He’d rather have sex with other people

We chat at 1 p.m. today.

Hi Meredith,

Last year I met a man after a past disastrous relationship. I fell for him very quickly and the feeling was mutual. We talked about marriage and babies and he promised me the world. He's 41 and has never been married, but has had long-term relationships in the past. He told me that his last one was open and encouraged me to sleep with other people if I wanted to, which I didn't.

All of a sudden, a few months ago, he decided that he's too old for children. After much soul-searching I decided that children weren't important to me but stated that I still saw marriage in mine and our future. He had a depressive episode over the summer and told me that he needed space, which I gave him. Then he admitted that he cheated on me and that he needed the space to to get his head straight. Eventually he told me he still loved me and wanted to be with me but that he wasn't ready to give up an open relationship, although he wanted to commit to me.

I agreed to try being open because I didn't want to lose him, and I have to admit that the thought of an open relationship excited me. For the last few months we have sought out other partners, both individually and together, and the experience has bought us closer emotionally – but we are not having sex together. I feel like it has become the elephant in the room, and when I try to discuss it he shuts down and says that all relationships go through these periods. He is having a tough time at the moment and I am doing everything I can to support him but feel like I'm getting little back in return. I've told him that I need more of "us" – that sex with him is important to me and that we need to spend more quality time together.

I'm feeling rejected because he says he's depressed and is not feeling in the mood – but he will take the chance to have sex with someone else. He can still be affectionate with me – we kiss and cuddle and he tells me he loves me and that he's made future plans with me – but then it feels like he pushes me away. Sometimes I feel like we're friends. I don't know how to broach the subject with him anymore because he shuts down. Am I fighting a losing battle? How do we get out of this rut that we are in?

– Getting out of the rut

It's understandable that you want to salvage this relationship – or bring it back to where it was when you first met. But it doesn't sound like that's possible. This guy wants more and more space, and his version of an option relationship is to be with people who are not you. That's not the arrangement you're looking for.

Talking about the future is nice, but you guys need to focus on what's happening right now. Ask him why he desires commitment, and what he wants from your relationship in the present. If is answer is that he needs to figure himself out, you must consider a real breakup. If he can't live up to all the talk, you can't stick around.

You mention the "past disastrous relationship," and how you fell for this man "very quickly." That makes me think you could also use some space, just to think about what you really want from a partnership. You've done a lot of compromising to make life easier for this man (you've reconsidered kids, adjusted to being open, etc.); I just wonder what you'd want and how you'd set your priorities if you weren't trying to save something so fragile.

– Meredith

Readers? Can this situation improve?