I love my partner but don’t want sex with him. Should I feel guilty about my 25 years of casual flings?

I am a woman in a long-term relationship with the father of our two young adult daughters. He is a great dad and a caring partner. He’s loyal and in love with me. I love him but rarely feel like having sex with him. I’m struggling with my desire to be hugged and heard without feeling obliged to have sex with him in return. Sometimes I can imagine myself into a playful state where I’m more likely to feel turned on, but it’s rare (other than when we go on holiday and I’m much more receptive). The other aspect of my sexuality is that I’ve always been attracted to other men. I’ve had casual relationships with a few men over the past 25 years. I don’t feel as guilty as I think I should. My partner is an introverted homebody, whereas I love to go out to gigs and social events. Of course, I inevitably meet other men there and am attracted to their energy. What are your thoughts on managing this dilemma?

It seems to me you are managing this dilemma – and doing so as well as anyone can. Long-term monogamy is hard for everyone. Feeling “less guilty” than one thinks one should about extramarital sexual experiences is common among those who understand that, in many societies, social norms and boundaries are in conflict with fundamental biological urges. Celebrate the differences between you, and do what you have to do to get your needs met while honouring the long-term bond and commitment between you as well as your joint responsibilities. Not everyone can navigate these ubiquitous dilemmas with grace, safety and a minimum of chaos; just continue to do your best.

  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.