Coupled With D&S

Real, nonjudgmental advice about dating, sex, love, and life from a thirty-something couple that has seen it all over thirteen years.

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In Love … Except for in Bed: Cheating and Sexual Incompatibility

The Question

not compatible

Not compatible. Square peg. Round hole.

I’m a 46 year-old male who has been in an LTR for a little under 10 years with a female partner who confesses to being “not that into sex.” Part of it may be a medical condition she has and the meds she has to take for it, and part of it is surely that we want different things when it comes to sex.

My ex-wife and I (we divorced for reasons unrelated to sex) had amazing sex, partly because both of us were kinky coming into the relationship. We explored everything and anything and had a monogamish relationship. She was the type who didn’t care if I had phone sex with another woman (a few times she “caught” me and picked up the other end of the phone and joined in) or looked at porn. She would also often come home from work, walk through the front door, and say, “I need to get fucked right now,” then drop her pants and lean over the railing and say, “Just give me that fat cock right now.”

My current partner will have sex with me if I push the issue, or give me the occasional “obligatory” blow job, but the fact that she has made it clear that she really isn’t that into it has made me retreat from her. She has also expressed anger over the fact that, at least in the beginning, I pestered her to try anal sex. She relented a few times, but doesn’t like it, not so much because it hurts, but because she is self-conscious about it being dirty or potentially messy (it is not about religion…she is non-religious). I also think that she might be faking her orgasms. She also seems to have a lot of rules about where and when to have sex…e.g., always on the bed and almost invariably at night. At this point, I almost feel I would rather just masturbate.

For about the last seven years, I have been cheating on her…no “affairs” per se, but I have used my infrequent travel opportunities or days off from work to hook up with woman who are either single and don’t care or who are in similar situations. I never lie to them about my status. Usually, I will be with the same woman sexually 3 or 4 times, but then one or the other of us breaks it off (usually because of the fear of getting too close) and I start over and find someone else. This isn’t anything close to once a week, but I would say I am usually with 2-4 different women over the course of a year.

So here is the thing…needless to say, I feel like a piece of shit for doing this, and I suppose on some level I am. However, I have already broached the subject of an open relationship and her response has been, “If you are going to do that, why have a relationship?”

What’s my problem? Well, I really love her… I mean, like you wouldn’t believe. We are always hanging all over each other and are very affectionate. We do everything else together. Please don’t give me the BS about “you wouldn’t do this to her if you loved her.” The fact is, I would never in a million years stay if I didn’t. I want her. I feel like this situation really sucks and is untenable on some level, but the alternative (leaving her) also feels unacceptable to me. My problem is that I love having raunchy, uninhibited athletic sex with very few limits, and my partner seems to be wired differently.

David Says

You and your partner are completely sexually incompatible and have been from the beginning. It’s too bad that you’ve let it go on that long, and I don’t see a happy ending. Sexual incompatibility dooms a relationship unless you’re both willing to live as companions or unless the partners let each other find satisfaction elsewhere. If your letter to us is accurate, all of the things you want in bed have been prohibited or discouraged for the last ten years. You’re living with a lot of “Thou Shalt Nots.” We could make a list.

Thou shalt not:

  • Have frequent sex
  • Have anal sex
  • Have phone sex
  • Have kinky sex
  • Have sex at whatever hour the urge strikes
  • Have sex wherever the urge strikes
  • Watch porn
  • Fuck other women

That’s a pretty restrictive list of prohibitions, and it’s telling that you still look back wistfully on a relationship that ended at least a decade ago but let you engage in all of the above. Let’s look at the few options open to you right now.

Option 1: You could refrain forever from having the sex you want. You’ve already chosen not to do this, and it’s an impossible decision anyway. It invariably leads to the cheating that you’re doing now. It makes you feel bad, and it likely would make your partner feel worse were she to know.

Option 2: Your partner could go along to get along. This, however, doesn’t seem like something she’s capable of doing. She has a very long list of activities that she would have to pretend to like in order to please you. She may actually have made some effort to do this by faking orgasms or by having anal sex with you. On the other hand, the fact that she was angry at you about the anal sex (perhaps years later), shows that she is deeply uncomfortable even playing along with you. It’s not very giving to go along with your partner’s desires and then guilt them about it forever after.

Option 3: She could turn a blind eye, giving you tacit permission to get your jollies out with other women so that you can maintain your otherwise loving relationship with her. My impulse is to think that she may have done this already. You’ve been cheating on her for years with dozens of women. There’s a chance she knows this. That said, when you tried to be honest about this and ask for an open relationship, she shot that option down.

Option 4: Break up and put an end to all this suffering, allowing the both of you to find partners that will fully fulfill you.

