In a happy, committed relationship, how far are you willing to go to keep the sexual spark alive, and how do you deal with any fallout?
When people are in a long-term serious relationship – like marriage, or otherwise – they make a concerted effort to stay committed to it for life.
Many couples lay out some basic rules in their relationship which they follow for a happy and prosperous life ahead. There are also some unsaid rules which are always to be followed– like honesty, fidelity, truth – some of the basic principles on which relationships hinge.
And then there are some other set of rules, which may be obvious for some relationships and dubious for some. And this article makes an earnest attempt to address that elephant in the room.
Trigger warning: Contains some graphic sexual content, and could be triggering to readers.
Are you being unfaithful to your partner if you ‘check-out’ someone else? Is it possible to develop a crush on someone else even if you are in a happy relationship? Can you masturbate, watch pornography, get a lap dance or sleep with a prostitute, even when you are sexually satisfied with your partner and love them a lot?
For some relationships, these questions may not be an issue at all and whatever the answer to these questions would be, both partners would be in obvious agreement to it. But these questions pose a grave threat to those relationships where both partners have a different opinion on it. It becomes a major bone of contention between them which jeopardises their otherwise happy and solid relationship.
Let’s go point by point to discuss these issues in the hope to bring forth the perspective of both partners, and how, probably, these can be sought to be resolved.
In a lot of relationships insecurities emerge when a person notices their partner ‘checking out’ someone else. What does ‘checking out’ exactly mean? It means when you admire or examine someone attractive.
Sometimes a person may find it infuriating when they see their partner sneak a glance at someone captivating pass by. A few people may feel that this happens when their partner is losing interest in them. If their partner is happy with them and truly loves them, then why would there be an urge to notice someone else? Aren’t they attractive enough?
But if you stop for a moment and think, can a harmless look briefly at someone mean that your partner has stopped loving you? Is it possible that a person would keep their eyes shut when they walk around? It is basic human instinct to look/ observe something/ someone attractive. As long as the person is not being creepy about it, or isn’t ogling or drooling or obsessing over that person, maybe they have not stopped loving you or stopped finding you attractive.
Love does mean dedication and commitment to each other, but the expectation that the other person would only and just look at you, talk to only you and be with you every possible minute is an unhealthy demand of your partner. Maybe this has reached a mild psychological issue, a dependency which is not healthy. Psychologists say that while couples should be emotionally connected, an emotional dependency is never encouraged. There is a difference between the two and every person should be well aware of it. People should be emotionally independent to handle any situation in life but an emotional connection is what makes people stay committed in a relationship for life.
Also, being possessive and trying to control your partner may not be good in the long run for the relationship. Being possessive or being envious of someone comes from a place of insecurity of own self or of the relationship. Undermining your self-worth can lead to such a behaviour. A secure and confident person would never mind their partner briefly noticing someone else.
When you have decided to spend a lifetime with a person, it is important that both people in the relationship have freedom to do what they like (obviously this does not include freedom to do immoral or unlawful things). Helicopter-ing too much over your partner may make them feel caged and might lead to their frustration, which in turn might be detrimental for the relationship. They may be compelled to hide and do things and may even lie – which obviously will not be liked by any partner.
It is, therefore, important to address all the psychological/behavioural issues and dispel all the fears to overcome this issue. If you find yourself excessively paranoid about it – maybe a professional counsellor can always come to your aid. They would help you find the root cause of your insecurities or other fears and help you feel more confident.
Crushes or infatuation are the fluttery, zingy feelings that you have when you are with a person you find attractive. But, how acceptable are these feelings when you are in a committed relationship? Are you cheating on your partner if you feel this way about someone else?
A lot of people feel guilty for having these kinds of feelings for someone outside of their committed relationship. They feel that they are probably ‘bad’ people and get confused whether they are being dishonest in their relationship.
It is possible that after the initial thrilling phase of a relationship which melts into a warm, cosy feeling of being with someone, sometimes a “new” person that you may have just met, may bring in a zing with them. When you are with a person everyday, over a long period of time, they may not excite you as much, because you are used to them. There is no surprise element that would awe you about your partner. But the new person brings in a kind of mystery and surprise element to them, because you barely know them and that may trigger an intense attraction towards them.
New York City-based therapist, Dr. Bukky Kolawole, says that, “Mainly, crushes are rooted in fantasy and the person who is crushing tends to project their values onto the person they desire. You have little pieces of information and what you see, you are drawn to in that person. This differs from a romantic interest or relationship, where what you know more about the person and your suppositions are based on real-life experiences you’ve had together.”
