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 email@example.com.
My wife and I are both 60 years old and have been married 35 years. About 14 years ago, our romance started to change. Before that, she would flirt and tease me during the day and wear sexy nighties. But I haven’t seen the glow in her eyes in years, and now we have almost no sex and no teasing or affectionate intimacy. If I’m lucky, she permits sex every two to three months for 15 minutes at night. She rushes to give me a quick orgasm, then sex is over. I’ve asked her to slow down so I can last longer and play more, but she ignores me. She makes me feel like she sees sex with me as just a duty.
She says she loves me but shows no interest in a regular romantic connection — I don’t think she has been attracted to me for years. She blames her lack of interest on early menopause in her 40s, but I think the changes started when she returned to work full time. I’ve questioned her about a co-worker who seems too interested in her – I don’t know whether she was attracted to him or maybe had an affair. I also found out about a relative who made inappropriate verbal advances and she hid that from me. She still won’t tell me the truth, as much as I question her.
She only has an orgasm when she plays with herself, never with me anymore. I used to give her plenty of orgasms, many times two or three in a row. I’ve tried to give her oral sex but she said no, she only wanted intercourse, so I gave up.
I have tried having conversations with her over the past 18 months about our lack of sex. We don’t seem to talk well in person, so I wrote her letters pouring out my feelings. But she never answered my letters – maybe she didn’t even read them. She never expressed her feelings verbally or even in a short reply.
I’ve tried suggesting ways we could tease and entice each other — role play in the bedroom and other things that we used to do — but she ignores me. I’ve sent her pictures at work of me with an erection or a short video of me masturbating, but nothing ever happened when she got home.
I am tired of trying. I feel like our problem will never get solved. Often I think I should just walk away to see if I can find happiness. —Unwanted
Thank you for sharing your story, Unwanted. Many couples experience decreased desire on the part of one partner, and it affects the whole relationship. The other partner feels unloved, undesired, unhappy and frustrated.
Here are some resources for more information about low sexual desire (also known as inhibited sexual desire) in committed relationships:
- “Understanding The Lack Of Sexual Desire in Your Marriage” by Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, PsychCentral
- “Learning to Lust” by Catherine Elton, Psychology Today
- “Inhibited Sexual Desire” by Sandy Calhoun Rice, Healthline
Couples can address inhibited sexual desire if both are willing to work on understanding why desire wanes and how to bring it back. (For some strategies, see “Getting Your Mojo Back.”
However, your story is particularly sad because it sounds as if your wife really isn’t interested in improving the sexual or romantic quality of your marriage. If she’s been withholding sex for years, trying to get it over with quickly every few months and isn’t willing to communicate or try to improve matters, I can’t see your situation improving except with outside help.
I have no way of knowing the reasons for her sexual avoidance. Yes, menopause might have started the problem, but there’s likely something else going on. The disinterest in sex with you could be medical or emotional, or it might be indicative of her unhappiness with the marriage. Your continued questioning about her coworker or the relative who made advances years ago probably made things worse — being cross-examined is far from sexy or romantic. She might have guessed that telling you the truth about the relative, for example, would just get you more upset. I doubt she wanted to receive penis photos or masturbation videos from you while she was at work! She might have found that sleazy or embarrassing, rather than arousing as you intended. All this combines into what she might see as desperate and unwanted attempts from you and what you see as avoidance of sex, romance, and communication on her part. You’ve got some big obstacles here.
What to do from here to find out if there’s a chance of improving – or even saving – your marriage? Counseling is essential. You don’t talk well together, you say, and when you write her letters, she ignores them. The best case scenario and maybe the only hope for your marriage would be seeing a therapist, sex therapist, or couples counselor together. This would enable both of you to express your needs and desires, guided by a professional who can teach you communication skills and strategies for improving your marriage. You might want to choose a sex therapist – a psychotherapist who specializes in sexual issues. You can find one in your region through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. It would also be helpful to have her check with her doctor about whether there’s a medical cause for her lack of sexual responsiveness.
If she won’t see a counselor with you, go alone. It will help you tremendously to have someone to talk to, a professional who will understand and guide you to figure out where to go from here. Your marriage and your peace of mind depend on getting counseling, in my opinion. I’m sorry that I don’t have any quick or easy solutions for you. I hope you’ll let us know what you do and whether you’re able to turn things around. I wish you the best. —Joan
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Joan Price is the author of the new “Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life”; the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex”; and the sexy memoir, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s blog, “Naked at Our Age,” and her Facebook page.