I don’t find my partner attractive anymore

Dear Meredith,

I'm writing because I'm sad and frustrated by the fact that I don't find my partner attractive anymore. I'm in my late 30s, and though he's only a year older than me, he looks like he could be approaching 50. It also doesn't help that people often think that I look like I'm in my late 20s.

When I met him in our early 30s, he had a full head of hair (equal parts salt and pepper) and a flat stomach, both of which I found very attractive. Today he's balding and has a bit of a beer gut, and the hair that is left on his head is all salt, while I basically look the same as we did when we first met. I care about my partner deeply. He's kind, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent, and has a sharp wit that I admire. And there's no doubt that being with someone who has all these qualities has made me a better person in many ways.

But often when I'm out and about and an attractive younger man happens to catch my eye, I can't help but fantasize about having an affair with a more attractive and youthful looking man. And the urge is strong. In these moments when I'm fantasizing, I want to be with someone who has a youthful energy to them. Someone fun, athletic, and sexy. And someone who doesn't want to start every morning with a conversation about something philosophical and academic. And sometimes during these moments, I think about the guys in my past who I thought were super sexy but I wrote off because maybe I thought they weren't insightful or serious enough. Maybe I should have given them a shot.

Part of what might be exacerbating the issue is that in the last year, my parents have developed some serious health issues, and I had a very tough work contract where I would sometimes work 70-hour weeks. We also got married a month ago and bought a new condo. I know this is all regular life stuff, but I feel like in a very short period of time I’ve had to level up to full-on adulthood. And maybe this is part of my frustration. I wish that my relationship felt easy in the way that everything else in my life at this moment doesn't. I sometimes feel like my youth and sexual life has been taken from me. I know this all probably sounds overly dramatic and maybe a bit cliche. And I'm worried that this is all coming from some deeply engrained entitlement on my part, but I do feel the need to express these feelings. And if you have any thoughts on my situation, I would love to hear them. Thanks.

– Sad and Frustrated


A small thing: When you meet someone whose hair is "equal parts salt and pepper," assume that an all-salt situation is on its way. Sometimes the salt appears sooner than later. That is how John Slattery is made.

As for your problem, it sounds like you're conflating a bunch of things, some of which are easier to address than others. You took on a difficult job, watched your parents get sick, got married, and bought a new condo. That is a lot to think about once – and a lot of change. You need to consider about how all of these experiences might have affected how you see your partner. Does the gray really bother you – or does it remind you of the seriousness that can come with age?

How did getting married change your feelings about your partner? I ask because we talk about the "honeymoon phase" a lot in this column, but usually we're not referring to the period after people get married. We use that term to talk about the first few weeks and months of dating, when a partner can do no wrong. The real honeymoon period is a different thing. For some people, it's magical. For others, it comes with a weird kind of remorse and fear. Sometimes there's a letdown because all of the romantic moments that led up to the decision turn into daily tasks, commitment, and a regular life.

That's why it might help to give yourself some time to adjust to your new home and marriage. There's no pressure to be 100 percent happy right now. Your only goal should be pursuing activities with your partner that are not at all tied to your responsibilities. Maybe it's something as simple as seeing a movie and going to an old favorite restaurant. Or visiting shared friends. Anything that reminds you why you got together in the first place. Really, it's just time to breathe.

– Meredith

Readers? Can we talk about the real honeymoon period? Have you ever talked to a partner about their beer gut?