After 10 years of hiding affairs, my partner has declared we’re in an open relationship. I feel broken
She has offered to be monogamous with me, or to find a way for us to separate as painlessly as possible. How can I repair myself – and our sex life?
I am a fortysomething man in a long-term relationship – nearly 20 years – and have two children. For the past 10 years my partner has been having short-term lovers. These were clandestine, but more recently she has stopped hiding, called our relationship “open”, and currently has a lover who I do know about. But this “open relationship” can only be one-sided, because she is jealous and suspicious while I am basically not polyamorous. So why stay together? We get on, communicate well (other than the no-go zone of her other love life), rarely argue, are bonded by bringing up our children and are financially tied together.
However, the years of suppressing my emotions – of jealousy, rejection, insecurity, being lied to – have left me broken. Sex (which we still occasionally do have) has become stressed: if I don’t perform enthusiastically, it will justify her seeking other lovers. Also, I am expected to remain sexually attracted to her, which gets more difficult when I know she’s been with someone else recently. We had frank talks when she offered to end her extramarital affairs and be monogamous with me – or plan how we might separate without affecting our children. We were both very upset, as we are very much still in love, and wish the sex side of our relationship wasn’t such a terrible mess.
Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.
If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to [email protected] (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.
Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.