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A reader writes:
I have just become a widow after 52 years of a happy marriage. While my husband was in the hospital, sedated, I looked at his phone and discovered that he was registered on two dating sites. I was angry and uninstalled them. I hoped he would wake up so I could talk to him. He died without any discussion.
My husband suffered from ED. However, with supplements and ED meds, we had been having good sex before he got sick. The only thing was, he could not ejaculate. I would get tired and we would stop. I felt bad for him and did not know how to help him. I wish he had talked to me, told me how to help him. I thought I was helping when I told him that we didn’t have to have sex for me to love him. I now realize he did not want to hear that.
I want to feel he was on the dating sites as a confidence booster. But I cry every time I think about what he was doing there. I would love to be able to see exactly what he did on those sites good or bad so that I can put to rest if he cheated on me, however, I don’t have any of his passwords or user names. I could only see that a woman had chatted a question asking what he liked.
I also found porn tapes he had hidden from me. I am sure he was just jerking off. I feel like I could move on if I knew. Instead of just grieving his death. I am angry with him. He ruined all the wonderful years we had together. I loved my husband very much and I know he loved me. How did this happen??
- Distraught Widow
I know you’re hurting, and I feel great compassion for you. There you were in the hospital with your husband dying, and you discovered he had secrets. I understand that this was an emotional blow on top of the pain of your husband’s death. But there’s no evidence that your husband was cheating on you with the dating apps. A woman tried to chat with him – that’s all you know about what went on.
We’ll never know his intention, but given his medical issues, I’m guessing that he probably just needed to flirt, feel better about himself, and affirm himself as a sexual being. Many people with no plans to cheat on their spouses indulge in this kind of online sexy flirtation. They see it as a harmless secret if they don’t act on it.
Masturbating to porn is also extremely common and does not mean he was cheating or intending to cheat. “Many folks who watch lots of pornography are typically using it to cope with negative feelings and one main negative feeling: anxiety,” says sex therapist David J. Ley, Ph.D. “Sexual arousal is one of the ways we can turn off our anxiety and feel better. When we are turned on, we don’t worry.” Dr. Ley is the author of “Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure.” Although aimed at men, this book offers valuable insights to their partners, also.
You withdrew from sex with your husband because you thought that was easier for him. He didn’t know how to express his needs to you. That’s not your fault or his fault. We don’t learn how to communicate about our sexual needs to either our spouses or our doctors. The truth is that men with ED can experience sexual pleasure and orgasm without ejaculation. He might have discovered that through masturbation and not known how to communicate it to you.
You likely didn’t know other ways to bring him to orgasm that wouldn’t fatigue you, such as letting a vibrator assist him. (See my blog reviews of sex toys for penises.) Without any knowledge to the contrary, or any communication from him, you did your best. Don’t blame yourself – it only hurts you more.
Please don’t let these discoveries destroy your wonderful memories. You can’t bring your husband back, and you can’t un-see what you saw on his phone. You can, however, value the 52 years of happiness more than what was probably a harmless flirtation with women he would never meet. Don’t let this incident undermine the joy of your relationship and the intimacy you shared. You’ll only hurt yourself by not letting go of this. A grief counselor or therapist would be helpful to you now.
My heart goes out to you in your grief.
Send Joan your questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.