Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au's weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred. This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie tackles a husband demanding his wife sleep with another man, a woman wondering if she should give her ex a second chance and a woman struggling to feel attracted to her overweight husband.
MY HUSBAND WANTS ME TO SLEEP WITH ANOTHER MAN
• QUESTION: I have been married to my husband for over 10 years now. I am 29 years old and he is 50 years old. I have been with him since I was 18, and I have never been with another man.
Our sex life was so wonderful at first but as time passed, seemed to get cold. In an effort to spice things up again, he asked me to consider "experimental" sex, encouraging me to be with another guy in bed, with his consent.
I was concerned about this, because I feared it might be a trick he would use to get rid of me. I never cheated before.
But recently when we were in bed he told me that if I would not agree to sleep with another man, he would stop making love to me, I agreed in the heat of the moment but then afterwards he told me he is serious about it and wants me to follow through with it.
What should I do? Should I go through with it or refuse? And if I refuse, what reason should I give? English is not my first language and communication can be difficult for me.
• ANSWER: Wow, it sounds like you actually feel quite disempowered in this relationship and very uncertain of where you stand with him. I'm both confused and concerned about your fear that he would trick you in order to "get rid of you".
In a healthy relationship, we shouldn't have to do anything sexually – or otherwise – that we don't want to do, but I hear that there are other issues going on for you.
Generally, the advice I have to give is for healthy relationships. It applies to people who are striving towards healthy, happy relationships with each other. I'm not sure if your relationship fits this criteria.
He is coercing you into sexual activity. By threatening to stop being intimate with you if you don't follow through, he's being manipulative and controlling. That isn't okay. Are you in any physical danger from him? I'm concerned that this is actually an abusive relationship.
I'm guessing you might be here due to an arranged marriage and without feeling confident in English might be largely dependent on him for your everyday survival. It might feel like there is very little option for you, except to keep him happy.
If having sex with another man isn't something you want to do, in a healthy relationship, simply saying "no, I don't want to do that", would be enough. It might not be enough in this relationship.
Are you able to find out from him why this is important to him and what he's hoping to get out of it? Why does he want you to do this?
There are other ways to spice your sex life up that you could suggest to him. For example, buying toys, trying new positions, getting costumes. You could even ask if you can "role play" or pretend that he is another man and see if this is an acceptable alternative for him.
You could also tell him that you can't imagine being turned on by anyone else except him and that he gives you everything you need sexually.
SHOULD I GIVE MY OLD FLAME A SECOND CHANCE?
• QUESTION: A man I dated a couple of years ago (he treated me terribly) has come back into my life begging for a second chance. I'm half-inclined to give him one, but how can I make sure he doesn't just ghost me again?
• ANSWER: You can't make sure he doesn't ghost you again. You can't make sure that anyone doesn't ghost you.
Look at yourself first, instead of at him. What was going on within you that allowed you to be treated so terribly by him? Were there small warning signs that you let go? Have you changed your perceptions and what you're willing to tolerate? How will you behave differently this time?
There is of course a chance that people can learn from their mistakes. It largely depends on how deep the underlying issues run and their willingness to take responsibility and change. Has he done this?
I'M NOT ATTRACTED TO MY FAT HUSBAND
• QUESTION: My husband has put on a lot of weight – and I mean a lot. In the past five years he's stacked on more than 40kg. I still love him but am struggling to be attracted to him. Help, what do I do?
• ANSWER: Weight is always a difficult topic to answer a question on, because ultimately we'd like to think that it isn't how someone looks that matters, and yet this is a question and concern that I hear from a lot of people.
What I can say is that many people are able to stay deeply in love with and attracted to their partners, even once they're been through drastic physical changes, including weight gain.
Are there other issues in the relationship that are contributing to your loss of attraction?
I'm also wondering what's happening for your husband that has caused him to gain so much weight. Are there underlying health issues – or perhaps emotional issues that haven't been dealt with?
Encouraging him to deal with these may help with his weight issues. It may also help you to see him differently again.
Isiah McKimmie is a couples therapist, sex therapist and sexologist.