From a reader: “Recently, I have become reacquainted with an old high school friend. He told me that he and his wife have not had sex for about 10 years — they have been married for 45 — and he has decided to go outside his marriage and have an affair.
I say, ‘No, no, no, that is not the right answer.’ But I do understand his position. She has made it clear she is not interested in sex with him. He is 64 years old, and would like to have a warm, loving relationship with a woman.
His thoughts and ideas have given me pause, since I have also told my husband that I am not interested in having sex with him.
The two situations are different. My friend signed up for love and sex in his marriage contract. My husband, on the other hand, knew when we got married a year ago (both at a youthful 65) that he was signing on for a marriage without sex. I also signed on for a marriage without sex and now realize that that may not have been such a good idea. My husband may be feeling the same way.
I know you are going to say I should open a dialogue with my husband, but it’s very difficult to do. I’ve already talked to my friend about opening a dialogue with his wife, but he is certain it is a closed book.
If I don’t want to have sex with my husband, should I tell him he is free to have sex with someone else? When is one cheating in a marriage?”
We know how to offer advice to others that we don’t take. The tough thing to do is often — maybe always — the thing most critical to the life we want.
I can think of no justification for not talking; and even if I could, justification is a flag. You can call it red or yellow … doesn’t matter, it’s a flag.
My strict definition for cheating is: sharing less than all of you. A looser definition is: betraying a commitment.
We can exclude sex from commitment in marriage, but that could be unwise since sex is a byproduct of a loving, caring relationship. Unless you’re willing to sign on for an unloving relationship, you probably want to include sex.
And you might be surprised at how many people have agreed — with or without verbalizing it — to bypass sex. When you don’t have it, you’re essentially agreeing to exclude it … and if your partner wants to have it, you’re probably breaking your marriage vows (read: cheating).
Commitment is an ongoing decision. You don’t commit once and for all. With or without realizing it, you continually reassess your commitment and decide whether or not you want to keep it. So does your partner.
Being honest — with yourself and your partner — about what you’re feeling today is even more important to a healthy relationship than keeping a commitment you made yesterday. Honesty was likely part of the commitment.
When you share less than all of you, it’s because you know — or accept — less than all of you. And that’s not just cheating your partner, that’s cheating yourself.
Ask yourself what seems most difficult to do in your relationship … and consider doing it. Don’t wait for a convenient time; schedule it. Isn’t that what you do with something that deserves top priority, something like being true to yourself?
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man,” said Shakespeare.
If you want to know if you’re cheating in your marriage, you need only ask yourself if you’re cheating yourself. And, by all means, do it before you tell your husband he’s free to have sex elsewhere.