As a doctor with more than 35 years of practice and a specialization in hormones related to age, I can tell you that not a day goes by without a patient telling me that he no longer considers his partner to be sexually desirable.
Individual sexuality takes shape and changes throughout the different ages and phases of life, and is deeply connected with intimacy.
After decades of marriage, the vast majority of couples find themselves living as brothers and sisters in fairly asexual relationships. It is much more common than you think.
Many couples in this moment of life have made a great investment of time and emotion in their marriages. They had children, they lived together for more than 20 years and they identify themselves through the marriage and family that they created with this couple.
Dr. Erika Schwartz has 35 years of practice and a special experience in hormones related to age. The doctor says that not a day goes by without a patient telling him that he no longer finds his partner sexually desirable (file photo)
For the outside world, they often show that things are fine and that they are happy, but in private, with no one to impress or lie to, the image may not always be so optimistic.
Some couples are in cold war mode, where they barely talk. Some spouses argue constantly and can hardly support each other's company. And, of course, they are almost never intimate.
Too often, these couples have quietly agreed to stay together for a multitude of reasons in addition to what really matters: the intimate emotional connection they once shared.
Money is the most common factor. Often, people of the couple can not afford to live apart. The next most common reason I hear for a couple to stay together at this time in life is their children or grandchildren and other family members.
They worry that family members will be surprised, hurt or angry if they divorce and both spouses tend to fear losing connection with children, who often take sides when a break occurs. And sometimes, they are simply too embarrassed to admit to their friends and colleagues that they have nothing left to keep them together. Although 40% of marriages end in divorce, it still has the stigma of failure.
Dr. Erika says that after decades of marriage, the vast majority of couples find themselves living as brothers and sisters in fairly sexless relationships (file photo)
As people enter the winter of their sexuality (menopause, andropause (the male menopause) and the loss of visibility and status in a culture obsessed with youth, most remain sad and fearful of growing old alone.
But you do not have to give up your marriage, or be trapped in a lifeless shell of your former union, just because sexual passion has diminished. In contrast, all couples can take steps to restore intimacy to their relationships.
Take my patient Priscilla. She came to see me when she felt completely miserable. A mother who stays at home had gained weight after her children left home and felt lonely and depressed. Menopause did not help things. Her husband Joe had always worked long hours as an accountant; He found himself drinking more, and his sex life was gone.
One day, Priscilla came to see me in panic. "I'm sure Joe is having an affair with his secretary," she said, sobbing.
But you do not have to give up your marriage, or get stuck in a lifeless shell of your former union, just because sexual passion has diminished.
When I asked him how he knew that, Priscilla told me: "He never sees me and returns home later than ever."
I reminded him that he was not telling me anything new about Joe. He always came home late and did not pay much attention even before the children left. This was the pattern of their relationship.
Priscilla thought it over and decided that I could be right, but the sudden possibility that Joe had been cheating gave her the motivation to wake up and change her life. She not only wanted a true relationship with her husband, but also wanted to have a passionate sexual love story with him.
Then, Priscilla changed her focus. She started spending more time with Joe. She began to meet him for lunch, joined a local gym, and lost a stone and a half for a period of three months. And most importantly, she started talking to her husband and spending time with him.
But the doctor insists that he does not have to give up his marriage, or stay trapped in a lifeless shell of his former union, just because the sexual passion has diminished (file photo)
At first, Joe was surprised by the change in Priscilla. I had no idea how to relate to her. Suddenly, his wife was a different person. She dressed better and came up with many fun things to do together. He began to respond in kind.
It did not take long for him to start bringing her flowers every week, something he had not done since they were newlyweds. She wrote him some small notes and left them on his computer. In response, he began sending text messages with his love messages.
When Priscilla suggested they leave for a weekend, Joe agreed. There was more sex among them on that weekend than in ten years. The passion, and with it the intimacy, had returned.
There was more sex among them on that weekend than in ten years. Passion, and with it intimacy, had returned
They had conquered their empty nest syndrome and went to the other side with an intimate and loving relationship worthwhile, and sex to boot.
But, of course, sex is not the answer for everyone. For many, after a certain age, it is not even desirable.
Many people tell me they want company, and that sex is no longer an important ingredient in marriage as they get older. That does not always mean that a marriage is condemned.
Sometimes things work simply because the two people become best friends and share life experiences; they travel, they work and they form a family together, they experience losses and successes, and, of course, they share vacations, family and friends.
For them, passion is no longer a priority, and that's fine, if both parties agree. My patient Harry is a typical example. Married for 33 years, he and his wife June have a daughter who lives in their home after leaving college, and they are also taking care of their wife's older parents.
With some couples things work simply because the two people become best friends and share life experiences; they travel, they work and they form a family together, they experience losses and successes, and, of course, they share vacations, family and friends
He and June are still working and feeling stressed all the time.
"I still love June deeply, but the weight on her shoulders has taken a huge toll.
