I’m in my early 70s and my wife is four years younger than me. Three years ago, she just stopped having sex. I still miss sex and it would take very little intimacy to satisfy my needs these days, but she refuses to engage with me at all.
No hugging and no touching, she has become very cold. To go back some years — she had a hysterectomy 20 years ago and I feel that this could be the root cause. We have five grown-up children and always had a great sex life. I’d love her to be a little more intimate with me, even occasionally.
Mary replies: There has to be some reason why your wife suddenly stopped being intimate with you, especially as up until then you had a very good sex life.
The first thing to look at is the relationship itself, because if this is not good then it is very hard for a woman to see beyond this and be intimate with her partner. Did anything in particular happen three years ago that may have affected her feelings towards you?
It is extremely unlikely that a hysterectomy would be responsible for her change of attitude, and anyway it was such a long time ago. In fact, some women are very happy when they have a hysterectomy, once they get over the surgery. This is because there is then no possibility of them becoming pregnant again and so they feel quite liberated and are able to have sex without worry. This can be especially true for women who are unable to use the contraceptive pill.
There is always the possibility that your wife may have become involved with someone else, but you surely would have mentioned it in your email if you were in any way suspicious. But I have to bring it up with you, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing a good job in responding to your query.
Until you discover what has brought about her change of heart regarding any form of intimacy, you will be unable to progress. I presume that you have talked about all of this with her and not had any satisfaction. But even if you have, you will have to discuss it with her again because otherwise it will eat away at you and you will suffer mentally. Tell her that you really miss the intimacy that you had, and the fact that you had a healthy and fulfilling sexual life. Ask her to tell you what happened three years ago that changed her attitude towards you. If she says that absolutely nothing happened but that she doesn’t feel like having sex with you any more, then ask how she would feel if you went elsewhere for sex.
I’m not advocating that you do, I’m just suggesting that she should be aware of the consequences of what she has done in withdrawing everything from you. Explain to her, as you did to me, that your needs aren’t great but that you find her coldness towards you impossible to accept.
I could suggest things like massage, kissing, hugging or cuddling to begin with. But I truly feel that unless you find out why she withdrew from you three years ago, then there is very little possibility of things changing.
If you find that you are still getting nowhere, then I suggest that you have some couples counselling, and if she doesn’t agree to that, then you should see a counsellor on your own so that you have, at least, someone with whom you can share the burden.
Be sure to consult an accredited counsellor and you can find one in your area at iacp.ie.