As often happens, today’s reader question was a little long in the email, so I’m doing some summarizing first. The wife has been married a few short years to her husband, who is about twenty years older than she. He has some health issues, but not enough to keep him from sexual activity. However, he’s not pursuing or engaging in regular sexual intimacy with her.
Now here’s more about the issue written in her own words:
- In the mornings he lets me “take advantage” of what’s already there naturally. That provides a bit of the emotional connection that I need, but that does little for my sexual satisfaction.
- Rarely does he initiate, and any other times I offer to “take care of things” for him, he only tells me he wishes he could, but doesn’t feel like he can. I’ve found that if I can find him relaxed enough during the day, and I just do it without any conversation, he is usually surprised at the pleasurable results, so I’m somewhat doubting that he CAN’T — just that he doesn’t seem to WANT to.
- He doesn’t tell me as often that I’m pretty, but I don’t feel super UNpretty to him (put on a little weight because of health problems, but he at least ACTS like it doesn’t bother him).
- Being rejected so many times because he “can’t” leaves both of us feeling increasingly awkward. I totally get that with his age and somewhat low testosterone that he can’t pull it together ALL the time. And it’s not like I’ve got a super high sex drive either. But I’m struggling here.
- I try to take care of his needs at least once a week, or more… Meanwhile, I get to orgasm maybe 3 times a year, if I’m lucky (I know some others would be grateful for just that). I’m starting to feel undesirable, increasingly awkward in the sex department, and feeling like I’m letting HIM down, in addition to missing the flirting and “action” myself.
- Some of the factors I’ve considered are that he’s bored…or that he actually isn’t attracted to me, or that I’m not flirty enough, or that I’m not speaking his love language enough…, or his testosterone levels are worse than realized, or…?
I’ve definitely written several posts for higher-drive wives, and I’ll start by referring you to last week’s post in which I listed many of those. That could well be a place to start.
I also think it’s important to have a way to talk to your lower-drive spouse about your concerns. So check out my recent post for To Love Honor and Vacuum with 10 Tips for Talking to Your Husband About Your Sex Life and How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse.
However, I specifically want to address the issue of him being an older guy. This man is in his 50s, and it’s true that testosterone levels and sex drive can wane as a man ages. Let’s look at some facts about older husbands and sexuality.
Testosterone. Levels of testosterone are implicated in much of the decrease in sex drive among older men. But before you send your hubby to the doctor for Low-T, recognize that there could be risks with taking additional testosterone; some scientists have suggested that testosterone could cause growth in prostate cancer cells (although others deny this, so I suppose the jury’s out). Some men do have low enough levels to require treatment, but most men simply go through the normal dropping off of testosterone. From about 30 years on, testosterone lowers about one percent per year.
I encourage older men to go ahead and get their T-levels checked (it’s a simple blood test) and make sure you’re still in the normal range. Consult with your doctor to see if you need to pursue treatment.
But for most men, lower T simply means having a bit less energy, lower libido, and decreased frequency of full erections. However, none of that is an impediment to making love. Rather, what worked a decade ago isn’t going to work the same now. A flash of naked wife may not be enough to get all the engines revving, as much as a husband might enjoy that view. Be prepared that your lovemaking repertoire may need to change a little as you age. That’s not a bad thing. Indeed some husbands report that they appreciate their sex drive not being as overwhelming as it was in their early 20s and their ability to last for longer periods of time during sexual encounters.
A man can help maintain testosterone levels by keeping a healthy weight, regularly exercising, and getting consistent sleep. Yeah, so basically the prescription is “clean living.”
Erections. Taking advantage of waking-up-and-saying-hello erection is a good idea. These “morning glories” are actually called nocturnal penile tumescence, or NPT, and occur a few times per night. Why they occur is an interesting question, but one reason posed is that it’s the way a penis exercises to make sure everything stays in functioning order.
The point here is that if your man continues to have spontaneous erections during sleep and early in the morning, it’s a sign that he doesn’t have physically induced erectile dysfunction. His penis works just fine and can get hard enough for sexual intercourse.
That does not mean, however, that nothing changes about erections in older age, because it does. Getting an erection from sexual stimulation typically takes longer and the erection itself may not be as firm. Where once a young buck looked at a darling doe and quickly saluted, now it’s more like a slow-rise howdy. What sometimes happens, though, is a husband concludes that his lack of fast response means he’s not up for sex. Au contraire! His man part just needs more time and attention.
Try to explain the mechanics to your husband, letting him know how normal it is for older men to need additional foreplay. And then hey, celebrate that you two get to have more foreplay! What’s not to like about this situation? While his young self couldn’t hold out so long, Mr. Mature can take his sweet time making love and give his penis what it needs to come to full attention.
On your part, make sure you master turning him on to the point of deep sexual desire. Figure out how to give him oral sex or a great hand job (both of which are covered with specific tips in Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design). Frankly, since it’s not quite as easy to get him there, more relies on your sex savvy. But you can certainly master the skill set needed to stoke his, and your, fire to the point of hot, flaming love.
Orgasm. Orgasm three times a year?! Oh yes, honey, that needs to change. I’m a little concerned about your statement: “I try to take care of his needs at least once a week, or more.” Okay, that’s great, but sexual satisfaction should be largely mutual. Does he know what your needs are? Have you communicated them clearly?
I’m not talking about pressuring him for more sex, which can make a guy already struggling in this area feel even more performance-challenged. I mean that you need to express that you’re open to sexual activity outside of intercourse and that you want him to send you to the moon in ecstasy — regularly. What I’m saying is that it’s perfectly fine for a good Christian wife to speak up about her sexual needs and desires. We’ve often be trained to think otherwise, but your sex drive is God-given. Embrace it and express it.
Most of your suggested reasons why he’s not that into sex and that he’s not satisfying you — “he’s bored…he actually isn’t attracted to me…I’m not flirty enough…I’m not speaking his love language…” — essentially blame you for what’s happening. And I don’t get that sense at all. You certainly can talk to him about your relationship and if he sees anything he’d like to improve. But much of this may lie in the simple process of him aging, and feeling frustrated.
As a woman who seems to be starting the Grand Season of Menopause, I can tell you that there are moments I’ve felt downright betrayed by my body. How dare it not cooperate with everything I used to be able to do? Why, oh, why is it turning lettuce leafs into pounds? What happened to cuddling with my husband in bed, which now feels like hugging a furnace? I love being my age, but speaking strictly about the physical changes, aging can be seriously annoying.
Your husband might avoid engaging in sex, and bringing you to orgasm, because the experience simply reminds him what he’s lost. Many men feel their masculinity is tied to sexual virility, and when that’s a struggle, the physical lowering of sex drive is accompanied by a loss of emotional energy. What I pray you can convince him is that (1) he’s still the hottie guy you love and married; (2) his performance is not about competing with his younger self, but about mutual pleasure and sexual intimacy; (3) your orgasms are worth pursuing, because that makes you feel desirable and satisfied; and (4) you can work together, explore, and adapt to have the sex life you both want and can enjoy.
I didn’t really give you a specific answer to your question with a three-point plan or something. But there is plenty to think about here, and I encourage you to talk openly and reassuringly to your husband about what’s going on. Be willing to speak up for your own needs in the marriage bed as well. And I wish you all the best!