Not long ago I was reading article after article on women my age who thought sex with their partner was something to be devotedly avoided. They were simply not interested in physical intimacy. Explanations abounded. Low libido. Exhaustion. Emotionally empty relationships. But the bottom line was that many of these women seemed okay with the idea that they weren’t having much or any sex. Some of them even felt that this was the way marriages went after a time. Every time I read one of these pieces in the paper or magazine, I would ask my husband, “Who the hell are these people? Do I know women like this? Do I have friends, relatives or acquaintances with marriages like this? Underneath contented exteriors are there lifeless relationships swirling all about us?” And then yesterday, I ran across a review of a new book by Bob and Susan Berkowitz about middle-aged married men who would also rather not have sex to the point where they weren’t. Of course, that explains how women are getting away with not having sex. Their husbands are not interested either. They are impotent from all manner of medication: anti-depressants and Rogaine to name just two. Or they are angry with their wives for all manner of things and are with-holding sex – though I am wondering if their wives notice. And, of course, they are too busy with all manner of Internet porn (honestly, you should see some of the google searches that bring people here of all places -the ultimate in yuckiness) to bother with their fat wives. Yes, one of the top three reasons men shun their wives sexually is that they have gotten fat (the women, although I see a great number of men who should spend more time minding their own BMI’s). I could gloat and feel vindicated about my weight pieces from last week, but it would be a hollow victory given the overall orgasm drought. It almost makes climate change a less pressing priority.
When I read about the lack of sex in marriage these days, I am tempted to write about my own experiences. Why not? I hint about them enough. But I won’t. It’s just not my life alone. (And sometimes my step-daughter reads this blog and she would need a mind’s eye scoop after.) I will say that I have found marriage more sexually satisfying than my long ago single girl days. You remember those free-wheeling 1980’s? But there is nothing that compares with intimate sex. Making love should be more than a euphemism. It is the kind you can only have with someone who knows the real you. Can make you laugh. Finish your thoughts. Have in-depth conversations that range from the grocery list to string theory. In a single sitting. How can you truly let go with someone who hasn’t folded your underwear, endured the smell of your farts or understands that even though you can’t say the word “clitoris”, you definitely want him to give it his full attention?
According the Berkowitz’s, somewhere between 6 months and 3 years, sex goes bye-bye. It has to, according to them. But why? And what do they mean that sex “goes”? Does that mean it slows down? Becomes less frequent? Goes on a long holiday? Gets really bad? My personal opinion is that too many people buy into the notion that sex is spontaneous. A gesture. A glance. Ignition to blast off. People put more thought into where they are going to eat out, and what movie they should see than to what will go on in their bedroom (or on the sofa, maybe the kitchen counter, or in the shower).
Mr. Berkowitz remarks as well that most people spend only 3% of their time thinking about sex. I am going to assume that this includes people who are not having any. I wonder, how this can be measured? The Berkowitz’s apparently interviewed a multitude of therapists and surveyed 4000 couples who weren’t having sex. Kind of a skewed demographic, I think. I spend way more than 3% of my time having impure thoughts, middle-aged as I am. And withholding old farts hunched over their computers gawking at women who are much less likely to have sex with them than their wives are probably devoting more than 3% of their brain cells to the subject as well. What an irony that in a country that is sex obsessed, those legally and morally sanctioned to have sex – in accordance with Holy American Family Values as preached at us – aren’t getting any.
4 thoughts on “Sex and the Middle-aged Married Couple”
Living in a sexless marriage is very frustrating and hurtful. My wife and I have struggled with intimacy issues for the last 10 to 12 years (coinciding with the birth of our 3rd child)with one “dry spell” lasting 15 months.
She has no interest in sex and no sexual desire (no fantasies, thoughts
nor “urge” – she doesn’t masturbate). She can take it or leave it and told me that she doesn’t miss it and could remain celibate (at 45 !!).
However, when we have sex she enjoys it she just has no “urge”. We have tried marriage counseling a couple of times but never seem to get to the cause. I think it is a combination of the fact that she never real had a sex drive and our emotional connection is lacking.
She refuses to speak to her OBGYN and avoids discussions about our sex life at all costs. My sex drive used to border on hypersexuality due to my uncontrolled bi-polar hypomania. This led me to “act out” sexually and patronize strip clubs, adult bookstores, phone sex, x-rated dvd’s,
massage parlors and then escorts (I could understand what was going on with Spitzer). My bi-polar has been under control for 3 years now due to medication and I am embarrased and regret my behavior to no end (my wife knew of or suspected some of the behavior but didn’t realize the extent – I think).
I asked her if she would like to develop a mutually satisfactory sex life again and she said that she would. She agreed to a “compromise” to have sex 2 to 3 times per month but that was 4 months ago and we have had sex twice. If I asked her about this she wouldn’t even realize the frequency.
I am afraid that I have to resign myself to a no sex (less than 10 times per year) or low sex (less than 25 times per year).
I would prefer closer to the average of 86 times per year. This will become less important and as I age and at some point I may experience sexual dysfunction (ED) and I’m sure she wouldn’t want me to take Viagra or Cialas. I love my wife and I will work hard on my own to help improve the situation and if not I will try not to stray until I reach an age where it won’t matter.
I know that sexless marriages have become an epidemic and occur in about 1 in 5 couples but that is no consolation. It can destroy a marriage or leave one partner feeling distraught most of the time. I hope that the next generation can be educated on how to have a health mutually satisfying sex lofe with their spouse.
for me, it was around the 7 year point that i gave up on sex with my husband… stuck it out m-u-u-u-u-c-h longer than that for a variety of reasons.
several years back on the dating scene – and have only tripped over one man that keeps me coming back. unfortunately, he lives 500 miles away.
others? usually by the end of the first month of sex, i can fast forward and see myself getting bored… and i punch out shortly thereafter.
agree that the intimacy is the key – that vulcan mind meld thing, intellect, humor, mental agility, passion, curiosity…
so in the meantime… [ahem] … “NEXT!”
I think it is probably easier to follow the hunter/gather model when coupling is just that. The younger we are, it seems, the less likely we are to base our mating choices on things like emotional and intellectual compatibility and satisfaction. It’s mostly about attraction and sex.
When I was young and just dating, I lost personal interest in the guys I dated quite quickly. I had nothing to say to them and found what they had to say or were interested in stupid and dull. It wasn’t until I met Will that I found a man that I didn’t wonder a couple of hours into a date when the hell he was going to go home. And I found that again with Rob. How lucky am I? But, it’s not luck. It was knowing what I wanted – finally.
I had a lengthy relationship before I was married and with both those men I lost interest in them sexually at around the four year mark which coincided with the first birthday of each of my sons.
stephen and I were together for 8 years and my desire for him just kept on escalating. despite his illness we still made love frequently right up until 6 days before he died.
it’s interesting that you bring up the issue of men withholding sex as I have a girlfriend who twice married men who fell into that category. the point you make about those who prefer surfing the net for porn is an important one also.
perhaps there are intimacy issues at stake in those examples but I think our bodies are still programmed like cavemen to hunt and procreate and move on