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Nodding off hill

I've been married for 10 years. I'm 43, well-educated, financially well-off and fit. My husband and I are wonderful friends, and I love him dearly. However, for reasons he won't tell me, he decided eight years ago that he was no longer interested in sex. He says it's "too much work." Also, for work reasons, we live apart. So, I have taken lovers. My husband doesn't like this, but I pay all his expenses so he can live his dream life, so he doesn't complain much. Four years ago, I moved to be with a man I got involved with, but the relationship felt more like a bridge than a destination, so I went back to my husband. Now, I love a man who wants to marry me, but I fear all relationships degrade into roommate situations. I fantasize there's one perfect soulmate for me, and with him, I'll be able to commit. For now, staying married helps me keep up appearances that I'm stable and normal while I hold on to the fairy tale that marriage is forever. — Compartmentalizing

I must have missed that fairy tale — the one where the couple get married and go off to live happily ever after in the house with the white picket fence and the 2.5 boyfriends. Your husband took early retirement from sex, deeming it "too much work." Well, sure, it takes some elbow grease, but it isn't exactly picking lettuce in the hot sun for $3 an hour. Although he refuses to discuss this further, you keep him on staff — as your vice president of The Illusion of Safety and Security.

Keeping him on your payroll allows you to play both sides of the street — married and taken and single and available. Single and available allows you your flingy fun. Still being married allows you to stay in himbo-limbo — avoiding anything more emotionally risky or stressful than retreating to your couch to wait for your mythical soulmate to fall into your life like a meteorite. The truth is, there are probably various men who are compatible with you in important ways, but there is no such thing as a soulmate — no one perfect partner whose mere presence in your life will dry up all your problems like a big tube of Clearasil.

No matter how compatible two people are, things will never be as hot in the long term as they were at the start, but they're the unhottest for those who think a great relationship will just happen to them. Those are the people who wait until the urge strikes to hug or kiss their partner. Bad idea. Just do it — several times daily. And make a pact that you'll keep having sex regularly — even when one of you doesn't totally feel like it. Sex researcher Rosemary Basson found that arousal is "triggerable"; just start making out, and you'll get turned on and get into it. Ultimately, you have to fill a marriage with loving and sexual acts, and love and sex should continue — assuming you're with somebody whose idea of sex in marriage isn't sending his spouse out to bars to score it off somebody else.

Keeping a lady hating

My girlfriend of four years is a wonderful person I still love. I messed up and feel terrible. She wanted to get married and have children, and I didn't. She dumped me and is calling me horrible (and untrue) things, like a liar and a fake, weeks after telling me what a great person I am and how deeply she loves me. — Mud

There's a good chance your girlfriend spent a substantial part of your four years together waiting for you to pop the question, and not the one that goes "So, did you get all of your stuff out of my place?" Not every woman wants The Royal Wedding and a bunch of babies, but a whole lot do, especially when they're bumping up against 30, and that shouldn't be exotic cultural knowledge for any guy.

It would've been nice if you'd been speedier in figuring out you weren't up for the husband thing. But, assuming you didn't promise you'd marry her while crossing your fingers behind your back, it isn't like you committed some sort of relationship fraud. It was up to your girlfriend to let you know that the stakes were marriage or bust.

You can regret hurting her, but maybe take solace in no longer being with a woman who loves you so deeply and thinks so highly of you that she wants nothing less than to spend the rest of her life with you, you lying fake.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society.

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