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Note: This is a topic that might create controversy among our readers. While we encourage healthy debate, we remind our commenters to keep it civil.
A reader writes:
I’m a man in my 70s, married 30 years. I love my wife but sex with her has been difficult or non-existent for several years. I found a local support group of males in their 60s and 70s who are also in sexless marriages. Meeting other men with similar stories makes me feel better. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone with my frustrations.
But recently the group has engaged in an activity that makes me question my involvement. Some men engage in self-masturbation in the group as a way to deal with the lack of sexual activity with their wives.
At first, I was embarrassed to see one of the gentlemen masturbate. But in time, I felt more comfortable joining in, and I have to say it was enjoyable. There was no pressure to participate. I’m not gay or bisexual. It’s just a few men getting together to talk about their frustrations, and if we want, we can masturbate. I don’t want to cheat on my wife, but my sexual urge is always on my mind, and now I feel relief from that urge.
I haven’t told my wife specifics, only that I meet retired friends for conversation. I don’t think she would understand. She says I’m over-sexed. I have tried everything to help her regain her interest in sex, but nothing has worked. She says she’s tired or busy or doesn’t feel like it. When we had intercourse, she would tell me to hurry and finish. She complained that intercourse hurt, so I’d use lubricant.
When she was willing to give me manual sex after refusing intercourse or oral, it was without passion. I always felt it was one-sided. I offered to pleasure her orally, but she wouldn’t accept it. I started masturbating alone after that, but I felt I had to hide it.
Sometimes sex for men is just ejaculating, plain and simple, no fluff and feelings, just a physical need to release. This group offers that and a place to have a discussion. These groups offer an outlet for men like me, in sexless marriages, who struggle with being faithful to the wife they love.
Have you heard of other older men doing this? Is it normal to feel this way? Do you have any advice?
— Men’s Group Questioner
Easiest question first: your feelings and your sexual urges are perfectly normal. If your wife won’t have sex with you, your frustrations are understandable. Masturbation is the easiest way to get a release without going outside your monogamy agreement. Nothing wrong with that.
Is there anything wrong with masturbating in a group of men where you feel comfortable and there’s no pressure to participate? Not in my view. It sounds like a healthy outlet to me.
But is my view the one you need? I wish that you and your wife could have an honest conversation about your needs and the outlet you’ve found. I don’t think the problem is anything that you’re doing — it’s needing to keep it a secret. Your real problem is lack of communication with your wife. Here are the things you don’t know:
- If you spoke honestly, would she listen with an open mind and try to understand your frustration?
- What are her reasons for not wanting sex anymore?
- Are there sexual things you could change for her comfort and pleasure?
- When you use lubricant (necessary for all of us!) does it eliminate the pain with intercourse, or does it still hurt? She may have a medical issue that is not resolved with lubricant.
- If she feels done with sex and is not interested in changing, what accommodations is she willing to make so that you can get your needs met?
- How can the two of you reach an understanding so that you don’t have to hide your masturbation or the frequency?
- Would she be willing to see a couples counselor or sex therapist to help you discuss this?
Many people will tell you that masturbating in a group of men when you’re married, and your wife doesn’t know, is wrong. But personally, the only part that I see as wrong is that you need to hide it. Maybe you do. You say she wouldn’t understand. Maybe what you’re doing is the healthiest and least destructive way to get your needs met without endangering the marriage.
I would love to live in a world where a conversation like this could happen easily:
She: “I’m just not interested in sex anymore. I don’t want to work on changing that.”
He: “I need a release for my sexual urges. I don’t want to cheat, but I’m frustrated.”
She: “I understand. Let’s talk about other ways you could release that frustration that don’t involve having sex with another woman.”
He: “Well, there’s this men’s group….”
I know this is a fantasy conversation. But if we could all make an effort to honestly communicate, express our needs, listen deeply to our partner’s needs, figure out solutions that don’t leave one person without options, our relationships would be healthier, don’t you think?
Send Joan your questions by emailing email@example.com. 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.