unhappy senior couple sitting on sofa at home

I am 65 and get erections like I did at 20. My problem—like you’ve written, after menopause, sex changes for some women including my wife.  I’ve never cheated, but I resent the fact that she has unilaterally withdrawn from sex to the point I no longer wish to try with her. And yes I am not giving up my sex life. I would never leave my wife but having half a life from now to the day I die is not an option. What can one do?


  • Michael Castleman says:

    I’m very sorry to learn of your predicament. In my view, marriage is a sexual relationship, and the two spouses have a responsibility to negotiate a partner sex frequency both can live with more or less comfortably. In my opinion, neither husband nor wife can unilaterally withdraw from all partner sex. Of course, in many relationships—like yours—that happens. It’s cruel. So I don’t blame you for seriously considering having your needs met elsewhere.

    My suggestions:

    First, suggest that your wife join you in a brief course of sex therapy. It’s quite possible that her loss of libido reflects not just menopause, but also perhaps dissatisfaction with the way your lovemaking has proceeded all these years. In discussions with you, she might not be able to find the words to tell you what has turned her off. She may cringe at the possibility of hurting your feelings. Sex therapists are very good at drawing people out about what they like and dislike about sex. Sex therapy may break the logjam and might allow you and your wife to rediscover lovemaking with each other. To help persuade her to try it, I urge you to see the movie “Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. To find a sex 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. If she won’t go, you might consider seeing a sex therapist solo, and talking about your options.

    If sex therapy doesn’t restore partner sex at a frequency you consider reasonable, then you face a decision about stepping out from your marriage. It’s a big step. If you decide to take it, you have to decide if you’ll tell your wife. If you do and she’s okay with it, everything is above board, and you and your wife are free to negotiate how often you visit your girlfriend, if you ever go away for weekends together, etc. Sometimes this type of consensual non-monogamy works. If it works for your marriage, you have a completely honorable path forward—no lying, no secrecy, your wife’s full knowledge.

    But quite often, consensual non-monogamy doesn’t fly. Despite the fact that your wife denies you all partner sex, she may still feel outraged that you want to step out. In that case, I would discourage you from pursuing a side relationship with anyone you might describe as a “girlfriend.” Such relationships may bite you, for example, if you and your gf are out somewhere and run into someone your wife knows. Of if your gf starts making demands for more of your time.

    For secret non-monogamy, it’s usually better to find a sex worker you feel comfortable with and can visit however often you wish. One place you might start is Eros Guide (eros.com). It lists escorts in almost all 50 states. With sex workers, you don’t go out. You visit them and leave, so there’s no risk of running into anyone who might reveal your infidelity. Of course, you should use condoms. Most sex workers insist on them. But in the worst case, say you contract a sexual infection. If you’re having no sex with your wife, she can’t get any infections you pick up, and you can be treated discreetly. Most locales have public health clinics that treat these infections confidentially so you don’t have to visit your doctor. And if you recoil from sex workers who want you in and out in 10 minutes, look for a provider who offers the “girlfriend experience” (GFE)—some conversation and warmth in addition to you know what.

    I’m not advocating that you step out. But since you’re already on the brink, I hope these suggestions are helpful.

    I wish you great sex—whoever you have it with.

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