DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I have been having a very difficult time in our marriage the past few years. We don’t want to divorce, but we have fallen out of love. He asked me if we should try an open marriage. I am not interested in dating anyone else but I am also curious as to how this could or would impact us? My therapist seems to think it is a bad idea because we aren’t on steady ground. I love my husband. He is my best friend. If this is something he wants, should I try it? I find the whole thing weird, considering we are married. Do you think people would even want to date me if they know I am married? What if he falls in love with someone else? What if I do? Any thoughts? Is this just a bad idea all around? -TALK ME OUT OF IT
DEAR TALK ME OUT OF IT: If you had a solid foundation, perhaps an open marriage could be an interesting experiment. But the fact that you don’t feel “in love” with each other, coupled with the fact that your husband seems more enthusiastic about this idea than you do, leads me to believe that it may end in heartache. Some people may want to think they are more open minded than they really are about affairs of the heart, but do you really want your husband having sex with someone else? And if you say, “I don’t care,” then that raises a whole other set of issues. If you don’t care, then why be together? And if you do care but still willing to give it a try, set some ground rules. What does an open marriage look like? Is it full on dating other people? Is it just sex? Is it discreet? Is there an opportunity to join in? And if the rules make you squeamish, take that as a sign that this may not be the best idea. If you are doing this just for him, it probably won’t work out. No shade to anyone who practices polyamory. It really does work for some people. But in this case? I have a hard time believing this will do anything but drive you apart. If you are looking at this as a last-ditch effort to save your marriage, make that clear to your husband. But who knows? Maybe a tinge of jealousy could reawaken your passion for each other. In any case, the key to having any level of success will be honest communication. Good luck!
DEAR NATALIE: I just started dating this great guy. We have so much in common and we have a lot of fun together. Both of us are divorced and neither of us have any children. Well, I thought so, anyway. Yesterday, he told me that an ex-girlfriend of his (they broke up six months ago) is very pregnant and the baby is most likely his. While he doesn’t want to get back together with her, the reality is that he will be involved with this baby and that will impact everything. We just met three months ago, and while I am optimistic about our relationship, I don’t know if I want to take on a “stepmother” role. He has already talked about marriage with me. We are both in our 40s and know what we want – but for me that didn’t involve kids. Should I take a leap of faith or walk away?
DEAR COMPLETELY TORN: First of all, he needs to find out if the baby is actually his. “Most likely” doesn’t mean “you’re the father” – at least not quite yet. Once you do establish paternity – and if he is the father – then you can lay out a definitive plan. The question you have to ask yourself is this: “What is my vision for my future?” If you see yourself free of entanglements and able to pick up and go where you want, then you have your answer. If he is committing to this child – and I hope that he is – the road before him suddenly looks very different. And it’s true, you both are older and more aware of what you want in your lives. It sounds as though you don’t need advice – you are looking for someone to validate what you already know to be. There is nothing wrong with you for not wanting a family or for not wanting to be with someone on the verge of parenthood. If he had a teenager or an adult child this would be a very different conversation. But if family life isn’t for you, don’t try to force it. You’ll end up resenting each other in the long run. Be honest with him about where you are. He needs to put his attention on this new addition to his family. You need to do what is right for you. If your paths diverge, so be it. Better to get out of this early instead of years later when you both feel filled with regret and frustration.
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