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COLUMN: Surviving sex outside your relationship
You have met the man you love and the first years have been bliss. You have felt validated by being loved and you have extended your love to him. Then one day the world changes and you find out he has had casual sex with someone else. The cherished understanding you were in a monogamous relationship has collapsed and you now feel crushed under the fallen debris of deceit. How do you survive this shattering discovery, and can you still continue the relationship?
The first reaction from your mind is telling you to walk away, sell any joint property, be on your own and lick your wounds – fuck him! If you search deeper, however, your heart might say you still love him and want to talk more about what happened. There is also the physical side of your relationship that has a voice. Your mutual friends, family ties, the dog, the house, a sense of companionship and the physical touching and affection that is still there in some shape or other.
Maybe it is time to discuss what happened, taking a helicopter view rather than a purely emotional one. Maybe you haven’t been communicating lately with the pressure of demanding careers, maybe you haven’t had sex for ages and no-one has talked about it (the brain gets very lazy and desexes our partners with the well known), maybe there have been unshared secrets that have stopped intimacy and maybe it is a good idea to discuss a new sex agreement?
There are many choices when an infidelity occurs. It can be seen as unforgivable, or as acceptance – this was a wake up call. When was the last time you asked your partner “How are we going do you think?” Such a question allows the other to open up emotionally and really talk. Having an honest and open discussion can re-unite a couple by sharing deeper thoughts and vulnerabilities. In doing so, secrets that keep the couple apart can be revealed and a greater sense of closeness achieved.
Maybe you need to review the whole structure of your relationship, like changing work demands so you can spend more time together, plan dates with each other, have weekends away with just the two of you (and the dog), talk about ways to get back in the boat and have sex together (once you get it started your dick will follow), or making time for dreams you can both aim for (a house in the country, a holiday, a dog, etc).
And then there is the sexual agreement conversation. Do you both want now, today, a monogamous relationship? If not, what are you going to permit and under what circumstances? Have a discussion on the difficulties faced by all gay men in relationships living with monogamy. One of the worst aspects of discovering a partner is having sex with another is the robbery of deceit. So by having a sexual agreement, any deceit is removed.
Over time couples develop a different idea of understood values and attitudes. Assumptions are easily made in long-term interactions. I have developed a values and attitudes survey for couples, and if you email me I will send you it for free.
Discovering an infidelity can be heartbreaking, but there are things a couple can do to move on by honest discussion and taking a helicopter view of why it happened, and planning a future where greater intimacy and closeness can be worked on. There is also the writing or re-writing of a sexual agreement. Take care and do try to repair your relationship, as it is harder than you think to find another.
Gerry North is a gay couple and general counsellor treating depression, anxiety, self-esteem, sexual identity issues and addictions.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gaycounselling.vpweb.com.au