"When we have a moment to go out and take a breath and go see a movie or go out to dinner, we really enjoy the company of others." But when I look at her, I see an old and tired woman, even though she is only 55 years old. I hate myself for being so superficial, but it's true.
"I know I'm not a cheat either, but it was always me who started the sex in our relationship, and lately I'm not interested because I just do not feel as attracted to her as I used to, it's not like I'm going to run away and find a lover of 25 years, I do not want that either.
"I wonder if this is just the end of the road for us as a sexual partner, and maybe that's fine, too bad nobody talks about it or tells us not to worry, that we're normal."
In these cases, the marriage becomes an arrangement that can work for one or both partners so that they can maintain a facade to the outside world
Harry and June have achieved a true intimacy without sexual passion. But for many other couples, the crack is even deeper.
In these cases, marriage becomes an arrangement that can work for one or both partners so that they can maintain a facade to the outside world. It's just a way to save face, and that's what my patient Jane chose.
"Sex was not the most important part of our marriage, even when we were young," Jane told me. & # 39; None of us had a great sex drive. Still, it was good and we made an emotional and verbal commitment to spend the rest of our lives together in front of our families and friends.
"We got married at age 25, and now it's almost 30 years later, we raised the children together, Paul is a good father, and he usually did it at home for dinner, and he was interested in everything children did I worked in an office and made friends and I always felt that my life was fine.
In some cases, the marriage becomes an arrangement that can work for one or both of the partners so that they can maintain a facade to the outside world. It becomes a way to save the face (file photo)
"A few years ago, I began to suspect that Paul was cheating on me." He did not even try to hide it.When he was on business trips, he added a few days or even a week.Somehow, all his business trips began on weekends.
& # 39; Almost always works late. For my part, I knew that things were flawed, and the idea of having sex with him had become a total distraction for me over time. So my solution to knowing that I was having sex somewhere else was to ignore it.
"In fact, it was a relief that I did not want to have sex with me and I was not asking for it, it was an easy way out, and I did not feel it was my fault, I am now in my 50s, I am in menopause and the children are gone. I will never leave Paul and I hope he does not leave me either, as long as he does not fall in love with one of his adventures, I'm fine.
The number of women who talk to me so casually about this type of marriage arrangement is surprising. Why do so many women feel it is okay to accept a relationship without love and disconnected?
Most people stay together because they fear being alone. Having an appointment in later life may seem like a grim prospect, and the idea of having sex with a new man, taking off your clothes and letting a stranger see your aging body is terrifying for most women.
This was certainly the reason why another of my patients, Stephanie, decided to stay with her husband.
"This is not what I imagined my life would be when we promised to love one another" until death do us part, "he told me.
Do you want to know why your husband, in the energetic past and obsessed with sexuality, is grumpy and lethargic? It's probably because he's afraid to talk about his sexual desire.
The sex they had enjoyed when they got married for the first time was something she had assumed she could always count on. But three children and three decades later, at age 57, she discovered that she no longer felt attracted to her husband.
However, he certainly was not going to quit, he was too aware that divorced men of his own age were dating women 30 years younger, and he feared that no one was interested in her: "If I leave Adam I'll be alone," guaranteed! "Men may also lose interest in the physical side of a marriage, do you want to know why your husband, in the energetic past and obsessed with sexuality, is grumpy and lethargic? Probably because he is afraid to talk about his declining sexual desire. , so you prefer to keep your nose in a book or sit in front of the TV or just make the cross with you.
His low testosterone makes him feel old, afraid that his good times are behind him.
The result is that he is dissatisfied and sexually absent. Psychologically, men in andropause complain of depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, memory loss and reduced mental function. And they are unlikely to talk about sex, because they can no longer act the way they did at 30.
As a result, many men think it is better to avoid the subject, and intimacy, altogether, which of course only serves to make marriages fall apart faster.
From the medical point of view, low testosterone is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease and even Alzheimer's.
My patient Jason was a typical example. He and his wife Marie had always had a good sex life, but when he was in his 60s, he discovered that he had difficulty having sex or even having sex.
& # 39; At the beginning we try to ignore it. But after a few months of frustration and embarrassment, I began to think that maybe it had something to do with the medication I was taking for high blood pressure.
"My doctor said there was no way he could cause my problem, he said he was my age and he prescribed Viagra and then Cialis every day. [another treatment for erectile disfunction]. We tried both, but I really hated them. The drugs took away all the fun and spontaneity of our sex life.
The doctor also admitted that most people stay together because they fear being alone. Subsequent citations may seem a grim prospect for many people who age and care for themselves (file photo)
"I started to get angry, which reduced my libido even more, I could not talk about it with my friends, believe me, men only talk about sex when they are having a lot and can boast about it." None of my friends have spoken of not being able to act .
& # 39; The doctor I saw was useless; He told me he could not do anything but take drugs, or consider injections in the penis!
"One day, I was on a plane and I picked up one of those magazines on the back of the seat, I had an article about a medical clinic that dealt with problems like mine, it was a godsend, I made an appointment next week.
"The doctor did blood tests and other tests and told me that I needed to take testosterone pills with hormones." One day after receiving my first shot, I felt like I had before.