Having a crush or infatuation for someone may not necessarily reflect that your relationship is in rough waters or that you find your partner less attractive or love them any less. What is important here is the intensity of these feelings, what you do about them and how quickly you get over them. If it is limited to a tiny fluttery feeling when the person is around and if you are not thinking about them on a loop or obsessing your thoughts about them, then maybe you are not a ‘bad’ person. But what can make it bad for many people is acting upon those feelings. When you are committed, your relationship should be sacrosanct. It is your temple and you have to be faithful to it. If you allow your crush to develop into an affair, then that is definite cheating on your partner as infidelity is not accepted in any part of the world.
How do you take active steps to not fan your feelings of infatuation? Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, a marriage counsellor states that the first step to control these feelings is to recognise and acknowledge those feelings.
She says that next is to minimise your interaction with that person as much as possible so as to keep your feelings in check. Do not try to befriend the person, because before you realise that may lead to you sharing intimate or personal details with that person which would lead to developing an emotional bond. And a strong emotional bond can lead to a romantic affair.
But if you cannot minimise your interaction with the person because, say, you are co-workers and are working together, then mindfully keep the interaction with them very professional and to the point and avoid hanging out alone with them during lunch hours or post work.
She also says that it is best to be honest about your feelings and tell them about it to your partner. Saying out loud minimises the effect of it than when it is kept hushed or secretive. It loses all its adventurous quality and in some cases the intensity of the feelings also diminishes when it is spoken out loud.
If you are the person whose partner has an infatuation and has brought it up with you, then how do you react? The most important thing is to be very secure about your relationship. If you have been in a long term relationship and are very happy with each other, then a crush at times, mean absolutely nothing. The fact that your partner has told you, means that they have no intention of cheating on you. It is a casual feeling and trust them that they would not act on it because you both have had such a happy committed relationship together that no sane person would destroy it by acting on temporary feelings.
Couples can also use this opportunity to introspect what makes their heart leap in their throat, communicate the same to their partner and do it in their relationship to bring back those heady feelings, just how it was in the beginning of the relationship.
If a person watches porn or masturbates when in a relationship, does it mean that the person is sexually not satisfied with their partner? Are they unfaithful to their partner? Does it imply that they maybe sleeping with someone else? Have they lost interest in their partners?
These are some of the major concerns that people have when they find out that their partner watches porn or masturbates, despite them being available and receptive to all their sexual needs.
A lot of psychologists are of the view that watching porn or masturbation is nothing to do with dissatisfaction of sexual life or losing love for their partner.
There maybe multiple reasons why a person may do so even after being in a committed relationship. Some people do it because it is entertaining and helps break the monotony that sex with your partner may offer. Some do it because at times a person may tend to get bored with the ‘actual’ sex.
It is fun to explore new things and do things differently, especially when you do it regularly. Exciting yourself through porn or masturbation is just so that you can take a break from the actual action briefly.
When a person gets bored of having sex with their committed partner, it is not that they have stopped loving their partner or their partner no longer satisfies them. Humans have diverse feelings and emotions and it is not possible to do away with them just because someone is in a relationship. And boredom is one of the common feelings amongst human beings. It is only human to feel bored temporarily with something. Porn or masturbation is just a different way to excite yourself and it also helps explore what really turns you on. A break from sex sometimes can help re-kindle the sexual spark between couples.
Also, porn can sometimes be used to learn new ways to get intimate with your partner. Obviously some of the content in porn is over-the-top and not practical, but there are some which can be tried for some experimentation and adventure.
It is better to have an open conversation about it and explain to your partner the reason for doing so. If your partner still seems insecure about it, it is better that you are more expressive about your feelings for them. Tell them regularly how much you love them and how attractive or gorgeous you think they are. Put in an effort to make them feel special and loved. Sometimes if feelings are not expressed regularly in a relationship (which often happens in a long-term relationship) it can breed misunderstandings.
If watching porn or masturbation is very important to you then maybe you can ask your partner to watch it with you so that they feel less cheated or insecure. It may make them realise that watching porn does not shift your love for your partner. If anything, it may only add to spice up the sexual life.
A person should not feel that it is because they lack something that their partner is looking at other avenues to satisfy themselves. Do not take this as a personal attack and internalise it feeling helpless on how you can better satisfy your partner.
Be confident in your own skin and love yourself so that you do not feel low about yourself. People who are sure about themselves are always more attractive. Just because they are looking at other naked people does not mean that they do not like looking at you or love you any less. Love is much deeper than just physical pleasure and sex. Porn does not involve any emotions, something which is exclusively reserved just for you by your partner.
It is important, however, to realise that porn should not be watched frequently. Frequent watching of porn can lead to an addiction of sorts impairing the actual sex life of couples.
