Ms. Behavior©: Can This Relationship Be Saved?

Dear Ms. Behavior:

I have been living with my partner, “Ralph,” for almost six years. Shortly after we moved in together, I discovered that he was chatting with other men on a gay social website. He told me it was fun having “pen pals.”

I let it go, but a few months later, when Ralph said he wanted to meet one of the pen pals, who was really funny, and seemed like a nice guy, he went out of town. Other, similar stuff happened. I cried. I didn’t sleep. I told him I wasn’t happy.

Months later, I discovered Ralph had a profile on a sex-hookup site. When I asked him about it, he said he felt I was distant, and not attracted to him. He never had mentioned this before. In fact, he frequently told me how much I turned him on.

At the suggestion of a friend, I asked Ralph to go with me for counseling. He felt we were picking on him. He said I make him feel everything he does is wrong. He walked out of the second session. I later found out that, in-between the two sessions, he had gone to visit an old boyfriend, as well as arranged a group sex thing.

If I try to talk about our relationship, Ralph says I make him feel that he can’t do anything right. He also feels that I don’t find him attractive. In fact, over time, my sexual feelings for him have all but disappeared, and we haven’t had sex in more than two years. He has had sex with other men, of course.

In front of friends and family, he behaves as though we’re a happy couple, but I feel we basically have become roommates. I still kiss him good night, but I always wonder whom else he has been kissing.

—Can This Relationship Be Saved?

Dear Can This Relationship Be Saved:

For any productive discussion to take place between you and Ralph, you’ll need to be honest with yourself and with him.

For example, do you really want this relationship? Is your wanting it contingent upon the return of sexual intimacy? Is it contingent upon monogamy? Or would you be open to a relationship of companionship, where each of you turns to others for sex? Did you lose your sexual feelings for Ralph because he’s having sex with others, or did he start hooking up with others because you weren’t interested in him anymore?

You need to think seriously about what it will take for you to be happy, and then ask Ralph to do the same. Try couples counseling again. The two of you can’t dig yourselves out of the hole you’re in, so you need a third party with a bigger shovel to help you out.

This time, be more forceful—emotionally speaking—about keeping Ralph in his seat once you get there. You won’t necessarily end up staying together, but counseling at least will help you to be clear and direct with each other.

If Ralph refuses to go to therapy, you might find a less-defensive boyfriend to be a refreshing alternative.

If Ralph ever has sex again, remind him to use rubbers.

© 2010 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to [email protected] She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.

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