"Now, a year later, the problem with sex is just a bad memory, Marie and I have good sex again, and I feel 35. & # 39;
While treatments and renewed attention to intimacy may arouse sexual passion again in many cases, if we really feel that the sexual part of our marriage is over, it may be time to admit the truth and redefine fellowship as the new norm. of the relationship.
Or maybe it's time to admit that you want something different. Ultimately, you must decide what matters most to you: it's your life, after all. You can choose honesty, communication and a real intimate relationship or you can choose to leave sex and work to create intimacy based on your history and joint friendship.
The redefinition of marriage in different stages is the key to success. If in our 50s and 60s we use the same definition we used when we were 20 years old, we will fall short and feel dissatisfied and bored, and start looking for a better deal outside of marriage.
Instead, I urge you to try to work from within to shore up the institution of marriage that you have created and in which you have spent decades, and instead of demolishing it, feed it. Work on being closer to your partner, being present and being tender with them, and intimacy will follow.
Adapted from The Intimacy Solution: Life Lessons in Sex & Love by Dr. Erika Schwartz, published by Permuted Press at £ 12.99. Copyright © Erika Schwartz 2018. To buy this book for £ 10.39 (20% discount) call 0844 571 0640 or visit mailshop.co.uk/books. Offer valid until 09/20/2018, p & p is free on orders over £ 15.
What are the ten steps to intimacy?
1. Learn to communicate without anger, guilt or defensiveness. Learn to see the situation from your partner's perspective.
2. Learn to accept and love one another for what you are now, not because of what you could have been or would prefer it to be the other person.
3. Do not stick your head in the sand when you know there are problems. Facing the truth: lying or lying or any other deception has to be confronted when it happens. Things do not improve on their own; time does not fix anything It only makes the burden of lying more heavy. You must do the work to reap the benefits.
4. Do not treat your spouse with disdain; You have spent too many years together to end up in a cold war.
5. Redefine your values and what the relationship means to you.
6. Do not act as if everything is perfect just to save face.
7. Laugh and stop criticizing.
8. Do not be submissive. It only serves to create resentment.
9. Spend time together and check yourself. Look at how fast you start to feel happier and how fast your partner starts to notice you and treat you well.
10. Concentrate honestly on how you behave in marriage, without ifs, buts or maybes.
The lonely readers who opened their hearts
After Bel Mooney wrote about how men also suffer when a marriage lacks intimacy, we are overwhelmed by the answers. Here are your views, with hidden identities, about what maintains a strong relationship. . .
As a 48-year-old man who has been married for 22 years, I can say that this stereotype that women need emotions and that men need sex is complete rubbish.
Men are much more sensitive than the so-called experts say.
Personally, I crave my wife's love more than anything else. The problem is that many men find it difficult to talk about their feelings and use sex as a way to show that they care and love their wives.
Some wives see this as "everything my husband wants is sex." Couples need to talk about their feelings for each other.
A relationship can never be unilateral: you need to talk to understand yourself.
As I got older I learned that it's not about quantity, but about quality, when it comes to sex.
You do not have sex, you make love to each other.
An older woman needs more than sex. . . She wants love and affection, and it is due respect. Keep her happy, and life at home is much easier. Ask my wife!
Women simply do not understand that for men, sex is communication.
Sex is not only physical, it is the expression of love that a man has.
When men have wives who do not want to have sex, it is the same as a woman who has a man who ignores them and treats them coldly.
After being married for 35 years, it is sad to see how a couple separates and I often wonder why this happens.
I wonder if lust and sex have been the only thing in the minds of many people when they form an initial relationship.
If it's all you have in common, then I guess it's inevitable that the relationship will not last.
Too many people are not tolerant enough, lack willpower or simply do not have the commitment to endure all the ups and downs you experience in a close relationship.
I am not risking myself with those who choose not to marry, but this could be one of the reasons why many refuse to marry, because they know from the beginning that they can not commit unconditionally to marriage. votes
To be honest, since I got married, sex has been pretty thin.
Even so, we love each other, we have a lot of love and we make ourselves laugh.
I would like fantastic sex, yes, but I count my blessings every day.
My wife and I went wrong but we stayed together for a variety of reasons: children, property, etc.
We did not have sex for 20 years and I thought I was impotent.
Then, at 64, I met a really beautiful woman of 40 years, a divorcee. We start a relationship and guess what. . . I could not have enough sex.
I started the divorce process and went to live with the woman. After two years, I felt that he was getting bored with me. I realized how much I loved my wife and I canceled the divorce.
My wife, to my amazement, gave me back. We are closer than ever, and sometimes we have sex. Love prevails over everything.
I always wanted affection, but I discovered that if I showed any sign of affection, it was taken for granted that affection meant sex.
It seems that my ex can not see that you can want affection without having to always turn it into sex.
I think that love is a lost art in the United Kingdom. The Hollywood nonsense of "The One" and eroticism have drowned out affection, companionship and unconditional support and perseverance.