“I’m Done with All That.” Why Sexless Marriages Aren’t Meant to Be.

Last year we were travelling in Mexico, and we very spontaneously stopped to look at house for sale.  The owner explained that he and his wife were splitting up, hence the sale.  He asked us a couple of questions—how long had we been together, that sort of thing—and we told him our story of being married, getting divorced, and then remarrying each other some years later.  We ended up spending a good part of the afternoon with him talking about marriage.

He shared that his 49 year old wife had told him, “I’m done with all that.  I’m too old for sex now.”  God knows that every story has two sides, and since we didn’t talk to her, we don’t know what the other details were.  Maybe he was terrible in bed?  Maybe that was just an excuse?  Maybe she was in love with someone else?  Who knows?

But I started thinking about the people who have told me that same thing.  In my coaching both women AND men will say things like, “I’m just fine with no sex.” Or, “I don’t know what the big deal is.  We hold hands, we’ve been together for years.  We don’t need all that.”

And I must tell you that I beg to differ.  Even though this conversation tends to be associated with a certain age group—50 plus or so—I still strongly object.

Sex, intimacy, closeness, getting naked together and holding each other is the thing that differentiates us from roommates.  It is not an end in itself, as we once thought it was when we were dating; it is, instead, a very accurate barometer of how well we’re doing with each other, how close we are, and how much vulnerability we’re willing to share.

Touching each other intimately is the exact glue-building that the term ‘making love’ is meant to describe.  It means that we are making new love.  We are generating closeness.

Sex and getting hot for each other is good for our bodies, spirits and minds.  It is.  But beyond that angle, there is a deeper truth waiting for us:  that is, that when we make love over time, we give ourselves the opportunity to play and to develop prowess with each other’s bodies. 

Sure, sure.  You can say that after menopause it’s difficult.  Or, after the late-40’s baby, it’s difficult.  Or heading into retirement, it’s difficult.  And I say, yep, it is.  And so what.  It’s still worth it to express love in our marriage in the one way that builds closeness like no other can.

Yeah, if we’re over 50 and there’s some discomfort in sex, we can address that simply with more foreplay, more prep-touching, an added lubricant.  We can use our brains a bit, too.

One of the things that’s illuminating when I’m coaching people is how many women expect their man to arouse them—to get them to go from zero to 100 without helping.  We women have to bring something to the table!  That means some erotic thoughts that we keep in a mental stash for sex, some willingness to be touched in our intimate places, and some open-hearted courage in guiding our partner to what works for us.

For men, if you want your partner to want you, you’re going to have to do one major thing:  that is, draw her desire out, and keep drawing her out each time you approach her.  Driving towards some fast-paced end is going to put her off, not only for this time, but for the next time you approach her too.

Many of the folks in their fifties and sixties who’ve sworn off sex with each other, who I’ve known, have then been shocked to find out that one partner is having an affair, or wants to divorce, or worse.  And that’s not a surprise.  Often the ‘agreement’ to not have sex was based on drifting, and not on choice.  Truly, do we really want to be less close?

I go into genuine detail on all of this in my new book (not published yet, but on its way!), with helpful hints on how to get back to touching if we’ve drifted.

Here’s the thing:  if we want to stay close then we have to engage in the things that open us up to closeness.  Sex is a primary one.

Of all the things that we want to experience in life, isn’t the true depth of long term loving one of them?  I think it is.

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