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Ask Joan: When Is Casual Sex Ok?

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Frustrated in Australia” asks, “Is a casual sex partner appropriate when there is no sex in our marriage?”

A reader asks:

My wife and I, both 68, have had no sex in the last 10 years and only 13 times in the previous decade. “We’re too old for sex,” she tells me. Maybe she’s not attracted to me sexually anymore. Maybe she never was. She knows sex is important for me. Long ago she subtly suggested finding sex elsewhere.

We’ve been together almost 50 years. Up to the birth of our first daughter in the mid-’80s, our sex life was okay, but seldom mind blowing. It steadily declined and died in 2013. My wife knows the lack of sex is a major problem between us. Recently she referred to “the huge white elephant in our marriage” and confessed to feeling guilty. But she won’t deal with it and refuses counseling.

What to do?

I get to see her gorgeous 68-year-old body naked every day and I still find her immensely desirable sexually. I tell her frequently that she still excites me physically. I no longer ask for sex or initiate because I’ve been refused too often. Even if she said, “Let’s do it,” how would I know she wasn’t giving in because she felt guilty or pressured?

My question: what can I do when she totally won’t?

She told me last year that intercourse is painful. Let’s say that’s true and not a convenient excuse. You and I know that there are lots of ways to be intimate and have fun without intercourse, but she’s not interested. Basically, I’m trapped. I’m able to cope because my faith keeps me focused and positive. Masturbation helps.

A few years ago, a 58-year-old divorced woman and I began an affair just for sex. She was like an oasis in the desert. She loved her body and loved sex. With her, I experienced loving intimacy that I hadn’t known before. She knew I would not leave my wife, nor did she want me to. After five meetings, the relationship ended because she met a younger man with whom marriage was a possibility. I knew that was bound to happen.

Other than no sex, my wife and I are great friends, and financially in a good place. We do lots of activities together. Everyone thinks we have the ideal relationship. I will not leave her. I won’t cause the immense pain for my immediate family, friends, her, or myself. I do love her.

My question: what can I do when she totally won’t? I want a lady my age to meet for friendship and sex or an online friend to play with. I’m very tactile and like to give and receive. Is a casual sex partner ever appropriate?

Frustrated in Australia

Joan responds:

Your wife feels done with sex – you’re not. If she won’t go to counseling, won’t discuss options that don’t give her pain (you’re right — there are plenty of ways to give and receive sexual pleasure besides intercourse), and feels guilty without being willing to take any steps to resolve the decades-old issue, I won’t blame you or shame you for seeking a casual sex partner.

Companionate Marriage

You have what’s called a “companionate marriage.” You love each other, enjoy each other’s company, don’t want to leave the marriage, but there’s no sex. Is it okay for you to get sex outside of your marriage? It sounds as if she gave tacit permission, but it would be better to get a clear, direct statement of permission. By refusing to discuss it but “subtly suggesting” years ago that you could find sex elsewhere, I’m interpreting her suggestion to mean a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” hall pass for sex elsewhere.

Clarifying would be best, though. Do you think you could ask something like, “I’m not willing to give up sex for the rest of my life. If you are, and I respectfully and privately seek a casual sex companion outside our marriage, would you be okay with that? I love you and I’ll respect any reasonable boundaries you suggest.”

Give any future casual sex partner respect and honesty, too.

She may want you not to meet in public, for example, so there’s no chance a friend of hers might spot you. You’re the best judge of whether she’d be willing to discuss this — from what you’ve said, maybe not.

Give any future casual sex partner respect and honesty, too. Make it clear up front that you’re married, and you want to exchange sexual pleasure on a casual basis – if that’s also what she wants. There are plenty of women who want what you want. They may be in similar companionate marriages. They may be grieving a partner’s death or a breakup and want to experience a safe, no-strings sexual connection. Make it clear what you have to offer — her pleasure — not just what you want — your pleasure.

Masturbation gives you a physical release, and that’s a fine solution most of the time. But if you’re craving the touch of a partner, the intimacy and warmth of a human combined with sexual release, as sex advice columnist Dan Savage often says, “Sometimes cheating is the least-worst option for staying married and staying sane.”

Your Turn!

Some will disagree, but you asked me! Bring on the comments, readers.

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Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.

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