Tuesday 25 July 2017

Dear Mary: My closet lover is sexy between the sheets and square in life

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Connor

I started dating a closeted man last year. He's divorced with adult children and had a lot of girlfriends. I think I was his first male partner.

He is extremely traditional, square and old-fashioned in many of his attitudes and in the way he behaves. I don't know if this is because he was married or his upbringing. In our bedroom he has no hang-ups and there are no roles and he's completely versatile. Outside he has to be the one who initiates sex, if I even say the wrong thing it can put him off for weeks. On the flip side as I never expect it I never know what will turn him on, and it builds up in him so he gets really turned on and we have incredible sex.

But I'd like it if he was a bit more open outside the bedroom. He's usually most open and wants intimacy and closeness after sex, but I'd like if we had some more intimacy throughout our relationship.

We don't share many interests. How do I coax him from caveman mode?

Mary replies: This man is in the process of huge change having lived the life of a heterosexual man for many years. As a result he is probably venturing slowly in beginning to come to terms with who he really is.

His traditional values are most likely as a result of his upbringing, and I have to say in his defence that there is nothing at all wrong with having traditional values. You would like him to be more open and possibly demonstrative outside of the times when you are intimate together. It may be that he is just not the type to show his feelings, and you may discover if you ask him that he was just the same in his marriage. You are possibly expecting more from him than he knows how to give, and you should ask yourself if you are prepared to overlook this. You have probably been out for quite a long time and don't have any problem with owning your sexuality, and that is wonderful. He is not at all at this stage - his adult children may not yet know, for instance, and he will need support at all sorts of different levels if he is to become open about his sexuality. It will have to be done in very small stages and he may never be fully comfortable with it when you are with other people, especially those who knew him as a married man.

In terms of a long-term relationship and one that you are both prepared to share with the world, it is a bit worrying that you do not have many interests in common. Most couples, even those with extraordinarily good sex lives, find that common interests and hobbies are a very large part of their lives. It would be wonderful if you were to start something new together, something that would be fun for you both but that you could share.

You may be wanting too much to get him to change from caveman to more affectionate mode. We never get everything we need in a relationship so it might be an idea to prioritise what is more important to you - happiness outside or inside the bedroom.

My doctor made me feel old and past it

Q. I am 64 and my husband is 71. Our sex life was never marvellous - I think my husband fits your recent description of Asperger Syndrome as he was never tactile nor imaginative nor affectionate - but we accepted that sex offered us an amount of relief from tension. Then maybe five years ago even that began to disintegrate - my husband would fall asleep watching Vincent Browne and despite my pleading just never come to bed until the early hours. I was very lonely waiting for him to come up to bed and eventually asked him to sleep in the spare room so I would not be constantly waiting. Later I discovered that he has erectile dysfunction. We went to the lady doctor in the medical practice. To her questions 'do you miss sex?' he said 'no' and asked would he contemplate going to counselling said 'no'. He was absolutely embarrassed.

It was an awful consultation because the doctor gave me a little lecture on the changes in the female physiognomy which makes her less attractive as she ages. I came away with the distinct impression that I am old and unattractive. I am so disappointed that this is where we have finally wound up. But most of all I feel so old.

I don't even know why I am writing to you. I have many social outlets - book club, etc (my husband has very few interests except watching TV). I miss a bit of craic!

Mary replies: Reading your email I found myself getting angry at the doctor for treating you the way she did. My immediate response is to change your doctor. After all if you found yourself unhappy with the dentist or the hairdresser, you would change to somebody else and there is no shortage of absolutely wonderful GPs - both male and female - around the country. I have met quite a lot of them at different study days and conferences over the years and found them to be incredibly caring and wanting the best for their patients. Their main complaint seems to be that they simply don't have the time that they would like to give to each patient, particularly somebody such as you and your husband who were presenting with a very common but for some very embarrassing topic. You were unfortunate to get that GP.

In a convoluted way this doctor was explaining away your husband's erectile dysfunction by suggesting that you - and it seems all women - get less attractive as they age and therefore she could understand his problem. I'm not surprised that he said he didn't want to go for counselling - she blew the one shot she had at helping him. Why didn't she then suggest one of the medical solutions that are available as an alternative to counselling?

Couples grow old together, and the ageing process is not confined to one sex. And you should not consider yourself old at 64. You don't even qualify for the State Pension for another two years! Abraham Lincoln said: "It's not the years in your life that count - it's the life in your years." I'm glad you have lots of social activities and it is sad your sex life has disappeared. But all may not be lost. Ask your friends for a recommendation for a new GP and then make an appointment by yourself and explain what happened previously and ask for help in moving forward. I do hope that your experience is a far more positive one.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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