Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ask Kelli: Wife, Not Husband, Wants an Open Marriage

Kelli Miller writes the All Life is Local's Advice Column, Ask Kelli. Questions can be sent to Kelli Miller in the comments section below, via the Ask Kelli Facebook group, or on Twitter @askkelli. Your name and email address will be kept confidential. Kelli's column appears on Wednesdays.


Dear Kelli,

I’ll been married seven years this September. Recently my wife confronted me and asked if we could have an open marriage. I was completely dumbfounded and confused. I said I wasn’t comfortable with it and now she feels I’m being inflexible and “too conventional.” Am I wrong to want to keep my wife to myself?

Too Committed?

Dear Too Committed?,

You are absolutely not wrong to keep your wife to yourself. Seven years ago you both made vows to be exclusive with one another (and no one else!). I don’t believe it’s fair for your wife to call you inflexible or even too conventional when you both agreed to the institution of marriage. Just because she changed her mind doesn’t make it wrong of you to still feel the way you do.

I believe there is a way to honor your wife’s feelings, however, without resorting to an open marriage. It’s not uncommon for couples to get bored sexually, but it’s often something that can be remedied with a little creativity. I would tell your wife that although you aren’t open to the idea of an open marriage that you’d be more than willing to fulfill her fantasies by yourself. For example, if she feels the need to be with someone else, perhaps you can pretend to be “someone else.” Often times couples will go to a club separately, pretend to not know one another, then meet for the “first” time. If your acting’s on par, this can be just as exciting as actually meeting someone new! You may enjoy it as well.

The main key to all this is really figuring out why your wife feels the way she does, particularly now. It may just be that you haven’t been as attentive and she’s missing that intimacy. Or she’s unfulfilled in another area of her life and projecting that frustration out on your sex life. Or, as I mentioned above, she may just be bored and need some excitement from you. You’ll only know the answers if you have a deep discussion with her about it. If you do talk and feel like you aren’t making headway, I’d highly recommend a sex therapist.

All the best,


Dear Kelli,

I feel like I need something more fulfilling in my life. My therapist suggested I get a hobby. This sounds stupid but I honestly can’t think of one. Do you have any ideas?


Dear Hobby-less,

I’m going to give you my suggestions but first I want to teach you how to fish. Here are a few of my favorite ways to gauge what interests you:

1) Write down the magazines you like. Magazines are a great way to gauge what we are interested in. Are you reading mostly health magazines? Fashion? Popular Science? From there you can always choose classes or activities that are in line with what you like to read about.

2) Find local classes through your community. You can always take classes (degree or non-degree seeking) at your local college. Ask for their latest schedule and it might spark some ideas for things you want to try.

3) Think about where you are really talented. Are you exceptionally artistic? Musical? Maybe you want to hone the skills you are already good at and choose to excel in those even more.

4) Think about what challenges you. So take the opposite approach here. Improve what you need help in. Never good at math? Maybe it would be good to take a numbers course. Can’t draw a straight line? It would be great to take a basics art class then.

5) Ask around to see what classes others have enjoyed. Do any of them sound interesting to you? Ignite any interest? I’ve also created a few ideas below of things to do or places to go in order for you to explore things you love. If any of these don’t float your boat or tickle your pickle, think hard about what does. Look, we all have interests; we just have to find them!

And just in case here is a list of random activities:

Book Clubs
Brewing Beer
Exploring a New Religion
Gym Classes
Jewelry Making
Learning a Language
Martial Arts
Papier-mache craft
Psychology Class
Rescuing Abused/Abandoned Animals
Rock Climbing
Scrabble Tournaments
Skiing (snow or water)
Studying Business


Dear Kelli,

My friend and I got into the discussion of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. I breastfed my child, she formula fed. I’m not judgmental of her decision but when she said to me “Formula is just as good as breast milk. I’ve read studies,” I got annoyed because I know that’s not true. Was it wrong of me to say “That’s not true.”? Now things are awkward.

Getting the Milk for Free

Dear Getting the Milk for Free,

The way a mother feeds their infant can be a very touchy subject. (Actually the way a mother does anything to their kid can be a touchy subject). I believe the main reason for this is that most mothers are very vulnerable. Some are scared of being judged, some want to be Supermom, and some feel insecure with their decision, so they state facts or reasons (‘I’ve read studies” or “But my pediatrician says…”)

All or any of this could be the case with your friend. I don’t know. What I do know is what you said to your friend wasn’t out of line. It sounds like you weren’t picking a fight with her, just disagreeing with her. That’s perfectly okay. To me, true friendship consists of honesty (and sometimes a healthy dose of debate).

I’d reiterate this all to your friend. Tell her you love her - 2% or skim. It doesn’t matter. You enjoy her company, her kids, and her friendship.

There’s no need to get into a further discussion on the topic (or bring pamphlets stating your point). If she brings it up again, just say, “You know, I’d rather not get into it” and move on. You’re entitled to feel the way you do, as does she. Even if you are right, she may not be willing to look at the truth at this point.

Just know this probably won’t be the first of last time you get into another mothering discussion, with this friend or someone else. Again, that’s okay. I think the key is not letting yourself feel worked up and out of control. A good practice is actually stating the other person’s point of view, so they feel heard (and vice-versa). If you don’t feel heard you can always say, “Stacy, I’m not sure you’re understanding my point. What do you think I’m trying to say?” What helps me is to remind myself not everyone is going to agree with me no matter how hard I try!

All the best,


Kelli Miller, MSW is a therapist, author, and radio personality. Miller was a featured expert for SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 198, the co-host for the TV show Love and Money: The Advice Show, and the advice columnist for Playboy U. She is the author of Professor Kelli’s Guide to Finding a Husband which can be found here, as well as her personal memoir, Joy in Solitude, found here.

You can read back issues of her column at http://askkelli.blogspot.com.

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