Sorry, Barry. Couldn’t Resist; The Well-Rounded Relationship
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’ve been living with my partner for 11 years, and we get along just fine. But I long for the little touches that made our early years so nice. She used to turn down the bed for me at night. She would slip a silly note into my lunch when I was going to work. She would get up for absolutely no reason and kiss me. She would send a nonsensical email about something we had laughed about and add a smiley face and an “I love you.” Though we still have a good time together, I feel sort of … well, taken for granted. In the words of Mr. Manilow, “I’m tryin’ to get that feelin’ again.”
Dr. Hurd replies,
It takes two to tango; and it takes two to trip and fall. Start by thinking about your role in this. I’m not blaming you, but I am suggesting that you start where you have the most power and control: Your own behaviors.
If you brought this topic up to your partner, odds are that she would feel the same way. Something, however subtle or subconscious, leads her to not do sweet things for you any longer. I assume she once did them because she felt what you had together was special. Maybe she now feels you’ve lost some interest as well.
I didn’t hear you mention the little things you do for her—or used to do, or perhaps still do. Are there things she liked that you have stopped doing? Each of you might feel like the other stopped first. It doesn’t matter who’s right; all that matters is reversing course. It’s also possible that she feels you never did these things for her. Maybe she wants some reciprocation. All sorts of misunderstandings are possible here. But it might not take much to get things back on track.
To further quote Barry, “I thought I’d done all that I could, just to keep the lovelight burnin’.” Have you done all that you could?
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner and I have been together for 17 years. I gained some weight over the last few years and our physical relationship became almost nonexistent. We are still very close; we cuddle and say nice things, and that was pretty much OK.
Eight months ago I joined a gym and lost the extra weight. Frankly, I’m feeling very good about myself. But this has not changed his behavior. Yes, we are still very close and all that, but I feel I deserve more now that I’m in the shape I was when we first met.
Additionally, there are several guys who have shown an interest in me physically. I am certainly attracted to them, and I want and need something to happen. I like being admired again, and I feel I deserve this. But I don’t want to live with the guilt of cheating. I feel silly and needy asking for sex after all these years. Should I get over myself and have a little fling just to give my new body a test-drive?
Dr. Hurd replies,
I don’t think you’d enjoy a fling if you had one. Yeah, maybe for the first hour or so, but then you’d have to conceal it. Deception is hard work and contaminates the fun. More than that, I think you’d feel guilty. If you didn’t have a conscience, you wouldn’t be writing me about this.
Worse yet, an affair would weaken your position. When your partner finds out (not inevitable, but certainly likely), then you’d be on the defensive. Your otherwise valid point that you missed having a sex life would be lost in the flurry of recrimination and hurt feelings. And then you’d have no answer to his perfectly reasonable question, “Why didn’t you at least say something to me?”
People don’t like to be honest about these things. You’ll rarely hear, “I miss having sex. I’d love to have sex with you. But if you’re not interested, in all honesty I might look elsewhere to fulfill that need.” Ouch! That would be an unsettling thing to encounter. I’m not suggesting you put it that bluntly, but why not be honest about something so important? You might consider some counseling, but most likely he’ll want to know why you want to do that.
I realize that talking with your partner honestly will stir up the status quo. But what’s so bad about that? You don’t like the status quo! He does, or at least he’s comfortable with it.
Sometimes we get into comfort zones and we stop growing. Life isn’t static, and change isn’t just necessary; it’s part of living.
Think about it from your partner’s point-of-view, and imagine if he knew you were asking me if it’s wise to have an affair. You’ve already reached a point where the status quo is about to blow up. This is true whether or not you go on pretending that’s not the case. Compared to that scenario, having a frank discussion about your feelings and needs seems like a pretty mild alternative.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr. Hurd