Sex & Relationships

Ask Joan: Sexually Incompatible?

Have a question about senior relationships, sex and intimacy?  Every month Senior Planet’s award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Subscribe now (do it here) and don’t miss a single column. Senior Planet subscribers also get The Weekly Orbit, our newsletter with features about personal finance, health and fitness, technology tips, an online book club and more! 

A reader writes:

I am 57, he is 64. We’ve been dating for five years. Our sex together was wonderful for the first three years. He showed me what intimacy and sexual joy could be, always pleasuring me before himself. I couldn’t get enough of lying next to him, kissing, and sex. But we’ve been living together for two years, and now he rarely wants to have sex. I want it all the time! Is our relationship doomed because we’re sexually incompatible, or can we fix this?

The Challenges

We were both in long marriages. Mine lasted 25 years and ended 8 years ago. His lasted 40 years with a volatile divorce. I realize that we both have insecurities after our long marriages ending. When I first moved into his house, it wasn’t easy. This was his marital home, and he wasn’t ready for changes. We didn’t always get along, so sex wasn’t the best. It got better, but not like the first three years.

This desire discrepancy has been a major problem for about a year.

This desire discrepancy has been a major problem for about a year. I go to bed and want him next to me. I work 12-hour shifts, and when we do go to bed at the same time, he spoons with me and falls asleep. I feel as I am not enough to keep him awake, and then I resent him. Sex is only every two months or so, and he wants it mornings when he has an erection. But my body isn’t receptive at that time.

He can’t come up with a good reason why he doesn’t want sex.

​Last night when we went to bed, he started to cuddle and commented that my nightshirt wasn’t very sexy. This is true. I tend to change into comfortable clothes after work, but I can try harder. I asked if our lack of sex is because I am not attractive, and he didn’t answer. I asked if it was because he couldn’t get an erection, and he didn’t answer.

He is affectionate, holds my hand, kisses me on the cheek, but that’s it. He can’t come up with a good reason why he doesn’t want sex. Any ideas?

—  Sexually Incompatible?

Joan replies:

Sex was great for three years until you moved in together. Then he resented you making changes in his 40-year marital home. You discovered that you had different needs and desires. The day-to-day togetherness and conflicts deteriorated your sex life. Conversations about sex became anxious and unrewarding. Your issues are big problems for many of our readers, and I thank you for writing.

The “L” word

Limerence” is an important concept to understand. It means that when you’re new to each other, you’re sexually on fire. You’re consumed by lust and obsessed with each other. You can’t get enough. Polyamorists encounter this so often with every new relationship that they coined their own term: “New Relationship Energy (NRE).”

The Relationship Timetable

Gradually, with familiarity, the obsessive lust calms down and bonding takes over. The timetable is different for everyone, even within a couple. Sex can remain spicy and satisfying, but it doesn’t drive every thought. That might have made him pull back originally, while you still wanted sex all the time. Other issues might be interfering now:

  • Is there unresolved anxiety about living with you after 40 years with someone else?
  • Has the routine of living together become unsexy? Does he wish you could live separately and visit often instead?
  • Does he have erectile difficulties that contribute to his withdrawal from sex?

Before moving in together, you made dates to be together and have sex at times you were both high-energy. You looked forward to your dates, fantasized what would happen, felt aroused long before shedding your clothes. Now you go to bed when he’s ready for sleep, and when he wakes up ready, you’re not.

If I had a magic wand (I do have a Magic Wand, but that’s different), I’d roll back the calendar and question whether it was a good idea to move in together. Many loving, committed senior couples find they have their best relationships — and their best sex! — if they live separately. It’s called LAT: living apart together. If this appeals to you, you might say to him, “Many committed couples find they get along best when they’re not living together. Do you think we might recapture our sexy best if we lived separately and made intentional plans for date times?”

If moving out is too extreme an option, try scheduling sex dates. Choose a time that you’re both alert and energetic — not bedtime, not first thing in the morning, and no unsexy nightshirt!

The big question

The big question: Are you sexually incompatible? Without knowing his reasons for withdrawing, I can’t answer. The only way through this is by talking honestly about the issues you’ve raised, listening to each other without judgment or defensiveness, and working on finding satisfying compromises. I hope your partner will agree to a couple of sessions with a sex-positive therapist to start the process and learn skills for keeping communication open. I wish you the best.

Resources:

Have a question about senior relationships, sex and intimacy?  Every month Senior Planet’s award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Subscribe now (do it here) and don’t miss a single column. Senior Planet subscribers also get The Weekly Orbit, our newsletter with features about personal finance, health and fitness, technology tips, an online book club and more! 

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

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

 

COMMENTS

3 responses to “Ask Joan: Sexually Incompatible?

  1. This is a great column to add to Senior Planet; many people need advice. I think living apart is the solution; he was married 40 years and could find living with someone else confusing and difficult. In that way, you could make dates, dress up, have romantic dinners capped by anticipated sex. It sounds like a solution to me.
    MC

  2. Moving into his house…I guess ok but changing his things in his house…not the best idea. Why not let him put you in the mood mornings when he is properly equipped??? Then, later on if/when this makes him want more sex, you could gradually have that bliss at night, no?

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