Crowded Bed?

22 Sep

200283892-001Dear LetterBalm: My husband has hit me with a suggestion that has shocked me. We’ve been married a long time – almost 28 years. For the past 8 years he’s been housebound with a disabling medical condition that has prevented us from having sex. His medications also contribute to that. I work fulltime, and he has nursing care during the day. He recently told me that he would understand if I had an affair or took a lover. I won’t deny I long for sex and intimacy – my vibrator is a poor substitute – but I love my husband and he loves me. Now that he’s proposed the idea, however, I find myself fantasizing about being with a man. I’m confused, feeling guilty and knocked off my equilibrium. What do I do? What do I say to him?

–Yes, I’m Horny

Well, this stretches the definition of “in sickness and in health” and “forsaking all others.” Your husband’s proposal challenges several key factors: the strength of your bond, how well you truly know each other and how deeply the extraordinary everyday circumstances of your marriage have affected each of you. Yes, his suggestion has thrown you for a loop, but look upon this moment as an opportunity to evaluate your relationship honestly. Is your husband a jealous man? Does his disability depress him or consume him with self-blame? Is he secure enough that he can be mindful of your sexual satisfaction without being threatened? Is it in your nature to accept without guilt and be happy with anonymous sex via a paid escort or other discreet avenue? Will your husband grill you about your liaisons, thus creating a nightmare scenario? Ms. L.B. recommends you and your husband draw up serious ground rules. In the spirit of marital discretion, discuss this with no one (other than a therapist, if you think you need one). One more thing: If you decide to pursue sex, don’t “announce” an encounter by noticeably changing your routine or appearance or otherwise drawing attention to yourself. Integrate your liaisons quietly, and be discreet in all ways. Here’s a sample conversation to have with your husband:

Stephen, I’ve had a chance to consider your proposal. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone make me such a generous offer, without any consideration for himself. I think we must take a long look at our marriage because if we go down this road, we must go together. We must set up rules that we’re comfortable with and that we can’t change after the fact. I’m willing to admit that it may be too much for us to make this work. It will entail discretion on my part and heroic acceptance on yours. I can’t discuss any details of what I’m doing, and you can’t ask questions – if we break the rules, we’ll be poisoned by regret and jealousy. Can you live with not knowing? Can I live with impersonal sex merely for satisfaction? We need to have several serious talks about all this because I know we love each other very much, and we can’t do anything to threaten that love.

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