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Can this {marriage} be saved?
January 15, 2014 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to sort out whether I am dissatisfied with my relationship, or whether other factors are at work, or both.

As background, my boyfriend & I are in our mid-50s and have been together for almost 6 years. We don't live together, but usually spend the weekends together and often see each other once or twice during the work week.

I have very few complaints about our relationship, in general, and my boyfriend is lovely, but more and more I've been seeking time alone, and I seem to have lost interest in sex, and I've been wondering whether I'm subconsciously trying to end it. (I have always needed plenty of time alone, which is one reason we don't live together. This is beyond that level)

I've had a number of medical issues in the last few years, which have reached a peak this year, and they've caused me to have to redefine my view of myself. I don't know if the medical issues are causing me to lose interest in sex, or whether maybe it's menopause that's doing it. At the same time, I'm also aware that the sex we have is really the most boring sex I've had in a relationship in the last 20+ years. That's my only real complaint about the relationship.

And I guess it's also a part of the sex issue that although our relationship began with me as the aggressor, so to speak, after the first couple of years, he started to get very clear with me that he doesn't like me to talk about sex, talk during sex, or suggest anything during sex. So I stopped a couple of years ago. Since then, we have never had sex in my favorite position. I know he knows what I did and what my favorite position is, because we have discussed this whole thing -- i.e., my backing off and why. I was sad to realize that until I told him, he hadn't actually noticed any change.

I mean, we really did already have a conversation in which I told him I had stopped initiating sex, talking about sex, talking during sex, expressing specific desires during sex, and I told him that it was because of all the times he had told me not to do it. But it wasn't a week later that he suggested during sex that he perform oral sex on me and I said, great, here scootch down and I'll scootch up and he was like ???? because we have almost always done this with me on top, and I said, yeah, I'd like it that way this time and he said ha and moved on to something else entirely, as though I had told him no.

So I look at that paragraph and I think that it seems really obvious that this is a relationship issue.

But my medical issues have changed my body image, and he's been very supportive and patient with me throughout, and for all I know I really just don't have a sex drive any more.

I know I resent feeling this way, and I really don't know if it's fair to him that I blame him. I know I certainly don't feel like I have the energy to seek out a new relationship, and he and I enjoy each other's company for the most part.

I also want to be careful with his feelings because he recently lost a job that he took a great deal of pride and pleasure in, and he's a little frantic trying to find another job as soon as he can, so I don't want to bring all this crap up when he's already feeling lousy, but the issues very clearly predate his job loss, otherwise I would think that had some hand in them.

So, dear friends:

What questions should I be asking myself (and/or my doctor and/or my boyfriend) to help me sort out the mental vs the physical and the self vs other?

Does anyone here have any experience with sex drive during menopause? And/or related to fatigue caused by chronic illness (sp. lupus)?

Is there any way for me to have a conversation with my boyfriend about this that wouldn't make him feel worse than he does and is there any good time to talk about this stuff?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
 
But my medical issues have changed my body image, and he's been very supportive and patient with me throughout, and for all I know I really just don't have a sex drive any more.

It sure doesn't sound like that to me. Maybe you've resigned yourself to never having good sex with this guy, because he refuses to even try to give it to you, but you clearly still wish you could have it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:25 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


You describe the sex you do have as the most boring you've had in 20+ years and that when you've tried to communicate to improve this situation, you were completely shut down by your partner. Even considering your health issues and possible menopause factors, I think that the single, most influential factor in this situation is that you have a partner who isn't interested in making sure you have a satisfying sex life.

I'd just lay it out on the table and try to get him to understand that this is a serious issue for you and that you feel yourself withdrawing from seeing him as an intimate partner because of it. It shouldn't be an emotionally devastating talk for him and I don't see how tip-toeing around this will help either of you. If he absolutely can't bring himself to talk about sex with his partner of 6 years, I don't see a solution.
posted by quince at 10:33 AM on January 15 [13 favorites]


Sex may be a red herring. Do this:

Think about telling your boyfriend that you want to break up. Assume that it's drama free and he goes away and never contacts you again.

Do you feel:

A. Sad, you'll miss the little bugger.

or

B. Relieved, thank God! Now I have more time for underwater basket weaving!

If it's A, then you might want to address this in couples therapy. If it's B, break up, you're done.

Sometimes we find ourselves staying too long in unfulfilling relationships because there's nothing really wrong. We may view our dissatisfactions as petty annoyances, and surely that's no reason to DTMFA. Except, if there's more of that on the ledger than of awesome good times, punctuated by the occasional WTF, then it IS a reason to DTMFA.

So if you view your next few years, boyfriend free, and loving it. I think you have your answer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:42 AM on January 15 [17 favorites]


I am pretty cold-blooded about sex in sexual relationships. There are endless numbers of people with significant medical issues who find creative way to have mutually satisfying sexy-time and people who make it work despite separation. Sex can be many things but not missing.