I’m not going to let you off the hook for cheating. Cheating is shitty, cowardly, and eats the relationship out from the inside, especially if neither of you is eating the other person out much. That said, I see why you would be driven to cheat. What I don’t see is why you’re still in a relationship that is fundamentally unhappy. You’re unhappy for your cheating, and she’s unhappy when you have sex. She’s not willing to negotiate or give you room to have the sex you want. You haven’t mentioned children, which could be one reason to stick together despite the sexual incompatibility.

Sally Says

I agree with David’s assessment but I’m going to be a little harsher on you in some ways and offer some greater hope for the relationship at the same time because it sounds like you have communication and empathy problems.

First, the empathy. You’re in a tough situation, but you’re being selfish too. You haven’t mentioned anything about trying to make your partner feel good or figuring out what works for her sexually. All I hear from what you’ve written is that you’ve made demands she isn’t comfortable with and then gone behind her back and left her cold when she didn’t give you what you wanted. Rather than trying to address the problem with your partner, you’ve let it sit unresolved for years. Your cheating makes me question your commitment to an honest and healthy relationship with your partner since you jumped into it pretty quickly and have hid it for so long. You did this rather than take immediate steps to resolve your problems or break up with her, which is passive aggressive. Nothing can replace honesty in a relationship, and you are not being honest with yourself or your partner here.

Second, the communication. It’s not clear to me whether you’ve explained to your partner what a big deal the lack of sex is for you.  If she doesn’t think about sex as much as you do (whether this is just who she is, or whether it’s a medication issue), she may not realize that her lack of interest in your love life is on your mind so much. If you can say all this to complete strangers like us, you should be able to say it to someone whom you love. If she loves you and is committed to the relationship, maybe just realizing how difficult this is for you might help her to be more motivated to change it, whether that involves changing from some libido-destroying medication like Prozac or Paxil or changing the way the two of you approach sex entirely. It won’t be easy to do that after ten years, and you may be so set in your ways that it will never work.

Now let’s combine the empathy and the communication. A lot of sex is just intent.  If you can make her realize how much better sex matters to you, and she is willing to try to change the situation for your happiness, you need to work together to plan sex and make it fun for you both. Make dates to have sex, and work to make that time good for both you AND her. Stop focusing on the stuff she doesn’t want to do, for now anyway, and focus on helping her figure out what gives her pleasure so that she wants to seek out real orgasms with you rather than settle for fake ones. Figuring out together what turns your partner on is the key to solving your problem too. Be willing to ask a lot of questions, wait patiently for answers, and listen. She may have reasons why she’s not into sex with you that she’s been hesitant to speak up about, and you may not like what you hear at first.

The Consensus

There are a lot of other parts of a relationship besides what happens on the bed (or, hopefully, couch, floor, beach, or wherever), but a couple’s ongoing  sex life is one of the key things that distinguishes their relationship from a deep friendship. You have been undermining your partnership for eight out of ten years together, which means that almost you have solidified some really bad habits and dynamics that will be hard to change. If you had tried and failed to solve these problems many times, we would say it’s definitely over, but it doesn’t seem you have done that yet.

If you’re going to improve your sex life, you will have to focus your attention on solving the problems in the relationship rather than stepping out and ignoring the problems. We don’t want to lay all the blame on you because the cheating didn’t cause your sexual incompatibility. Neither of you is responsible for having different sexual desires—it’s just who you both are, and it’s a tough situation, especially if your personalities match in other ways. The cheating, however, doesn’t do anything to address the root problems, and cheating enables poor communication and evasive behavior. The ethical responsibility for making the next move really lies with you. Only you, presumably, know what you’ve been doing for the past eight years. You are the one, it seems, with the most sexual complaints.

It’s time for you to talk openly with your partner. For the record, we don’t think that admitting to cheating will do anything else than hurt her terribly. You have to be willing to stop cheating now, however, and focus on moving forward. More importantly, ask some hard questions out loud. Are you willing to do what it takes to satisfy each other sexually? Might she be willing to let you explore your desires with other women if she knew that you were cheating to get your needs met? Are you willing to have a companionate relationship for the rest of your lives? If the answer to all of these questions is no, then you should end the relationship and each find partners who will make you happier.

2 comments for “In Love … Except for in Bed: Cheating and Sexual Incompatibility

  1. January 21, 2014 at 8:56 am

    In general, I think your advice is spot-on, with one (big) exception.

    Many – maybe even most – couples feature cheating as an element. I’m not particularly interested in judging people. David, you write that you’re not going to let the writer “off the hook” for cheating. Many couples function relatively well for long periods of time in spite of (or perhaps in part because of) cheating. I agree that no one should treat cheating lightly, and we should always be VERY SUSPICIOUS of our own tendency to rationalize and justify when we cheat. And/but, sometimes, it’s the least bad option.

  2. Kay
    January 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I feel like there’s a missing link here …. what about some sex-positive couples therapy? If the woman doesn’t enjoy sex, there might be underlying issues around trust or shame or body or pleasure or who knows what that predate the illness.

Comments are closed.