I am kinky but my partner is not. Should I end our secure, loving relationship? | Leading questions

Every relationship involves sacrifices, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith. But yours might not be as fulfilling as you think – for either party

I have been in a loving relationship for three years. When I first met him, I told a close friend that I thought I’d met the love of my life. That initial infatuation gave way to a more realistic affection, but he’s smart, handsome and caring. I enjoy our time together and feel secure and trusting.

Sexually, things were enjoyable at the beginning. That calmed down into a less frantic dynamic but we still have sex once per week.

I am kinky and he is not. We have discussed this and he doesn’t feel comfortable doing the things that I enjoy. Initially I thought this would be OK – relationships always have compromise – but as time has gone on I am not sure it is something I can forgo. He has made clear that an open relationship would not be acceptable to him.

I have an anonymous online profile on a kink dating site. I started talking with someone who shared my interests. We met, and the sexual encounter was satisfying to a level I have never experienced before. We have continued to meet on a weekly basis for six months. Neither party knows about the other.

I do not want to end my relationship, but I cannot live without this aspect of my sexuality. I feel guilt about being unfaithful but exploring in this way has enabled me to stay in the relationship.

Should I leave my partner because of the gap between our sexual tastes? Should I give up my kink desires for what is otherwise a relationship I would have no reason to leave?

Eleanor says: Listen, it’s fine to feel that this part of your sexuality is something you can’t live without. It’s also fine to decide that a relationship isn’t going to work because of that. We get to leave relationships when staying would mean being bereft over missing out on something. That doesn’t get less true just because the thing in question is sexual. You could leave if you wanted kids and your partner didn’t; if you wanted to live in a particular country and your partner didn’t. Continuing a relationship isn’t just a question of whether you like this person, it’s a question of whether your lives can really dovetail.

But what’s never going to be fine is continually deceiving your partner into staying in a relationship that isn’t the way they think it is or the way they want it to be. You say your partner has been clear that he wouldn’t be alright with an open relationship. Unbeknown to him, though, he’s already been in one, and continuing these meetups is continuing to keep him in an arrangement you know he wouldn’t be OK with.

Your partner will be making sacrifices to be in this relationship. They might differ from the sacrifices you make in their content and exact contours, but all of us change our lives and reorder our priorities to be in a relationship. So far as I can tell, you’re accepting this person’s sacrifices – monogamy, commitment, support, cooperation, friendship. He’s making considerable alterations to his life in order to have a certain kind of relationship with you, which, in fact, he isn’t getting.

It is not deviant or selfish to decide that you have to have this part of yourself satisfied. For many of us, sexuality isn’t an optional extra to a life well-lived, it’s just as crucial an ingredient in wellbeing as friends or exercise or time with family. The fact that it’s called “kink” and gets relegated to the sidelines of subculture doesn’t mean you have to relegate it to the sidelines of your life.

But it’s just never going to be the case that the best thing to do would be to carry on deceiving someone who you respect. Quite aside from the obvious unfairness, it also won’t get you what you want – not really. You want to feel electric. You don’t want to keep this part of yourself separate from the rest of your life forever, so that it’s always wrapped up with splintering; with concealment.

You said that, this aside, you’d have no reason to leave. As I see it, though, you do have a reason to leave: the fact that if you stay, you’ll be deciding your partner should remain in a relationship of significant deceit instead of finding someone whose preferences about sex and monogamy really do align with his. Whether to end this relationship isn’t just a question of, as you put it, what you want.

***

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Eleanor Gordon-Smith

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