The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…
QUESTION: My husband and I have an almost non-existent sex life; we’re lucky if we make love once a year. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he just says he doesn’t have a very high libido, and he doesn’t want to discuss it with anyone.
Three weeks ago, an attractive younger man in my office asked me out for a drink after work. We went to the pub and, in short, he said he wanted to have a ‘no-strings’ affair with me.
The truth is I can’t see many reasons not to, although I worry about my two teenage children finding out.
Rowan: It must be flattering that someone young and attractive desires you… But I worry about anyone who leaps in with offers of ‘no-strings’ affairs
This is a sad but familiar tale. Probably the most frequent problem cited by couples in long-term relationships is that of incompatible libidos.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having sex once a year, once a decade, or not at all, if both lovers are happy with that. But if one side of the partnership feels desirous on a far more regular basis and is constantly rebuffed, they will come to feel rejected and angry (while their less libidinous partner will likely feel put upon and accused).
All that frustration works up an ugly head of steam, which can, as we know, blow the lid off the saucepan. You’re clearly at boiling point, but this is not the moment to act precipitously. So much is at stake here: your marriage, your children’s happiness, your own peace of mind.
You may feel that you’ve raised the topic of your faltering sex life frequently enough with your husband and that he must darn well take the consequences. But it’s amazing how ostrich-like men can be about important emotional issues.
You need to spell out in black and white the ultimate consequences of his lack of ardour. Tell him that you feel desperate; spell out the fact that his behaviour will drive you into having a love affair.
You need to try and shock him into talking the situation through. Some people only act when the executioner’s step is heard on the stair. If your husband still refuses to tackle the situation head on you are left in a truly invidious situation, particularly if you still love him and other aspects of the marriage are good, such as your parenting of your children. There is nothing healthy about a household where one person is bubbling with resentment and reluctant martyrdom.
There are women – and men – who claim that under these circumstances a discreet affair can actually help maintain the fabric of a marriage. But the logistics and lies involved always come at huge personal cost, and there’s the continual fear that discovery will result in a painful divorce.
In my observation, this kind of arrangement works better if the less libidinous spouse is not deceived and has agreed to an arrangement whereby their spouse looks for sex elsewhere, while the emotional hub of the marriage remains unchanged. This, however, is a notoriously hard act to pull off.
Few people have the requisite lack of jealousy. Now let’s turn our attention to this handsome man at work. It must be flattering that someone young and attractive desires you. I understand the seductiveness of the situation. But I would feel extremely wary about anyone who leaps in with offers of ‘no-strings’ affairs. That appears practised and manipulative.
Do you really want to engage in intimate sexual acts with someone who sounds as if he makes a habit of targeting older, vulnerable women? A man who, from the offset, makes it clear that he wants no emotional engagement or commitment?
Women tend to find it harder than men to switch off their emotions when they have sex. Do you really think you can stop yourself from feeling involved? How will you feel if you have a brief fling and then carry on working alongside him, quite possibly having to witness him seduce someone else?
And, believe you me, your work colleagues will find out. It’s almost impossible to keep that kind of secret from every watchful eye in an office. Do you want to be gossiped about, or hauled over the coals by your bosses?
In fact, if you are hell-bent on having a love affair, it’s best to assume that everyone will find out and to assess the consequences. Will you be able, for example, to face your children if they believe you have betrayed your husband? I have to say I think it would be disastrous if you leapt into the arms of this predatory male.
If you were attracted to a man whose domestic arrangements were similar to your own he would at least understand the delicacy of the situation – but you would still be putting all your family relationships at risk.
When you consider the likely high price pursuing an affair, might it not be best to assess whether you and your husband should really remain together?
It may be more destructive to pursue hidden agendas than to separate and retain respect and affection for one another. Few people flourish when they live their lives in the shadows.