Question

My husband and I are both over 70 now and our intimacy is all over. He stays on the computer so much and doesn’t even get to a point to function correctly anymore! He even sleeps in a chair and not in the bed with me! I am not sure if I should try to show more affection or not? So, should I just give up? And how do I still show that I love him in spite of his inability to perform? What do you suggest? 

Answer

Changes in sexual ability and interest create challenges and opportunities for all couples as they age. As you already know, getting older means that many things that seemed to happen without much thought now require more intentionality. Even though you believe the intimacy is all over, the fact that you’re seeking to understand your husband so you can create more closeness shows me that there is still a spark in at least one of you in the relationship. Let’s see if there are some ways you can enhance the connection with your husband.

There are many reasons why a man in his 70s would lose sexual interest. Here are some common reasons:

  • Decreased testosterone resulting in lower libido and energy
  • Physical health related causes (diabetes, blood pressure, etc.)
  • Addiction (to his computer, phone, pornography, etc.)
  • Shame around his inability to maintain an erection
  • Emotionally underdeveloped in knowing how to create emotional closeness
  • Lack of education about sexual health for men and women
  • Resentment or other unresolved marital issues
  • Depression or other mental health issues

As you can see, it’s important to not immediately attribute his lack of interest as a personal failure on your part. Ideally, you could sit down with him and go through this list and talk about possible reasons he’s lost his desire to connect with you. However, I recognize you’re unlikely to get him to respond this way. Plus, going over a list like this could be overwhelming in one conversation. I share it with you to help you see the myriad of reasons he might be distant.

Instead of investigating the reasons he won’t connect, start by taking ownership of the kind of relationship you want with him and begin taking steps to let him know how important he is to you. While I don’t know how much you have tried to engage him over the years, you still seem to have interest, so let him know directly how important he is to you. You can remind him that there is so much more to intimacy than sex and that having him close to you is really important. You might structure activities and rituals to be involved more in each other’s lives. It’s common for long-term marriages to slip into routines that create more loneliness and distance, so be intentional and find ways to create more interaction.

Most men who lose their ability to maintain an erection erroneously believe their sex life is over. A loving and supportive wife can be a great source of confidence and reassurance that he still has much to offer her. Let him know all of the ways you love feeling close to him and that sexual intercourse is only one dimension of your rich history together. It’s common for men to think one-dimensionally about sex and believe that if things change, they’re not desirable. Keep drawing close to him and remind him of the value he has for you.

If you want him back in the bedroom with you, speak up about that and see if he is willing to have some creative conversations on ways to make the bed more comfortable for him. Of course, this isn’t something you can fix singlehandedly, but you can make it clear that having him close matters to you.

Much of what you’re concerned about needs to be brought up consistently and clearly with him. You don’t need to be critical, but you can share how important all forms of intimacy are to you. Let him know you don’t want to finish out your years on earth with distance and loneliness. See if he feels the same way and learn if being close to you matters to him. Many older men weren’t raised with permission to acknowledge their feelings or need for closeness, so it’s unlikely he’ll bring t his up to you without some inviting conversation. You still care about this, so don’t give up on making it obvious that he matters to you and that being close to him matters to you.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]  

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah specializes in rebuilding relationships from crisis to connection. Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

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