Sex & Relationships

Ask Joan: What To Do When Sex Hurts

My husband of 10 years is totally obsessed with sex, although he can’t get an erection and hasn’t for years. I’m 61; he’s 72. I stopped having any interest in sex about 9 years ago when it became too painful. He can’t seem to accept that we’re old and our sex organs just don’t work anymore.

I have vaginal atrophy and several disabling health conditions. I don’t want to have sex because it hurts, despite estrogen cream. Sex aggravates my arthritis as well, and I don’t enjoy being touched because of fibromyalgia. My husband has his own severe medical issues.

We were together only 9 months before we married. The pain and disinterest came gradually, but fairly quickly, along with his demands for sex despite his ED. He uses Viagra and a pump. The attempted sex became exhausting and unsatisfying because of his fruitless, lengthy efforts that caused more pain.

We’ve tried non-intercourse sex, but he isn’t satisfied for long before he wants penetration. He promised me once that we could do alternatives, but soon went back on his word. He doesn’t seem to care that sex hurts me.

I find oral sex disgusting now, too. Really, any sex is repulsive to me. I feel like he’s worn me out and cares only about trying for a climax. I resent that he is a slave to his own obsession with sex, and I’ve told him this.

He sexts women online on trashy websites and watches porn daily. I don’t care about the porn, but messaging women is just too much. He won’t stop, even though he promised me many times he would.

I’ve asked him to find someone else to have sex with so I don’t have to, but he won’t. He says he doesn’t think anyone will want him. So I have to suffer through it or he gets a really nasty attitude. He angers easily, barks at me, finds fault, and blames me. He has even accused me of fabricating my health issues so I would have a reason not to have sex.

We are both disabled and living on a shoestring. If we divorce, we’ll both be in extreme poverty — we barely manage as it is. I get only a little more than half on disability than I did when I was working. I don’t see leaving as an option.

How do I get him to accept that sex doesn’t work for either of us anymore, and he should give it up and stop causing me physical pain? I hate having to endure his attempts at sex because he can’t see that he’s hanging on to a fantasy.

  • No More Sex, Please!

Joan responds

This is an unhealthy marriage for both of you. The biggest problem is not that your husband still wants a sex life despite ED or that he messages women to indulge in sexual fantasies, however. The problem is that he bullies you into aggressive, unwanted sex that is all pain and no pleasure for you. The problem is that he will not accept that the sexual connection between you is over.

No, you should not have to endure sex you don’t want and that causes you pain. No part of you physically or emotionally wants it. The sex you describe, and in fact the whole relationship, is hostile and forceful, devoid of caring. You’re right to shut it down.

I fear it’s too late to repair this marriage. Whatever you felt for each other in the beginning is gone. You acknowledge that you married too quickly — after only 9 months of knowing each other! — and from what you say, there’s no trace left of what drew you together.

You need to get out.

You say you can’t leave because of finances and disability. Please reach out to your grown children and to social services in your area. There must be a service or program that can help you find and finance another living situation. From the way you describe your relationship and your opinions of each other, you will never be happy staying together, and neither will he. Life is too short to stay in a toxic marriage.

I want to challenge your assumption, though, that your husband has aged out of sexual expression. A firm erection is not a requirement for satisfying sex. An enthusiastic partner with oral skills and/or a high-quality vibrator that works beautifully on recalcitrant penises, such as the Hot Octopuss Pulse and the Fun Factory Volta, could make all the difference for him. Since you’re done with him as a sex partner — and I support your decision — you really don’t have the right to police other ways he expresses his sexual need. Whether he’s watching porn or sexting with strangers, it’s really not your business. He doesn’t need to give up on his natural desire for sex — but he does need to give up imposing himself “non-consensually” on you!

I know you’re in a difficult situation, and it’s only getting worse with time. Please find a way to leave. I care about you!

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Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.





6 responses to “Ask Joan: What To Do When Sex Hurts

  1. Frankly, I think the abuse has already begun…. And I wrote that line before Feminista commented. It may be devastating to men to lose sexual activity, but that does not give him the right to treat her like this. When he gets upset easily, when he pushes you to do things you have told him hurt you, when he gets angry at everything you do… you feel on the edge of physical abuse, and honestly, he’s already done things that hurt her. Yes, she needs encouragement and help to get out.

  2. The letter writer is being abused sexually,physically,and emotionally. I agree she needs to leave,but she also needs emotional support and validation. Leaving or attempting to leave can be a very dangerous time for women and men regardless of sexual orientation involved in abusive relationships,and it takes tremendous courage. A women’s crisis line can helpful,which can help her explore ways to rebuild her life,as well as a good therapist. Sounds like the man needs a therapist,too.

  3. Oh my goodness!!! I’d leave instantly after enough of these terrible episodes. This is no life for anyone ever!!! To the (nameless) lady who’s going through this torture, look for persons who rent a room in a large apartment or house, they can be very affordable and satisfying. As Joan said, there are so many organizations which coud find you living solutions. Explore easy jobs to do at home and in time you may be able to get your own modest apartment, enjoy peace and make nice friends.

  4. While I mostly agree with your response, there is a big difference between porn and sexting. The latter involves another woman and is considered cheating by some. However, since the writer green-flagged extracurricular activities, it hardly seems like a problem. To me this step confirms the end of the marriage in any reasonable sense. Physical affection is the one thing that remains to distinguish this relationship from friends or siblings. Quite sad.

  5. Hi Joan,
    I have to agree with you on your advice. Sadly there is anger,frustration and dare l say,a kind of toxicity forming in this marriage.
    It can be devastating for men as we get older,to finally realise that loosing the sexual activity that we enjoy as a younger fitter person is waning. Clearly communication between this couple has broken down(if it was ever there?)and sadly,it would appear that his attitude has only pushed her away.
    Health issues aside,it’s over l fear.

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