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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 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.
Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash
I am a 65 year old male, married and sexually faithful for over 30 years.
I love my wife but we have not had sex in over 25 years. She lost all sex drive after children, basically zero interest. I I have always had to masterbate to relieve myself of sexual tension. I aways kept it secret. A few years ago my doctor said my prostate was full and to maintain good health I should consider ejaculating 21 times a month. Apparently there were studies that backed this up.
It took a few days to work up the courage to tell my wife about what the doctor told me, but I did. I told her that as long as she was ok with me openly masturbating that I would have no expectations for her to have sex with me. She agreed. I was never so relieved in my entire life. I was glad I was open (finally) and honest and felt a great burden of guilt had been lifted regarding secret masturbation. I am civil about it and tell her I’m going to do a “prostate workout” and she knows what I mean. I do watch porn but she is unaware. I keep that secret because I know she doesn’t like it. I now masturbate 1-2 times a day without the guilt. Although I wish I could make love and ejaculate in my wifes vagina, that’s not going to happen. Although not an ideal situation I guess it could be worse, so I’m thankful for that. Reading your article helped me realize that other people experience similar issues.
Good one Joan,
Such a common problem, unfortunately. “If only they could have a conversation … ” is about as realistic as “If only they could win the lottery”. Such a stark change to decades of communication habits requires really dedicated hard work. Often it is not worth the effort for many people because the kind of sex they have or used to have has become boring, mundane, repetitive, and at times, downright unpleasant. When I suggest to clients that it is the kind of sex they are having that is boring – i.e. what they are doing – not that sex is boring that begins to open up possibilities. Most people are doing exactly or with minor variations what they did when they first met or first began to have sex. It rarely changes even if it was only average to start with. Talking about it is almost impossible as folks do not want to risk what they do have for some airy fairy promise of what they might have.
However all parties need to decide to do that work of learning new ways of listening to each other and touching each other and building communication into their erotic life for it to be worthwhile. Compromises such as the one referred to here, and the ones in the responses, make sense if the effort required for change is perceived as just too hard.
While sex in our larger culture is seen as something great, it is usually only in the movies and books where this is actually so. The relief of ejaculation or orgasm is often great but the sex itself is ho-hum. So the rgeat part of sex becomes the few seconds of orgams and then that’s the end of it until the next slightly tawdry session. Which is why TV Netflix and other entertainments are appreciated and do so well because they are easier than making that effort.
First let me say that I’m a widow, and I was married 32 years before my husband passed. I’m also a person who understands that dissolving a marriage because of sexual issues after many, many years is not an attractive option for most people. Hence, most people will look for other solutions (affairs, porn, etc.) rather than divorce or separation because sex is that important to them.
But I am confused as to WHY men frustrated in their marriages would feel it necessary to masturbate in front of other men. Conversation about their common problem, yes I understand that, but MASTURBATING in front of other men? I think that the more I read (not just here but in other places) the more I think a lot of men are at the very least voyeurs-by-nature and quite possibly more bi-sexual than they care to openly admit. This is not a criticism, just an observation on my part. If it works for them, so be it. I can honestly say that I have never heard about women doing the same thing … sitting around talking about how their husbands have dropped the ball with sex, then hoisting their skirts and fingering themselves in front of the other women.
Well I know a women’s book club dedicated to erotica and sex toys that usually involves group masturbation so yes, there are women out there in similar situations. Look up Betty Dodson as another very healthy example of women sharing their sexuality together.
Sorry for your difficult situation. My guess is that most in that circle jerk are learning from each other. Support like that helps one figure out what they DO want.
If my partner really wants to help me achieve orgasms, then something like, “Please show my hands what you like,” would be way more effective than “Tell me.” The ears are the route to our biggest sex organ, the brain. But sometimes we need to override the thinker in there.
“Please show my hands what you like” — that’s wonderful!
I consider myself fortunate at the age of 66.
This year I met the love of my life on a dating site; we both had unhappy marriages and thought we would be alone during our more senior years.
Our sex life is the best we have ever had. We are well matched with high libidos and make love at least once a day.
