Sex & Relationships

Ask Joan: Bad Marriage?

Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! If you’re over 60, submit your questions to this column by emailing Joan directly at

I’m a man, 73. My wife is 72. I’ve had many medical issues with my heart, colon, and more. But my big problem is that my wife has not had sex with me since I was 44 years old.

She made all sorts of excuses in the past for not having sex with me. I think she had an affair in her forties — no proof, but plenty of evidence. Then when she went through menopause, I think she stopped loving me. There is no emotional connection. 

She doesn’t admit to masturbating or lusting for any other man. However, years ago, when our children were babies, I came home from work early and caught her with another man in our apartment. She denied that anything happened. I forgave her but never believed her. I found a love letter to that guy saying she loved him and not me. 

When we had sex, I rarely lasted more than 10 minutes. She would not let me perform oral sex and would not perform it on me. She lay there during sex, no enthusiasm. By age 45, I gave up trying. About a year ago, I tried to make love to her, but she told me to leave her alone. 

Once we had such a bad argument that she got up in my face and I grabbed her around the neck, but I didn’t choke her. She pushed me to the floor. I cussed her out. 

She says she doesn’t want any man including me. She claims she quit having sex because I never lasted long enough for her to have an orgasm. She gets mad if I try to show her an article about sex or even mention it. I bought her a dildo and a vibrator, but she won’t use either. She told me to get rid of them. 

How can I get her to ever want me again? I think she really needs some sex from me or a stranger. If I’m to blame for being too fast, then I would like her to find another man. Can you advise me without her involvement? 

—No Sex in My Marriage

Joan replies:

I feel bad for all you’ve suffered. You’ve been in a sexless, hostile marriage for almost 30 years, and even before that, it wasn’t satisfying for either of you. 

She told you the problem was that you didn’t last long enough. I assume you’re talking about during intercourse, but did either of you understand that most women do not reach orgasm through intercourse alone? Most need clitoral stimulation before, during, or instead of intercourse. Her statements about how long you lasted, plus her repugnance for oral sex, lead me to wonder whether she ever explored or embraced her own sexuality. Maybe she didn’t like sex, or maybe she didn’t like sex with you. Only she knows.

I’m always cheerleading for sex toys, but you can’t just pick out something for her and expect her to enjoy it. She needs to be interested, willing, and involved in the selection.

You mention your wife’s maybe-affair when your children were babies. That had to be at least 40 years ago, and you’re still holding onto those unresolved emotions. You “forgave her but never believed her.” Harboring deep distrust without ever resolving it is a recipe for marital disaster. I wish you and she had sought counseling at that time — it might have changed the direction of your marriage. Honestly, I think it’s too late now.

You ask if I can help your wife enjoy sex. No, I can’t. I have no idea what she thinks or feels. I do know, from what you told me, that you’re trying to recapture something in your marriage that never existed. You and your wife never had passion or sexual compatibility. The rift grew into suspicion, resentment, anger, even violence. Communication is hurtful, you’re both angry, and you’re holding onto incidents from the past while she has closed down completely. 

If you knew that you’d never have sex again with your wife, and she’d never be more loving than she is today, would you want to stay with her? I looked for reasons that you stay together — if there are any, you don’t mention them.

Please see a therapist, not to get your wife to have sex with you — she has made it plain that she won’t — but to work on understanding and resolving your own complicated emotions and figuring out a plan for moving forward. Decide with a therapist’s help whether to stay in this marriage. Don’t use your age as an excuse for not making changes — it’s never too late. I wish you the best, and I’m sorry this is so painful.

Is it time to leave?

Readers: some signs that it’s time to exit a bad relationship:

  • You keep rehashing the same issues and nothing ever changes.
  • You’ve been unhappy together for years.
  • Your arguments can turn violent.
  • You stay together out of fear or inertia.
  • Sex with your partner is nonexistent and that’s not okay with you.
  • You don’t love each other anymore.
  • You don’t like each other anymore. 

A Message from Joan:

I receive many more questions than I can answer. To help yours get chosen, know this:

  • I select questions solely from readers age 60+.
  • If I already answered a similar question, yours is less likely to be chosen, so do a search for your topic first.
  • When you submit a question, describe your problem, how it affects you, what you’d like to know. Your story will be edited.
  • For medical advice, consult your doctor. Change doctors if you’re not satisfied or if you’re treated dismissively.
  • I select questions for publication only. For a private answer, request a consultation. Most questions about sex and aging are answered in my books and webinars.

Send Joan your questions by emailing All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication from readers age 60+

Joan Price is the author of several self-help books about senior sex including her newest, “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved,” and the award-winning “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex.” Visit Joan’s website and blog and her Facebook page. For senior sex news and tips, subscribe to Joan’s free newsletter.


3 responses to “Ask Joan: Bad Marriage?

  1. Dear Ms. Joan,

    I am sixty four. A petite, and attractive.
    I was married and have a daughter of 30 years old.
    She is done with college, and moved out from my house 7 years ago.

    Lately I went back to school, and a couple of the men, in the class, in their fifties/ sixties most of them were flirting, with me. One in particular we shared an obvious, attractions is reciprocal.
    When school closed, back in the begging of March, because of the pandemic. Most of us exchange #’s. ( we have each other’s number) “He keeps in touch”

    But I have a serious problem with men.
    They’re generally see my body, my physical sexyness. I hate it, even I know men are visual.
    Is it a crime? For a woman to practice self are?
    I used to think, that all I need to have and keep a man in a long term relationship…
    Boy, I was so wrong! I am sexually active, or I should say, I love intimacy and sex as well.
    I’ve been deprived for so long, my vibrator and I became best, of friend.

    Organisms became more difficult to achieved… I am afraid that I’ll be judge, in bed, as to old to reach climax. I know what gave me pleasure, but how one tell a man that in a new relationship?
    Do you have a book in this matter? If so what’s the title?
    But I am not sure how to approach this matter, differently.??
    PS I need your


    1. Y, if you know what you need for arousal and orgasm, communicate that to your partner — your partner will appreciate knowing how to please you. It’s often useful to express this ahead of time, e.g. “Just so you know, I need the intensity of a vibrator to reach orgasm. Let me introduce you to my favorite one. Let’s use it during sex together.”

      For more on communicating with a new partner, along with many other relevant topics, my book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50, will help you:

  2. Joan,

    So many layers of complexity to your reader’s situation. Your advice is right on the mark. You are right, it is never too late to change.

    I feel for these two individuals, they’ve lost years of joy and passion either as a couple or individuals. What a shame.

    Love your work

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