In my last post, inspired by Elizabeth Edwards' book promo tour, I wrote about why affairs occur, and promised to post answers to solving a bad marriage, because in general having an affair isn't one of them.
If sexual frustration is one of the reasons you are considering going outside your marriage for satisfaction, please reconsider. Marriage does have ups and downs. Sex is not always guaranteed. Life really does get in the way. You need to have a mature outlook and realize that a marriage is about more than meeting your physical needs.
Before you go to your partner and make your requests, or demands, for sex, consider the context of your lives. What is currently happening in your partner's life, and in the wider world, that might be affecting their interest in sex? Are they struggling with physical symptoms? Have money woes kept them awake? Is there a shakeup at work? Are parents ill? Do kids struggle in school?
It isn't that any of these or other events should automatically give your partner a free pass for not having sex. It's that it is normal not to have much interest in sex when these things are going on.
The problem occurs when there is little or no discussion about the fact that life is getting in the way of intimacy. Sometimes that's because you or your partner are embarrassed to talk about sex. Instead of screwing someone or screwing up your marriage, how about screwing up your courage and sitting down with your partner to talk about the situation that you find yourselves in?
Let your partner know that you are sad, distraught, or even a bit angry that you haven't been able to be physically intimate. You might be surprised that your partner feels the same way, especially if you communicate your feelings without blame.
Once you let your feelings be known, hopefully you can then decide together how you are going to handle the current state of your sex life. You actually might have to accept that sex is going to have a low priority for now, but that doesn't mean that you can't share affection or caring with one another.
Or, you might find that doing some brainstorming about how the two of you can be together privately more often. You might need to send the children to a sleep away camp for a week, or to pay someone to take care of aging parents for a weekend out of each month. But just talking about the problem and taking some action, however small, might make the difference between total frustration and frustration that you can tolerate.
What if your sexual relationship is endangered because of psychological problems, such as your partner having an aversion to sex, or finds that sex is triggering memories of past negative sexual experiences such as abuse or assault? In that case, you need to be understanding that these problems are real and not just a reason your partner has come up with to stop having sex with you.
You'll need to set aside a private time and place to let your partner know how worried you are about their mental well-being. Point out, too, that having sex is natural and normal, and contributes greatly to the quality of one's life. It's true: People who stay sexual as they age are more likely to be healthier and happier.
Then ask how the two of you might work together to get over this impasse. You may be able to accomplish this by experimenting to see what works (lots of relaxation before sex, having sex with the lights on, etc.) and then talking about it. But if experiments do not go well or your partner is having difficulty just contemplating being sexual, then it's probably best to speak to a professional sex therapist; you can find one on the AASECT website.
It isn't that an affair is beyond anyone's understanding. It's that an affair rarely does more good than harm. At least try to resolve the problem; then you'll be able to leave your marriage with the knowledge that you did your best to adhere to your commitment, even if your partner was unwilling to do so.