Depending too much on porn can start to alter a person’s brain towards unrealistic sexual expectations. It can also lead to low self-esteem or being selfish in bed. A person may start finding their partner less attractive and may prefer to get satisfied only by watching porn instead of getting physically intimate with their partner.
It should thus be restricted to a limited viewing, maybe, just to break the monotony or for entertainment, or when the partners are away from each other. If your partner seems to have become a porn addict then, a professional should be approached to help deal with this kind of addiction.
A lot of couples have different opinion on getting a lap dance. While some think it is absolutely fine, some cannot get through with the idea of their partner enjoying a topless woman grinding their groin. It is better to have an open conversation about this with your partner and do as have been agreed between the two. Couples in a serious relationship would never break the trust of their partner and do something that was not agreed upon. Honouring what has been decided between the two and respecting your partner’s feelings would always rate above your urge to get a lap dance.
But if you still see no problem in it and really want to do it, then maybe you can try reaching a mid point with your partner. Maybe your partner can also accompany for a lap dance. Or both of you can decide to get it done only when you are on holidays or are away. That way both of you may get what you want and it is still not a regular thing.
Even if your partner is ok with you getting a lap dance – the frequency of it should always be kept in check. Getting it done regularly may break a mental barrier of sorts, may attract you more towards it and may eventually lead you to go a step further. One thing always leads to another and before you know you may have crossed all boundaries and would be on the verge of wrecking your relationship for good.
(Editor’s note: Prostitution is intrinsically exploitative, unless the sex worker is engaging in it voluntarily.)
Most think that sleeping with a sex worker is a definite case of infidelity, whereas some think that sleeping with a person where no emotions are involved is absolutely fine because it helps break boredom of being in a committed relationship or is convenient or an obvious need when your partner is not around for long periods of time.
In most cultures, the default in any relationship is monogamy. Unless you have discussed otherwise with your partner, sleeping with a sex worker (not including sleeping with someone with whom you may have a romantic affair outside of your relationship – because that is obvious infidelity) is considered as a breach of the ‘monogamy’ rule by many.
One of the most important reasons why many people look for sex outside of their happy relationship is because they are bored of doing it with the same person in almost the same manner. How would you feel if one of the most important things in your life is boring? In such cases maybe looking out is then justified?
Hell No! But it is still not justified; you cannot breach the trust or the (un)said pact of monogamy. Breach of a rule is always considered cheating.
Then what do you do to make sex more interesting with your long-term partner?
First let us understand what makes sex with someone else more exciting?
Some psychologists and psychiatrists are of the view that it is the newness and the element of surprise that makes it interesting for most. You do not know the person to anticipate what their next move might be and that unexpected move can turn up the heat suddenly. Also, a lot of people, when they pay for sex, set out their demands and expectations right in the beginning, so that they get maximum satisfaction out of it. The taboo surrounding sex with a sex worker, and hiding it from the world, adds another level of thrill in the act.
Why cannot all this be achieved with your own partner?
Is it necessary that you block your time for sex every time and do it only at that time – when the children fall asleep at night or on weekends? You may have hectic lives and children’s schedule to manage, but always planning for sex, can never make it exciting.
Your partner is just out of the shower – you think they look fantastic – do it then! Of course both have to consent to it – but one day you can be late to office by half hour and have a nice unexpected morning session!
Do it at unexpected times and unexpected places. If you think booking a sleazy hotel room turns you on, because it is sleazy and something where decent couples don’t go – then turn up at a hotel like that with your partner – take a room by the hour – and do it! It is these kinds of things that you never dream of doing with your partner, can really turn up the heat. Do it in your garage, do it under the dining table – do it wherever it makes you feel you are doing something wrong or naughty! Leave the comfort of your boring bed and make an effort to spice things up.
If you can take the effort to lie and sleep with a sex worker, then isn’t it better to make an effort for someone whom you love – it can probably be a bombshell combination – true love with best sex!
Also, when you are in a nice, comfortable relationship with your partner, why do you hesitate to honestly spell out your fantasies and fetishes to them? You can ask them their wish list too, and both can go ahead to satisfy each other. Stop over-thinking about how they would feel if you demand something from them – they would definitely feel less bad (or may not feel bad at all) than when they find out you are sleeping with someone else!
If sex with your partner feels like sex with someone new, maybe you will never have the urge to look out for someone else.
Some people have an insatiable need for sex. They look out for sex more out of a compulsive need and never seem to have enough. Obviously their partner will never be able to satisfy that kind of obsession, and maybe that is why they look for other avenues. This sort of mania may not be very healthy for a person or their relationship, and seeking professional help should be a priority in these situations.
Image source: a screenshot from the series Chikatgunde
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A Chartered Accountant by qualification but a writer by passion. Apeksha has authored the book '
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