Medical Questions > Relationships > Relationships and Marriage Forum

Should I be concerned...at my age?

I am just about to turn 73 and my husband is 78 1/2. He enjoys very good health for his age and still enjoys sex. I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy if I never had sex again!

We have been married for 10 years and for the first few years everything was good. Things began to go down hill for me about the same time that my twin sister, who lives in another province, began have serious health problems. She has had 3 major heart surgeries, and sepsis, and finally has been diagosed with PSP, a degenerative brain disease. She is now in a nursing home and even though she has lots of family I feel like I should be there to help look after her. I go as often as I can, and she is at her best when I am there. I worry about her constantly and feel so guilty that she is going through this.

As for myself...I have health problems as well. I have heart disease and I am on several medications for blood pressure, heart, and cholesterol. It is all controlled and I have had this for years. I also suffer from chronic pain which has become a lot worse during the last few years. I have torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders and have to have cortisone injections every 3 months. Right now I am in a lot of pain but have to wait another month for my next shots.

Also I have back problems and pain in my hips, knees and legs. I have just finished treatment for a pinched nerve in my back, which together with all of my other pains, caused me to have to sit up in a recliner at night because it hurt too much to lay down.

Since returning from a 2 1/2 week visit with my sister two weeks ago, I find myself so tired and in so much pain I can barely do everyday chores around the house. All I can think about these days is trying to go through the house and having a good turn-out - reducing, reducing, reducing - in order to make my life easier and be more prepared for when I am even more unable to do things around the house. I'm thinking about the future when one of us will be left on our own and I want to make things easier now, rather than wait until that time comes. If family history is anything to go by, then my husband will outlive me. If it should happen the other way around then I will be completely alone and I wouldn't know where to begin to get the house ready for sale (because that is what I would do).

This is what consumes my thoughts these days and sex is the last thing on my mind. My husband is understanding, but I'm sure he is not as happy as he deserves to be. He knows I am in pain and when we go to bed he says he's not even sure he should touch me because I just seem to hurt everywhere!

What I truly think to myself is 'I have all these family problems on my mind (there is more than just my sister's illness) and I have constant pain, no energy whatsoever. Why, at my age, should I have to worry about sex?' But then there is this little voice telling me it's not just myself to consider - I AM married after all.

I'm just looking for some advice or suggestions. Should my husband comply with my feelings and just forget about sex, or should I be the one try and change, although at this stage of my life I'm not sure what I can do.

Thanks in advance.
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replied May 28th, 2013
Extremely eHealthy
Hello,

The seventies are indeed much older for some than others. It is in the genes, the early nutrition and in the type of work a person has done and the life they have lived.

While some women in their seventies still enjoy sex tremendously and lubricate like teenagers while they are doing it, for others it is a trial and they do not enjoy it.
I am sorry for your problems and I must say I believe you are a wife in a thousand for considering your husband at all.
You didn't actually say whether you obtained any enjoyment from sex at all but even if you do it is clearly time to make some considered changes or compromises.

I am your junior by a dozen years but I advise you to look at the purpose of your life. I feel whatever you see that purpose to be, the most important thing is to reach the grande finale with as few regrets as possible. That for most people will mean not spending time and precious effort either doing things that ultimately make no difference or worrying about things you cannot change or influence and instead concentrating your efforts on what you can change or influence and concentrating on maximising your own quality of life within your capabilities and the quality of life of those in your immediate circle..

Every good marriage needs intimacy between husband and wife. The big danger is if sexual activity stops between you then intimacy will also stop. If you are intimate it is inevitable your husband will become aroused and it will be torture then for him not to have sexual contact with you.
Men and women are apt to retain their sense of humour when the sexual appetite is being satisfied.

If you would regret the loss of intimacy between you and possibly a change of attitude from your husband you should continue having intimacy and sexual contact of some sort as long as you are able.
While clearly you must make some compromise about the pain you suffer it is important you don't force yourself to be a martyr to your husband's desires. Sexual contact and satisfaction needn't mean sexual intercourse, though intercourse semi-reclining in a reclining armchair might not be such torture for you as in bed. Sitting up on the edge of an armchair supported by cushions while he kneels on the floor in front of you could also be beneficial.
In bed you could have intercourse without needing to bear any weight by using the spoons position or you adopting the classic missionary position while he lays on his side at a right angle to you under the crook of your knees.
There are other positions too only limited by your imagination. If you have a high bed and could manage the foetal position on your side with your knees drawn almost to your chest and your bottom at the very edge of the bed it will expose your interesting bits for his attention while he stands or if it is a low bed, while he kneels.

You could, as far as your capabilities allow, cuddle him and encourage him to masturbate while you lend a hand if you can.
You could consider providing him with any of a huge variety of gadgets intended to provide pleasure and relief for the male from simple masturbatory aids to realistic "love dolls".
An artificial vagina that pulses or similar might take some of the sting out of a new regime for him as long as he never feels condemned to solitary pleasure.

Another possibility, depending on your prejudices, etc., could be employing the services of a friend if a suitable friend could be found, or the services of a professional sex-worker either inside or outside your home. It might sound radical or shocking to you but some of the women involved are well used to providing such services to couples who physically cannot manage any more.
Recently I heard a radio interview with the mother of a seriously disabled adult son and the Australian madame of her favourite brothel where the duo had become regular fixtures and some of the Australian girls who provided a sex-life for him when otherwise he would have none. A mother in a thousand or even ten thousand simply doing what must be done and doing it out of love.

Whatever you decide to do I strongly suggest you do very little suddenly and discuss them with your husband.

I also suggest you ask your doctor for a referral to a pain clinic where cognitive behaviour therapy or similar might be employed to help you bear your pain a little better.

Down-sizing and de-cluttering is important when the autumn of a person's life is reached but it should not be an all-consuming thing. Housework too can be prioritised; a person should never neglect the sheer luxury and the value of standing and staring in order to dust or clean or turn out the cupboards. A slightly dirty house will not prevent the sun rising tomorrow or Saint Peter's review of your life being any more or less favourable.

You could spend a little time, or dispatch your husband to discover what small aids or improvements or adaptations might be provided by local charities and authorities at little or no cost to make your life easier. Sometimes small changes can provide large benefits.

I hope you find some of this useful and I hope you manage to find those very important compromises. Please write again sometimes and tell us how you are faring.

Good luck!
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replied May 31st, 2013
Community Volunteer
Hi secondtwin....Your post rings the bell with me...You see we too are in the older age bracket...We have been married for near 55 years and still have a very active sex life, but this is only because we have always had this and love it....However, if I or he was ill or sickly and not up to doing this act of love we would enjoy each other just as much by touching each others hands as parts of our body...These are unsaid words between us...

My advice with your problems is to love with your eyes...Don't overstress your mind worrying...The shoulders are so painful to start and then to have to oblige someone in an act as personal as this should not have to happen....If he loves you he will agree...I know that my husband would...Good luck and I wish you well....

Caroline...
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