My advice would be to review your sex drive and also - regardless of your physical and emotional needs - talk to your partner of 6 years about what you, as a couple, should do to make sure you're trying to meet each others needs.

If you decide you need sex every 19 months, your low sex drive doesn't excuse him from working on this with you as a partner. (Not working on your drive, working on how the two of you enjoy sex.)

FWIW, although women are different, historically many many many cultures have seen women who've been through the change as newly free from the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth and wild wild wild.

There's also the option to recast this as another type of relationship.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:56 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


although our relationship began with me as the aggressor, so to speak, after the first couple of years, he started to get very clear with me that he doesn't like me to talk about sex, talk during sex, or suggest anything during sex. So I stopped a couple of years ago. Since then, we have never had sex in my favorite position

The way I'm reading this is that you expressed your sexuality in a certain way, and he didn't like it. So you stopped expressing yourself sexually, and now you are bored and dissatisfied. That makes a lot of sense - if you had a particular creative talent and your partner asked you to not use it you'd probabaly be bored and dissatisfied then too. It sounds like you have closed a part of yourself off for the sake of the relationship, but that part is still inside. Ask yourself if you would be happy keeping her locked up forever in order to keep him? If you would be content to forever blame your dissatisfaction on medical issues and hormonal issues, in order not to have to confront the fact that he will not let you be who you really are?

You need to have a serious discussion with him about how unhappy you are. If he understands that loving you means loving all of you, and he is willing to work towards a place where you are both satisfied then great. If he cannot hear you because he is not listening to you, then it's time to listen to yourself and move on.
posted by billiebee at 11:17 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Not by you. He would have to change and it looks like he's not interested in that.
posted by domo at 11:42 AM on January 15


In most circumstances, I can't understand staying with someone who has explicitly said they have zero interest in your sexual satisfaction.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:46 AM on January 15 [8 favorites]


Yeah I am not sure how your boyfriend did it, but he managed to take HIS total lack of sex drive/interest and make you think it's YOURS.

Isn't that wild? He's the one who refuses to talk/think/hear about sex. He's the one who never notices that it's gone. He's the one who's just WAITING for an excuse to quit having whatever sexytimes and move on.

But YOU'RE the one with no sex drive and HE's the patient, tolerant one forgiving you for not being 25 anymore? Nuh-uh.

Sometimes I think *this* is what they teach boys when they separate the girls out to learn about periods and stuff. Because a lot of guys are surprisingly great at this little trick.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:02 PM on January 15 [26 favorites]


In most circumstances, I can't understand staying with someone who has explicitly said they have zero interest in your sexual satisfaction.

Seconded.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:20 PM on January 15


menopause does affect things somewhat. But in my opinion that isn't the problem here.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:44 PM on January 15


My ex-husband's lack of concern for my sexual satisfaction (despite us having almost daily sex) was the primary reason I ended my marriage. According to his approach my needs, wants, desires were not as important as his. I am so glad I left him as I have become a lot stronger in not accepting bad sex since then. In fact, having that mindset allowed me to recognise a good sexy guy when he came along.

I would try Ruthless Bunny's through experiment and see how you feel.
posted by Kerasia at 2:07 PM on January 15


If I was with someone who did not allow me to talk about sex, or during sex, and laughed at me when I asked for something and ignored me, I would consider that person an unsupportive asshole and break up with him. Just sayin'.
posted by windykites at 6:15 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


If you're menopausal, he's probably in an age group in which men lose some of their ability to "perform" (I hate that word) as well as when they were young and one of the differences between men and women is that men get all panicky about it. Can't really blame them because it can actually come to an end, especially if medicines are involved.

My guess is that your boyfriend is hanging on with bloody fingernails to the cliff edge of sexual ability and the idea of changing whatever he's doing that works freaks him out. Women have some problems with menopause - dryness, for instance - but women very often actually end up more freely enjoying sex when those minor things are taken care of. There are some medications that will hit a man or a woman right smack dab in the libido, though, so women are still at risk of losing the fun if they have to take medications.

When you talk with him, explore a bit whether he's worried about his own abilities - if that's the case, a visit to a doctor might be in order, but it also might explain his apparently aloof attitude.

posted by aryma at 8:30 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Have you considered just separating for a bit? Just taking a break?

You could tell him your body self-image has changed, and you need some time (a few weeks?) to yourself to sort it out. I think I'd definitely set a time limit. Then you could use Ruthless Bunny's test.

From your question, I think you should break up. Not being willing to discuss sex is a pretty big issue (as are most problems regarding lack of communication). If he's not willing to talk about it or take steps to improve, I'd leave. But leaving is something you can "try on" and see if it fits.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:07 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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