We talk about what we enjoy and what turns us on and believe the key is open and honest communication.
I am like many/most men, left to our own solo solutions after menopause. No reflection on the wives, it is not their fault, but our sexual urges continue on almost to death.
So we all or most end up taking the problem in hand and that keeps us sane. I will be forever grateful to the internet for opening up a whole new world of sexual arousal and release.
My wife knows, understands, and supports what i do and never complains and I never deny or lie about what I need to do. I am simply “busy”.
I love my wife deeply and I will be forever grateful to her.
Sounds interesting. Please let me know how to join in.
What’s being overlooked is that when someone has lost interest in sex for whatever reason, talking about it is the ideal way to some sort of solution, but asking someone who truly isn’t interested to participate in any way can be repugnant. It seems hard to imagine after 50 years in a reasonably happy relationship, that anyone would choose to leave and start over just for sex, but we all know it’s happened. I can’t imagine leaving someone I cared for deeply because they were no longer interested in sex, and I’m guessing it happens just as much to men as to women.
I have met very few men and even fewer women that I think would be able to participate in such a conversation. I was actually in that kind of relationship for a while and no conversation regarding our sexual relationship was ever tolerated. He would just say, I don’t want to talk about it…and leave the room, the conversation or sometimes, he’d go out the front door!
My first reaction after looking at the hands was that they belonged to someone who worked hard and lived well. After reading the text, I saw hands asking for help. What a terrible predicament . After 50 years, his wife refuses to discuss , with her ‘” over sexed ‘” man, a very big problem with their marriage. At this stage in their lives, I am not hopeful of a mutual satisfactory solution. Good luck with that.
Re the masturbation, of course it is all right, and with toys like the Hot Octopus Pulse Duo….will be a most pleasurable outlet . Maybe his wife would watch and get some relief that she has been released from ” her duty “. As far as the men’s group masturbation, I am not comfortable. Almost smacks of exhibitionism….solo, or with a partner is just fine but after all, sex is generally a private matter…..
Dave, try it you might like it! lol Actually, I kinda feel the same way but might be willing with the right group personalities.
Last time I ‘ tried it ‘ was at a boys camp in 1953. A bunch of 12 year olds
in a contest to see who ‘ shot ‘ the furthest. Absolutely no desire to join a group at this stage of my life. Having too much fun with my life mate.
I agree with your comments wholeheartedly. It doesn’t bode well for a couple married for so long to find a mutually acceptable solution. All of the comments by the man’s partner are very negative, and in my opinion quite hurtful. The ‘art of communication’ is lost (or was never present) in their relationship.
He is basically doing what I had to do 90% of the time in my marriage. Husband was loving, liked to cuddle, but when it came to intercourse…it was over in 3 or 4 thrusts. We both enjoyed oral, but he didn’t seem to be able to listen to me and change anything he did while down there…I would often fake it and wait for him to go to sleep so I could take care of myself. We had both been married before…him when he was very young and a virgin. I suspect his ex was as naive as him, and they didn’t address his problem or even know how to. I lived with this man…sexually frustrated for over 30 years. When I went through menopause in my early 40s and started experiencing vaginal thinning and pain…it was almost a blessing. I didn’t have to continue with faking it, and as long as I gave him a orgasm through oral or a hand job, he was fine with the arrangement.
Mary, it sounds like you found someone actually very selfish on the inside, when it comes to one of, if not, the greatest pleasures in living!
Mary it sounds as if you don’t have a happy relationship. To state that ‘…..was as naive as him’ smacks of resentment and a long held dislike for your husband.
How sad that you have had to pretend to orgasm for so long.
You mention ‘his problem’; wow! I think you both have a problem.
Well, the photo was a handy choice for a hands-on topic…
I agree with Joan Price that there’s nothing wrong with masturbation—solo or in a group—and that the primary problem in the case at hand (…) is a lack of open, honest, caring communication between the spouses. I hope for his sake that this gentleman will be able to achieve a satisfactory discussion with his wife.
I agree with you. Open and frank discussion is needed and an understanding that guys have to cum. I have met a couple of like situation friends for weekly discussion and release . No harm done