Turned Off

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! To send your questions directly to Joan, email sexpert@seniorplanet.org

My partner and I have been together for 20 years, best friends for 40 years. Now age 60, we love each other and our togetherness. The problem: I don’t find his body or mine attractive anymore, and I no longer want to have sex.

He still desires me and doesn’t seem to notice the signs of aging in my old body, but for me it is a turn off. Sometimes I force myself to have sex out of love for him, but it always feels sad. We used to have such good sex. Just enduring sex now seems an insult to what it used to be.

I have always orgasmed easily and still do. But while my body might be orgasming away, I am looking at the whole process with abhorrence — these two old bodies doing such ludicrous stuff! I feel sorry for him and it seems awful to reject him sexually, but I feel worse if I fake interest. We discussed him getting sex elsewhere, but he only wants me.

Is this as good as it can get from now on?

Turned Off

Joan Price Responds

How lucky you are to have a partner who loves you, desires you and isn’t bothered by the changes in your body. But you hate the changes in your body and his, and this has shut down sex with your partner.

Aging bodies inevitably change. Instead of hating this, what if you could reverse your attitude that aging bodies are icky? You could enjoy the intimacy of the man you love kissing, touching, and desiring you. You could celebrate your body’s ability to give you immense pleasure and easy orgasms. Wouldn’t that be sweeter than the feelings of distaste that you have now?

Think where those feelings came from. The media and our youth-oriented culture tell us that only young, firm bodies without wrinkles or puckers are sexy. We’ve rejected plenty of other social messages that limit us, why not reject this one, too? Our bodies wear the badges of age, and that doesn’t make them disgusting or our sexuality ludicrous. We are sexual beings lifelong if we want to be.

Avoiding sex and feeling disgust for aging bodies will only hurt your relationship and your own self-image. Your partner is trying to be accommodating, but he must feel very hurt and lonely to be forced to do without sex with the woman he loves, when that’s an important part of intimacy.

Here are some tips for enjoying sex with your partner again:

  • Plan special dates. What kinds of dates did you enjoy with your partner when sex between you was vibrant? It’s easy to let these “courtship dates” fall away when you’ve been together so long, but bringing them back weekly can help you recapture those feelings of excitement for each other.
  • Turn on your sexual brain. Do erotic stories turn you on? Romantic films? A private fantasy? Sexy memories? Your brain is your most powerful sex organ, so let your fantasies fly.
  • Get physical. Exercise regularly and especially before sexual activity. You’ll get in touch with your own physicality, and, if you exercise together, you’ll appreciate your partner’s body more, too.
  • Set the mood. If viewing every detail of your bodies is a turn-off, darken the room and light a candle. Play with blindfolds – I don’t mean to send the message that you can’t bear to look, but because shutting off one sense intensifies the others.
  • Arouse each other slowly. Don’t go straight to intercourse, if that’s your usual sexual activity. Massage each other. Explore erogenous zones (these can change with age, too). Explore non-penetrative sex. Focus on giving and receiving pleasure rather than racing to orgasm.
  • Get help from a therapist. If your reaction to these suggestions is negative – you’d rather not deal with improving your sex life – I strongly suggest seeing a counselor or a sex therapist (find one in your location) to help you understand and deal with your feelings.

I know that short advice here can’t magically reverse your feelings about your body – that will take a process. The results will be worth it!

Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex@Our Age.

Send Joan your questions by emailing sexpert@seniorplanet.org. All information is confidential.

joan-priceJoan Price is the author of several books including “The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50” and the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age.” Visit Joan’s  blog, “Naked at Our Age” and her Facebook page. For senior sex news, tips, event and webinar announcements, and special offers, join Joan’s mailing list.

 

6 comments
  • Neil J
    REPLY

    70s and 80s actually enjoying sex!? I am 71 and it is over 10 years since my wife and I had sex. I feel our marriage is dead as a result. We are drifting further and further apart. I doubt if we love each other anymore, though we pretend we do for social reasons only.

    By example, New Years Eve 2017, my wife went to bed at 9.15 pm and most nights the timing is not much different. There is no laughter, no fun, no daring, no sexiness. Any spark in our relationship seemed to have started to die with the announcement that “The doctor says I am dry and that is why it hurts, and there is nothing that can be done about it”. Any attempts to be tender from that point on, made me feel like I was a dirty old man, and it didn’t take too long to give up even thinking about even trying; thing is though, I still have desires and frankly I hate living like this. Tempted to find a lover, but ashamed at the same time and therefore have never done so.

