Ask Joan: Not Broken!

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This month, Joan Price, our Senior Planet Sex Columnist, advises a spouse who says “No.”  

Dear Joan:

I read with great sorrow the husband’s anxiety over his wife’s lack of interest in sex in your column, “What To Do When Your Wife Says No.” I am in my mid-sixties, with a husband who communicates stridently about my “unwillingness” to have sex. He accuses me of desiring someone else or hating him. He insists there must be something wrong, and why won’t I fix it?

The fact is, I have no desire, no libido, no emotional response to sexual scenes in a movie, none. I am busy with the farm, the animals, the home, and my grandchildren. I am happy and content — except for dealing with the hurt and negativity of a husband who still wants sex when I don’t.

For 36 years, he had a faithful sex partner. We had a lot of sex. I never faked an emotion. I tried things that were outside my comfort zone. But I have no desire now — not physical, not emotional, nothing. And I don’t miss it. Why does that make me wrong, or sick, or heartless?

“…I have no desire now — not physical, not emotional, nothing. And I don’t miss it. Why does that make me wrong, or sick, or heartless?”

We are going on 40 years of marriage. I gave him wonderful children and grandchildren whom I interact with weekly, often daily. I like who I am. I’m relieved to be out of the grip of hormones. I love my husband dearly, but I am not interested in sex — not with him, not with anyone. I won’t pretend to be.


We’ve talked about options for getting his needs met elsewhere, but he is not interested. He tells me I am “broken” and need to get help. I am not broken. I am fulfilling the next phase of maternal nurturing, caring for and loving my grandchildren.

With all the columns you publish from husbands who want their wives to be more sexual, I thought you needed this point of view.

– Not Broken

Joan responds:

Thank you for this articulate perspective. I get many requests for advice from men who are distraught and lonely because their wives have closed down sex and won’t talk about it, and sometimes vice versa.

I also hear from women whose husbands force, blame, or shame them into having sex that they don’t want. But this may be the first time I’ve received such a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and convincing explanation from someone who loves her husband but no longer wants sex — and is absolutely satisfied with that decision.

My column’s purpose is to help people enjoy better sex and more fulfilling relationships. Just as sex is a choice, no sex is also a choice.

My column’s purpose is to help people enjoy better sex and more fulfilling relationships. Just as sex is a choice, no sex is also a choice. Many people are happy in “companionate marriages,” which means that they love each other, are best friends, and want to stay together — and sex is not part of their relationship.

However, although a companionate marriage is the relationship you want, it’s not the one you have. You’re happy without sex, but your husband is not. He doesn’t feel desired or loved. He accuses you of wanting someone else or hating him. “He insists there must be something wrong, and why won’t I fix it?”

I’m not trying to talk you out of your well-reasoned decision. People change with age. We may find that something that used to be very important isn’t anymore. But if both people in a couple don’t change in the same direction, there’s conflict. I worry about the state of your marriage from your husband’s point of view.

What Options?

Is there any sensual intimacy at all: cuddling and kissing in bed? Exchanging massages? Would you be willing to hold him while he pleasures himself? I acknowledge that these options might not satisfy either of you. You might be anxious that he’d want the sensuality to lead to sex, or he might find body contact without sex even more frustrating.

You’re willing to release your husband to pursue sex elsewhere. He doesn’t want that — he wants you. Sex was an important part of your relationship, and for him, it still is. If he were writing me, I’d advise him that you’ve made it clear that sex is no longer part of your marriage.

Sex with someone else isn’t his first choice, but it may be his only choice, other than his own hand and preferred erotic stimulation. You’ve explained clearly that you don’t want to “fix” what isn’t broken. As sex columnist Dan Savage would put it, a sexless marriage is now the “price of admission” for being with you.

Can he be happy married to you without sex? I don’t know. Can he summon a spirit of adventure and enjoy sex with other partners: a friend with benefits, casual encounters, sex workers, or an additional partner for both emotional and sexual needs? Do you want to work out an arrangement with him about outside partners, or just not know? I think for the emotional health of your marriage, a session with a sex therapist would be helpful — not to change your decision, but to work out an agreement that will satisfy both of you, if that’s possible.

Thank you for your willingness to present a side we don’t usually hear. I welcome reader comments.


“Not Broken” presents a side not often heard in “Ask Joan.”  I welcome reader comments.

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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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