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Ask Joan: “My husband wants sex constantly. I don’t.”

Joan Price, Senior Planet’s Sex Columnist, counsels a woman whose husband’s desire for “instant sex” borders on assault. 

Is it normal for men in their sixties to want sex so badly they just force it on you? Today I headed to the kitchen to make brownies. My husband was standing there—pants unzipped, waiting for action. He grabbed me and it was all over.

My husband does nothing to warm me up or show affection—no hand holding during the week, no warm embraces. Nothing. Then boom—he wants sex, and he wants it now. He goes straight for the main event and if I’m busy or not interested, he just pushes himself on me. I usually comply just to get it over. I have no feelings. I’m just not interested.

We’ve been married 40 years. He has the sex drive of a 20-year-old. But my sex drive pretty much disappeared at menopause. We also moved at that time, and I took a new, stressful job with a long commute. I still work and have a hard time relaxing, which makes me even less interested in sex. But he doesn’t try to help me relax. He just wants instant sex. I am as frustrated with his attitude as he is with me not being interested.

I have tried talking to him, but he won’t discuss it. He says he has nothing to say. Then he finds something else to do and ignores me.

In the beginning, it was not one-sided. We both had strong sexual desire and enjoyed sex. He was a good lover, generous in making me happy. But now, it’s all about his self-gratification. If he really wanted to make me happy, we would rarely have sex at all.

Sex also slowed down because of our physical conditions. He is diabetic and it takes him a lot longer to get an erection. I don’t have much feeling down there anymore, so it takes longer for me to climax as well.

In one of your articles, you talked about responsive desire and that’s where I’m at. He has figured out that if he waits for me to initiate and be spontaneous, sex won’t happen. So he pushes me whether I’m interested or not. He thinks if he does that, he’ll gradually get me turned on.

I still love him despite his actions. I feel sorry for him because we had good sex for many years, and he really misses it. If the only way he’s going to get sex out of me is to push it on me, then that’s what he does. At times I get angry and push him away. Then he backs off. But then I feel like I’ve let him down.

Are most men this age this way? Does he have an unusually high sex drive? Should I just continue to go through the motions and comply?

—Husband Wants Instant Sex

Joan responds:

No, most men this age do not sexually assault their wives, which is what you describe here. You do not need to agree to sex you do not want, especially forceful sex. That’s a clear no.

But there’s more going on here than simply halting his instant sexual gratification. Your sex drive waned at menopause and hasn’t returned. That’s not unusual, but it doesn’t have to end sex in a marriage. When you stopped desiring sex, did the two of you discuss what that meant to the future of your relationship? Were you willing to work on bringing sex back into the marriage in ways that both of you would enjoy? Or was it “I’m done!”?

Your husband is understandably frustrated and unhappy because you haven’t wanted sex with him for well over a decade. If you read this column, you know that I often address the anguish of readers whose mates don’t want sex anymore. It’s agony when one person still has sexual needs and desires and the other has no interest. However, sexual frustration is not an excuse for sexual assault. He has no right to sex without your enthusiastic consent.

You wisely mention that you experience responsive desire, not spontaneous desire, but your husband misunderstands that concept. Yes, it does mean that once you get started, desire can kick in. But “getting started” means doing the things that arouse you and bring you pleasure—not bullying his way into intercourse and hoping that turns you on. It won’t.

He still has a high sex drive. You need a relationship filled with affection and relaxation before sex appeals to you. He wants immediate gratification. You say he won’t discuss it, but how can the two of you live this way? I admit I was surprised when you said you’re still in love with him, since the relationship sounds hostile and coercive.

I often recommend counseling for couples who have hit a roadblock. You two don’t just have a roadblock—you have a mile-high boulder between you. Please get counseling to learn to talk openly about this important issue, stop the assaults, and find common ground if you want to stay together. Show your husband this column.

Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.

 

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