Content Notice: This blog addresses issues around human sexuality including BDSM and related lifestyle issues.

Issues around sexuality impact marriages in myriad ways.

Sexual distance within a marriage can arise due to: Poor communication—because it’s difficult to talk about sex, even with our partners, basic incompatibility, secrets held by one or both partners, differing expectations and sex drives, incompatible religious beliefs, life stresses which creep in and create tension and fatigue, and the list goes on and on.

We can suppress our sexuality, but we can’t suppress it forever.

In a marriage where sexual intimacy is flagging, the partner who is more frequently pushed away is likely to feel unloved and confused. These feelings often lead to resentment and anger, which contaminate all areas of the relationship.

Sex and intimacy in long-term relationships are difficult enough issues to manage without adding the complexity of kink.

Some relationship therapists suggest that total honesty is the only path toward a happy, healthy marriage. But sometimes sexual desires held by one partner are known to be abhorrent to the other partner, as is often the case when one partner is drawn to BDSM (this acronym refers to: Bondage, Dominance and submission, sadism and masochism), non-shared fetishes, cross-dressing and related activities.

While I believe that honesty in a primary relationship is critical to its health, there are some sexual issues that beg the question: How much honesty is healthy, and how much is toxic?

The honesty question does not always have a black and white answer.

Typically, when one partner is “kinky” and the other partner is “vanilla”, the kinky partner will feel the vanilla partner out to see if s/he is open to playing. Over time, it becomes clear, without ever being directly addressed, that the vanilla partner is not interested, nor open to engaging in alternative activities.

Kinky, often closeted, partners in this situation are forced to make painful decisions around their sexuality that impact every other area of their lives. Some common struggles include:

Determining the difference between sexual needs and sexual desires
Weighing the cost versus the benefit of coming out of the kink closet
Knowing whether honesty is helpful or hurtful
Determining how much honesty is appropriate
Learning how to communicate with the vanilla partner in a way that takes responsibility for personal needs, in a loving way and without blaming
Understanding the point of view of the vanilla partner
Coming to terms with, and accepting, confusing, often painful sexual orientation
Managing sometimes persistent, disturbing sexual thoughts
Functioning sexually without the presence of kink (engaging in vanilla sex)
Extra-marital infidelity
Feelings of humiliation around kinky orientation

These struggles do not have to be faced alone. Individual and marital therapy can offer clarity for people facing these painful issues. While it is sometimes preferable to seek counseling as a couple, even if your spouse has declined marriage counseling, you can work toward healing your marriage through individual therapy.

It is possible to find peace and happiness in your life, and in your marriage, even in the face of painful and complex issues. I hope you will reach out; I would be honored to help you on your path toward healing.