    I feel at times, guilty, angry, depressed, terribly alone and wonder why I even stay in the same house. I do not want to hurt my wife, or for that matter, hurt myself, but what can I do.

  • David Pittle
    REPLY

    I should have said more about Sensate Focus as it is one of the best tools we have for improving sex. One person has the role of receiver. She does nothing special except to receive the pleasure which her partner can lavish on her body. What she does is note what feels good and what doesn’t and communicate that to the “giver” partner. We sometimes call this body-mapping. It may be the first time the couple really develops a mutual knowledge and understanding of what feels good and what doesn’t. After several sessions (Maybe 4 days to one week of daily sessions), the partners switch roles. Usually the couple is asked not to have intercourse, even it they want it. Of course, often the couple winds up disobeying this, to their own surprise.

    There are several variations under care of a sex therapist, but this will help even without. In my experience, couples often come in after a few days, to sheepishly admit that they had a great session of mutual masturbation or even intercourse.

  • Corinne Farago
    REPLY

    Hi Joan.
    I’m one of your biggest fans, having read all your books as part of my studies, I’ve been greatly inspired to work primarily with the Boomers in my practice. As a Boomer myself, I know the feeling of losing the youthful firmness of my body and noticing how self-consciousness is slowly seeping into my sexual experience with my partner. It’s insidious and unforgiving, and I view it as a mind monster who wants to undermine my pleasure. In short, it is not my friend and it’s not welcome in the bedroom or anywhere else for that matter.
    As a Sex and Intimacy Coach in the SF Bay Area, I will often use hypnotherapy with my coaching clients to disempower feelings and beliefs around sex and relationships. As one of your readers says, these feelings are “deeply entrenched and so far has refused to budge”.
    Past experiences and cultural messaging create our conscious and unconscious beliefs about sex, and from my experience our conscious awareness is only the tip of the iceberg. By far, it’s our unconscious beliefs that dictate our sexual experience. In my opinion hypnotherapy is one of the most powerful tools to change our sexual experience. We don’t need to suffer belief systems that undermine our intimate lives. Just as our mind can be our worst enemy in the bedroom, so can it also be our greatest ally in creating desire, sexual excitement, focused pleasure, and confidence in our changing bodies.
    Thank you for your work in educating our aging population and being such a brilliant advocate for senior sex.

  • Toni La Puma
    REPLY

    I am 86 years old and have been celibate for many years for a variety of reasons, disliking the changes in my body being only one of them, but it’s a major one. I think I am vain, and can’t stand to no longer have the terrific body I had as a young woman. Don’t bother telling me that I need to change my attitude/feelings about my body – I know that! But it’s deeply entrenched and so far has refused to budge. I suspect that falling in love might crack that wall, but I haven’t met a man I’m even vaguely interested in for many years, and the older I get (86!) the less likely it is that I will.

    That said, I think it’s immensely sad that Turned Off has such a rich partnership at her age – I envy her – and can’t revel in her husband’s appreciation of her. She must want to change her feelings about it or she would not have written to you, but I’m here to say I understand and empathize with her resistance. I hope eventually that she’ll write back to tell us what change/progress she has been able to make.

  • Sylvie Berry
    REPLY

    Myself and my partner are 70 yrs old and absolutely love our sex life. We are products of the 60’s “make love – not war”! We do not drink alcohol, excersie daily and are very open with each other about what we like/don’t like. Sex toys, erotic movies and marijuana will definitely get you in the mood!
    Aging gracefully with a lot of positivity along with a clean diet and lots of communication works wonders. None of this stuff is rocket science.

  • David Pittle
    REPLY

    Good advice, Joan. I notice that almost all of it has to do with changing behavior. We’ve been over-psychologized to think that our emotions/feelings are spontaneous and rise up from within us. But long ago, psychology learned that to a large extent, the opposite is true. Emotions are mostly created by our thoughts and thoughts about behaviors. That led to one of the best, popular “shrinky” sayings, “Fake it till you make it.” (Of course, that’s not the only cause, just he major one.)

    One of my clients admitted that when her husband began to make love to her, her mind began to plan the grocery list for the next day. How sexy is that? Her culture taught her that a woman’s job was to be a receptacle for her husband’s penis. So her early learning was reasserting itself.

    In addition, most of us older folk were raised in sex-negative public atmosphere. Perhaps, as we age, some of those early childhood learnings try to push their way back into operation.

    Another thought. Perhaps “Turned Off” could instigate some time with sensate focus. Sensate focus at its basic level does not include intercourse. It is just a loving exchange of information, discovering what feels good with no expectations.

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