When I got to be in my late 50s, I started to have trouble with my erections. I found that it was not as easy to get fully erect, and my penis never stayed as hard as it had when I was younger. Because I have very little privacy at work, I asked my wife to call our family doctor for me and make an appointment so I could talk to him about medication for erectile dysfunction. But my wife refused to make that call. She said, “Oh, aren’t we finally done with all of that?” In her opinion, she had put up with sex ever since we got married when we graduated high school, and enough was enough. She had gone through menopause, and she didn’t want to “be bothered” any more. She felt that if sex was not an issue, she could begin to enjoy my company when I retired. She even said that when she didn’t have to worry about me demanding sex, she would enjoy sleeping in the same bed with me again!
I listened to her calmly, but inside I was torn into little pieces. I don’t think she knows how much she has hurt me. And I don’t know what to do next. It never occurred to me that my wife looked at our love life as a burden or as something that I inflicted upon her. I thought we were making love, enjoying one another’s bodies, and relieving tension after days spent working hard—in my case, at my job, and in her case, taking care of our children. I thought we could always come together, no matter how much we argued or how tough times had gotten, and once we had joined together as lovers, we would be so much stronger when we had to face whatever problems life had dumped at our door.
I feel as if my whole married life has been a lie. Should I apologize to my wife for selfishly using her body and making her resent me? Should I ask her what I could have done differently to make sex more fun to her? Actually, now that I think about it, I DID do that—repeatedly. And she never initiated sex or asked me for anything different. She just scoffed at me as if to say that women didn’t care how the thing was done, as long as it got finished so they could go to sleep. So maybe I should have taken the hint years ago. My wife never wanted me.
Frankly, I am wondering if I should get a divorce. But what do I have to look forward to now, except a lonely retirement? At least we know each other. We have spent many years together. We have a home, we have family, we have some sort of a relationship. If you were in my situation, what would you do?
Wow. I honestly don’t know what I would do. This is such a huge revelation, it really does change the way that you see everything about the marriage, and the way your whole life has gone. If I were you, I would probably be feeling quite angry and depressed. By waiting until you are this old to tell you how unfulfilled she was, your wife has found a passive-aggressive way to hurt you as much as she has been hurting all that time. By not asking for what she wanted, and by simply “putting up with” lovemaking, she sabotaged not just your happiness, but also her own. What was she thinking?
In her defense, I have to say that when she was a young woman, there wasn’t any discussion of how women could make sex more enjoyable for themselves. They were told that sex was a marital obligation, something a sensible wife provided if she wanted to keep her husband at home, and prevent him from having affairs. Her reward for having sex was not pleasure—it was children. Women were also told that they should never refuse a husband’s request for sex, even if they were angry at him or were not in the mood. A good wife simply permitted intercourse, any time a husband said he needed or wanted it. There was no mention of oral sex or masturbation in home economics classes or premarital counseling. Girls learned how to sew and bake, not how to touch themselves so they could have orgasms during intercourse. Nice girls didn’t even think about having orgasms.
But your wife has not been stuck in a time warp. She’s been alive all through the intervening Decades of the Clitoris. The feminist sex wars (and feminist porn) have been eating up the bandwidth of the internet. There’s been plenty of talk about female sexuality for decades now. So I have to wonder why she closed her mind and her body off to any new information. At a certain point in her life, she must have decided that she was getting more out of resenting you or (let’s be honest) disliking her marriage than she could ever get out of asking for the sex to change. Maybe she was too ashamed to ask for a different technique to be used. Or maybe she felt that she was above such things. There are women who believe that only sluts or low women care about sex. Once a woman has been brainwashed or pressured into thinking that sex is a bad thing, and she should not ever move her hips or moan out loud, it can be very hard for her to cut loose and behave in ways that would later make her feel ashamed of herself. That’s truly sad, because having a lot of fun is worth feeling rather sordid and low in the morning, don’t you think?
You’ve got a lot to sort out. I think the temptation is to join her in a style of life based on resentment and unspoken hatred, just waiting for an opportunity to snipe at her, and get revenge in a few carefully chosen words that will devastate her and make her want to die. Don’t do that. That’s an ugly way to live. You never intended to hurt her. You tried, with all your power, to include her in the joy of the marital bed. You loved her. And the fact that she did not love you back—well, that means she is a deceitful and unkind person. But it doesn’t mean you should become like her. Not when you have so much heart and goodness within you. I don’t care how old you are, that is not a fitting reward.
Instead, why don’t you go talk to somebody and get some help sorting all of this out? Find a decent counselor who is prepared to spend at least a few sessions reviewing all of your options. Take a look at how this has affected you and what you think your choices are. The truth is that if you want a divorce, you can get one. In addition to seeing a therapist, if I were you, I would get legal advice. Find out how a divorce would affect your finances and the rest of your life. And if you need some time to yourself, move out for a while. Get your own place and furnish it. See what life is like on your own. You don’t have to try to share a house with someone who has been mean-spirited.
I will warn you that your wife may not see why you are so pissed off. To her way of thinking, the betrayal that you feel may just be an ordinary marriage. She may not understand that you were hoping for something more, for a real partnership or rapport with the woman in your life. You thought that you had a lover as well as a spouse. She never wanted to be anybody’s lover. She wanted to be a respectable woman. And she got her respectability. But that may cost her the husband. I’m so sorry this has happened, and hope you can find a way to create a new and decent way of life that will not be quite so unhappy.