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LOVE LETTERS

My wife’s sex drive is gone

We’re in our 70s. Is it over?

Love Letters

Love Letters

Q. I feel stuck. I am in my mid-70s and my wife is in her early 70s. We’ve been married for well over 40 years and have children, all grown and doing well. We are both retired and quite active.

My wife recently informed me that she no longer has a desire or an urge for sex. Even though she hadn’t initiated sex for many years, her comment took me by surprise. I know I’m no longer in my 20s or 30s or even my 50s or 60s, but I still do have those desires and needs. I know that if I were to initiate something in the bedroom, my brain will tell me that she was just doing it for me, and honestly that really takes much of the enjoyment out of it for me. (My brain would not be stimulated, and it would also affect what’s below as well — something at my age I can hardly afford.)

She tells me she’s not looking for another man (or woman) — that she still loves me, but she has just lost that internal sexual desire. She tells me some of her girlfriends feel the same. I have not reached that point in my life and I hope not to. I’m not looking for another woman or another relationship, and I think my resentment will start to grow (if it hasn’t started to already). I love my wife, my family, and my life, and I’m just worried how it’s going to affect me, my wife, and our relationship for the future.

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What to do? Even if I tell her how I feel, the words (and her feelings) have been spoken. There seems to be no going back. I feel stuck.

STUCK

A. I was on the phone with a sex therapist the other day while reporting a story. I learned many interesting things about how she helps couples — and why they visit her to begin with.

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The more I discover about this kind of counseling, in general, the more I realize how inclusive it can be. It doesn’t have to be about getting to a place where everyone is having perfect, amazing sex (whatever that means). The real experts seem to help people adjust to evolving physical and emotional needs, and the goal doesn’t have to be returning to the past.

What couples might discover, with assistance, is a better way to connect in the present.

I wonder if your wife might consider seeking this kind of help with you. Assure her that this wouldn’t be about convincing her to like something that no longer interests her; it’s all about getting information, learning about bodies and minds, and finding out how other couples find ways to connect when one person’s sex drive is much higher than the other’s. There are sex therapists who have experience helping people over 70. They know a lot about this stuff, and they offer a safe place to talk and ask questions.

If your wife isn’t open to joining you, see about going on your own. You can pursue this information, and maybe she’ll join you for one appointment. That would be a start.

In the meantime, you can ask her if there are other ways to connect. Is she open to closeness? Cuddling? When is she interested? Ask how she likes to show and receive affection these days. Maybe something she says will surprise you — or give both of you some ideas.

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I wish I could tell you a magic answer. I can say that there are many resources out there, and if you have the means, take advantage of them. Bodies are always changing, and we adjust. Love Letters has 40-somethings who write in about sex, saying similar things, especially after having children. Sometimes they fear their sex lives will never get to a better place. Often, it just becomes different, I think.

I always hope that people can ask, together, “How might this evolve?” Talk to your wife about how to best answer that question.

MEREDITH


READERS RESPOND:

I am almost 70. Been married for the second time, this time for 18 years. I simply do not want sex anymore. In my lifetime, I have had my share, and it does not matter to me at all anymore. WHY does everyone think we ALL want that when we get older? Just because we don’t, it does not mean there is anything wrong with us. There is far more to life than sex!

STEPH10


As someone almost your wife’s age, if a woman gets a lot of enjoyment from sex when young, they’re going to want it when they’re old, too. My current romance is of shorter duration than yours, but only because I was widowed. Interest in sex was a big reason I started dating again. I hope your wife will consider therapy.

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RANDOMKINDNESS


I would try and work on this together, but also you can satisfy your needs alone for a bit while this is looked into. Don’t stray and try to be supportive. Perhaps this is the way forward for this couple.

TRACYBC93


Ethical non-monogamy. This is where couples agree to “play” outside their partnership with the other’s blessing.

PAULSIEG


There are many reasons this can happen to couples, but if you both previously enjoyed a mutually satisfying sex life, I believe she’d be feeling the loss too. It seems to me there’s a lot more to discuss here. A sex therapist is a good place to start as Mere suggests.

MIDGE-

Send your own relationship and dating questions to loveletters@globe.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.