Patricia Redlich

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Wife Doesn't Want Sex

27th September, 2009


My wife and I are the same age, 65. We have been married for forty years. For the past ten years she has refused to sleep with me. It was she who properly introduced me to sex and taught me how to make it work for her. She really enjoyed it for so many years of our married life. So did I.

Now she has lost interest. She says she can't bear being touched by me. We are both healthy. I know she loves me and I love her. My heart is broken and I have told her so. But she is not for turning. Neither of us has ever been unfaithful. Is there anything I can do? Sex is not important. I just want her company.

Well, sex is important, but I know what you mean. It's the closeness that sex brings which you miss most. When the rule of 'no sex' enters a relationship, it usually includes a withdrawal from all physical affection. That makes boundaries easier to set. No misunderstandings. Yes, it's cruel. It's also cowardly. And it makes for a very emotionally lonely life. The sad thing is, both parties miss the cuddling, closeness and comfort.

Differing levels of sexual interest between husband and wife sets a challenge which few of us seem equipped to handle with any kind of sensitivity and kindness. And maybe for people of a certain age it carries a particular kind of sadness, because it becomes part of a more general sense of loss - or at least profound change - which comes with age. It always wounds deeply when a partner no longer desires us. If we're young, perhaps we can still turn heads, pull if we want to. But when a man is older? Or a woman?

Basically, neither men nor women are good at separating affection and intimacy from actual sexual intercourse, particularly when they have a history of being lovers. It's a huge step. Yet couples who love each other can, if one of them is ill. So perhaps it's first and foremost a question of accepting the validity of a partner not wanting to have sex for reasons other than obvious illness. Think about the husband who is too stressed to think straight, let alone feel lust. Or the menopausal woman who is crucified with hot flushes and a dry vagina. Or a general drop in libido, in either sex, which may have no apparent cause.

No, I'm not talking about giving up all hope of having sex again. I'm talking about handling the gaping hole which emerges when one partner pulls away. And I'm convinced two concepts hold the key, namely open acknowledgment of our vulnerability, and kindness, the kindness which makes sure that a partner is not left alone.

I hate it when people natter on about the importance of communication. So I won't go there. Engaging with someone enough to read their reality - their need, pain, anxiety, hope, is what matters. I suppose what I'm saying is that you have to try and lay yourself open to your wife - not about sex as such, but about the reality of your loneliness. She's blinded herself to you, because that is easier. The task is to kindle her kindness by letting her really see you.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design