My husband and I are very much in love, but he’s 59 and doesn’t want to have sex any longer. I am 11 years younger, and can’t accept giving up having sex with my husband. Help!


  • Michael Castleman says:

    I’m sorry you’re struggling with this issue, but you’re by no means alone. Desire differences are a leading reason couples consult sex therapists.

    There are two kinds of desire differences: (1) both lovers want to make love but at distressingly different frequencies, or (2) one wants a sexual relationship and the other has no libido or says “I’m done with sex.” The former is easier to deal with, and sex therapists have developed a program that usually helps. For the details, read “You’re Insatiable!” “You never want to!” The Sex Therapy Program for Resolving Desire Differences.

    But it sounds like you find yourself in the latter conundrum—you want a sexual marriage and your husband wants to retire from sex permanently. Unfortunately, that situation is harder to deal with.

    He’s at an age when medical conditions may be preoccupying him, for example, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, or others. He may believe he’s not well enough for sex, and as a result, has lost his libido. If so, you can reassure him that where there’s life, there can be sex, maybe not the kind of sex he had at 30, but chronic medical conditions need not interfere with lovemaking or erotic fulfillment. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. For more on this, read Great Sex Despite Chronic Medical Conditions.

    He’s also at an age where erection issues may be hitting him below the belt. Many (most?) men come of age believing that sex MEANS intercourse, and when they start having erection issues that interfere with it, they think that sex is over for them. They feel embarrassed about getting into bed with the woman they love, the woman whose allure used to raise major erections, but doesn’t anymore. But all older men develop erection issues, and the good news is that erection difficulties and even erectile dysfunction (no erection despite extended masturbation) need not interfere with deeply satisfying sex. Older men just need to adjust their expectations away from intercourse and toward other types of erotic pleasure: hand massage, oral, and/or sex toys. For more on this, read Great Sex Without Intercourse. And if he’s distressed about erection difficulties, you might also read: Erection Myths—the The Truth About Erections, Weak Erections or ED? Erectile Dysfunction: Causes, and Erectile Dysfunction: Treatments, and the .

    It’s also quite possible that he’s not dealing with any chronic medical conditions and that he’s made his peace with his age-related erection changes. It’s possible that he just doesn’t want to have sex anymore. On the one hand, no one should ever feel pressured or forced to be sexual. But on the other, you have needs, too, and for the marriage to work, he should at least try to accommodate them. As I mentioned, the most challenging desire differences involve lost libido or one spouse declaring, “I’m done.” If that’s the case, then I urge you to consult a sex therapist, ideally as a couple, but if he won’t go, then on your own. If you go together, the therapist won’t tell him to satisfy you and won’t tell you to stop wanting lovemaking. The therapist will help you explore your issues and see if there’s any way the two of you can reach a happy, mutual accommodation. If you go solo, the therapist can help you explore your situation and make the best of it. For more on sex therapy read An Intimate Guide to Sex Therapy. To find a therapist near you, visit the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, or the American Board of Sexology.

    Good luck and please let me know how things turn out.

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