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Advice – My wife has high libido with other partners, but not me.

My wife [31F] and I [38M] have been together for 9 years, married for 2. We are best friends, communicate openly and honestly, make each other laugh, and are always physically affectionate. Our poly style is to date separately, and it’s worked brilliantly for us since we opened our relationship in 2017. We are both bisexual. My wife prefers to date women and has had tons of success. I am a man who prefers to date women and I’ve also experienced a lot of great things and success. Everything to everyone else looks, well, almost perfect!

Only one problem. I can’t for the life of me get her to have sex with me anymore! She always says she’s tired, or not feeling well. But when she visits her other partners (she dates two women separately) she’s a love-making machine! I would chalk it up to NRE versus ORE, but she’s been with these women for a while! I’ve even asked her honestly if she prefers women or if there is anything I can do to make her feel more comfortable being intimate with me – but she just apologizes and says “it’ll get better. we’re just going through a dry spell.” Well, this “dry spell” has lasted over a year now! We’ve made love maybe 8-10 times in the past 16 months. I do everything in my power to give my wife a comfortable life. I do most of the cooking, house cleaning, and rub her feet almost every night. I tell her how beautiful she is every day. Still nothing! I’d say maybe it’s all due to the crap couple of years we’ve had in the United States, but again, she’s getting down and dirty with her girlfriends regularly! I am starting to feel a little resentful because I am dating one other woman and I don’t get to see her as often. Maybe once every 6 weeks. And I have to “get in all of my sex” in the little one night only overnights we have. Help!

Fred, Reddit.

Dear Fred,

Learning to manage the surge of New Relationship Energy is one of the most critical skills to develop for any person exploring and engaging with ethical non-monogamy. Many of us learn to manage our NRE by channeling that initial burst of lust and desire back into our old relationships. That can look like harnessing the newfound sexual energy back into old relationships. Others prefer to manage their NRE by establishing proper boundaries around how much engagement they have with their new objects of sexual desire, as to not exhaust all relational energy in new relationships.

But one of the most common misconception is that there is a static timer on how long NRE lasts. The complicated truth of NRE is that it varies a lot from person to person. For some people, NRE is measured in months. Whereas for many others, NRE can last several years. Another complicating aspect of NRE is that its length and influence can vary from connection to connection as well. In many cases, the experience with NRE depends heavily on the context of that relationship. So for example, a comet-type relationship that might meet only once or twice a year might have a more drawn out expression of NRE, simply due to reduced exposure to the object of affection. Age can also play a significant role in how someone experiences NRE. So I think it is very important to keep these different factors in mind as it relates to your wife’s relationships with her other partners.

All of this is to say, it is very difficult to get to the root of your current sexual disconnect with your wife because there are multiple contributing factors to your disconnect.

And I think we need to elaborate on the degree of sexual disconnect and deconstruct the various “why’s”.

You say that you’ve picked up on the household chores as a way to lessen the emotional labor burden upon your wife, so that she may be enticed to be more intimate with you. While it is a wonderful thing you are doing, it might work better in a marriage where the imbalance in household chores manifests as a sexual brake in a relationship. In addition, if you dig deeper into your intentions you might find that you are doing those things with an implicit, unspoken intention for sex – that which your wife might be sensing through your actions as if your enthusiasm for household chores is contingent upon her enthusiasm for sex with you. In short, you might be trying to hard to address the problem by yourself when it should really take a collective effort.

I also want to touch on the dangers of keeping score. It is very easy to get in your own head if you keep tabs on the type of sex your partner is having with her other partners. This becomes a more fundamental problem if you end up comparing the dysfunctions within your sex life with your wife to the (assumed) vitality in her sex life with her two other partners. In reality, it might be more beneficial to ground yourself on the dysfunctions of your own sex life.

I also think that your wife bears some responsibility in the current sexual disconnect you are both experiencing with each other. While it is true that many couples do occasionally go through “dry spells”, it could be possible that your wife is less enthusiastic about sexually reconnecting with you because she has two other partners with whom she already has good sexual chemistry with. Dismissing the current sexual disconnect in your marriage as a temporary lapse unfortunately perpetuates the disconnect because that unintentional dismissal also dismisses your lived experience of erotic disconnection. In specific, I am really curious as to how your wife foresees her sexual relationship with you “getting better.”

So what does this all mean for bridging your erotic disconnect?

Esther Perel was once asked if it is difficult to be a partner to a relationship therapist as world-renowned as she is. She responded by saying that she has evolved over the thirty five years that she has been with Jack. She further elaborated that relationships constantly develop and change, and it takes an intentional effort on individuals to mind the inevitable disconnects, plan the reconnect, and celebrate the connection when you do reconnect.

It is clear that even though your wife acknowledges that there is a sexual disconnect, she doesn’t feel motivated to reconnect in the same way you want to. This leaves you with two viable options.

The first option is to address and reemphasize the importance of the reconnect. This might be the easiest to bring up if you can sit down with your wife in a monthly check-in like a RADAR where you can proactively establish action plans for the acknowledged problems. But it is important that you elaborate on the degree of disconnect you’ve experienced and ground yourself in the present pain. This will help your wife understand the gravity of the situation and be more conscientious about reconnecting with you in a more intentional, mindful way. This will also help each of you hold each other accountable in reconnecting with each other. This will allow you and your wife to get on the same page about not only what “getting better” really means, but also what each of you need to do to get better at being intimate with each other. Stated intentions are powerful!

The second option is to acknowledge that this disconnect will have to stand until your wife can independently acknowledge her own pain from this erotic disconnect without any further push. It takes two to tango. And if she really isn’t into bridging this gap, you need to work out a contingency plan to stay sane in your two relationships. You mentioned that you feel like your other partner that you meet once every month or so has to meet all of your sexual demands. And that is a lot of undue pressure filtering through one connection. If your needs are not being met by your current set of partners, it might be time for you to start looking outward to add new partners who can fill in that gap without adding any pressure on your existing partnerships.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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