MURPHY’S LOVE: On Tough Questions, Loneliness and Desserts

DEAR STACY:

My boyfriend of four years just moved into my apartment in February. This is a big step for us – we’re both 27 – and we took a lot of time making this decision. Now I am finding myself expecting an engagement ring at any moment, even though he hasn’t mentioned anything about getting engaged. I realize that when we decided to move in together, part of me assumed this was a precursor to getting married, although we haven’t talked about it that way. In fact, thinking back to many of our past conversations, it seemed that my boyfriend was making the point that moving in specifically was not a precursor to marriage (e.g.: “This will just make things more convenient for us,” and “It makes sense financially” and “Let’s make sure our parents don’t get the wrong idea and specifically explain that we are not engaged…”) So I basically lied to him by agreeing with his take on the situation and have been lying to myself ever since. On top of it all, I keep smashing through my desserts in the hope of finding a ring at the bottom. Then, I’m disappointed and kind of mean to him for the rest of the night. What should I do

-Dessert Disaster

DEAR DESSERT: First, please try not to be so hard on yourself. You recognize that you are making your Boyfriend pay for something he didn’t necessarily order – that takes a lot of self awareness. You didn’t lie to him. You entered into the agreement with your conscious brain saying, “Sure, this makes sense!” But when your unconscious brain begins to revolt, it’s not a case of having been dishonest with Boyfriend, you just were not as conscious as you might want to be. I’d imagine you were simply following his lead because the idea of conflict around this is very frightening to you. Let’s talk about that.

Many people in relationships are afraid to ask for what they specifically want. We start from the standpoint: “I’m not going to get it anyway.. So, why put myself in a position of being vulnerable?” But that is what love is, at its best. Love is about being yourself, claiming your feelings and making yourself available to another person. If Boyfriend’s quotes are to be believed, it sounds like you are partnering up with someone just as scared of being vulnerable and honest as you are. I have no idea if your true wants are the same, but it appears that neither of you are putting them out there. No wonder it’s so confusing.

I’d recommend a sincere conversation. As usual, focus on your own feelings, try not to point fingers, and remain as calm as possible so that his defenses do not prevent him from hearing your message. What’s the message? “It appears that I want more from this relationship, and I’d like to know your honest, careful and specific thoughts about whether that’s something you want to provide.” Leave it at that. This doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing negotiation, just an all-cards-on-the-table conversation.

DEAR STACY:

My wife doesn’t want to have sex as much as I want. We have discussed this; we even went to therapy. Nothing has changed. I am thinking about maybe having an affair. It would be nothing emotional, because I still love my wife. My needs just aren’t being met and she has pushed me to this. I am worrying about the possible guilt, however. I wish I could just explain the situation to her and perhaps she would agree that I can find someone for sex only? We have two kids in high school. So, I don’t want to do anything that puts our family at risk.

–Lonely and Looking

DEAR LONELY:

Thanks for writing in about what I know is a tough, although common, topic. I hope you notice that I am responding to “Lonely” and not “Looking.” I can hear that you are lonely, but I don’t think “Looking” is who you really want to be. Let me explain.

People get married for many reasons, but just sex is never one of them. Especially not for a father of two who readily admits he still loves his wife and has tried couples therapy. No, that person is maybe, possibly and perhaps looking outside his marriage because he is depressed and wanting to feel connected to someone, namely, his wife. I’m sure you already know that the root of her low sexual desire could be physiological, emotional or inconclusive. Meanwhile, you didn’t give numbers. So, we also cannot rule out that you actually might have an elevated sex drive with roots that are also physiological, emotional or inconclusive. In other words, this is a very subjective subject.

At the end of the day, your wants do not match up with those of Wife, the one person to whom you have committed yourself for many years, created a home with and raised a family. Wow. That does feel lonely and depressing, and fantasizing about some new options makes a lot of sense. But let’s brainstorm for other ideas (see a doctor together; negotiate a schedule that meets you both halfway; see a certified sex therapist) that don’t, as you say, put your family “at risk.” Because an affair will put your family at risk. No doubt. Guaranteed.

Trust me, an “unemotional” affair won’t work out the way you are imagining it could. Otherwise, you would already have an open marriage and wouldn’t be asking my opinion. Even if Wife heard you, understood you and told you all was well, this decision will change the way she views you. It also will change the way she views your family, and – most insidious and damaging – change the way she sees herself. That’s a very long road to repair. Do this the right way. Go back to therapy; go back to talking about it. Don’t turn this into something that she’s “pushed” you to do. Make these decisions together.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.stacymurphyLPC. com, and you can follow her on twitter @ StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacy@georgetowner.com.

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Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:59:24 -0400

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