QUESTION: At 44, I married a man ten years my senior. I love him, but our sex life makes me unhappy. I am a passionate person and want to make love several times a week, but he shrinks from me. When we do have sex, he is detached, as if he’s going through the motions. I often lie awake crying afterwards. He says he loves me more than anyone, but “just isn’t very physical” and is too old to change. What should I do?
ANSWER: There will be people who, on reading your letter, will feel you should be grateful for what you have. “Sex isn’t everything,” they’ll say, before telling you to be content with a restricted erotic life (at least you have one) and a committed, loving spouse.
If only physical passion were that easy to rationalise.
The fact is that amorous personalities feel fulfilled only when their desire is returned. It’s soul-destroying to be rejected by the person you lust after most.
Any counsellor will tell you that sexual attraction is a crucial glue in a marriage. Without it, even the firmest partnership can feel flimsy.
Sex therapist Andrew G. Marshall wrote that therapists describe a relationship as “sex-starved” if you make love fewer than ten times a year, while “low sex is defined as every other week”. This should make chastening reading for spouses who withdraw from intimacy for months.
There are no quick fixes. Your husband is not too old for passion, but he’s old enough to know his erotic disposition. It would be unusual if he changed his entire system of motivation now. You could try marriage guidance or make it clear that if his approach doesn’t change a little, he runs the risk of you straying. This is a message all sexually neglectful spouses need to hear: you can’t expect your partner to abstain just because you do.
However, you have to accept your husband’s limitations, just as he must comprehend your ardour. Your despair will be lightened once you recognise you both love one another and are trying to make the union work. There’s also solace in recognising this is a common problem: no one person can provide you with everything you need.
Only good communication and compromise will see you through this difficult time.
If you don’t speak up, your tears will turn to anger - and nothing destroys a marriage quicker than pent-up recriminations. - Daily Mail