You are going through an internal deconstruction process. (That's why I think you could benefit from talking to a counselor).
Absolutely this.👆
 
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Many people put their marriages above their own happiness. Many people put other's happiness before their own, especially Christians. My ex was literally taught Jesus first, others' needs next, myself last. He was no longer into Christianity at all when we started dating at age 20, but the training had gone deep, to the center of his soul.
This 100% describes me. Thanks
 
I don’t think this is an unreasonable fear. She might take it badly if you propose to open. Some monogamous people do feel betrayed. Most feel fearful.
However, I think that it’s totally worth the risk.
Thank you. I just need to think about this more before I can get to a place where I agree that it is worth the risk. Talking here, and the really great advice, empathy and encouragement I'm getting from so many people is definitely helping with that process.
 
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