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Dear Mary: We hardly ever have sex and I'm afraid I might be tempted to stray


Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

I could really do with your help.

I am a male, mid-50s, married to the love of my life for over 30 years, who is also in her mid 50s.  We started going out when we were very young and I love her now as much as ever. The family are now grown up and money is not a problem for us, so we manage to keep the bills paid and have a holiday each year.

That sounds perfect, you might say. But it's the usual problem - we hardly ever have sex. I will say that my sex drive is much higher than hers and has always been.

Up until about three years ago, while we did not have intercourse very often, we did cuddle each night and she did stroke me and got me aroused; but for the most part that was as far as it went. I was happy enough with this together with the odd bit of intercourse, but still craved for sex more often. But even this has now ceased. I would love to make love to her a few times a week.

She has been going through the change of life for many years. I have tried talking to her about the problem but she seems to have very little interest in talking about the situation. We do a lot of things together and have a good circle of friends. I am really struggling with this lack of closeness.

I know that I would never go looking for this elsewhere, but am afraid that if a situation arose where it was available I might be tempted to take it, which I know would ruin everything between us.

As I said, she has always been the love of my life and all I want is to be close to her. Please help.

Mary replies: I was taking part in a radio programme recently where one of the queries was lack of sex in a relationship, and the producers were taken aback by the amount of correspondence it generated from people in a similar situation. It is a very common complaint, but each case needs to be looked at individually because there are lots of different reasons for a person to experience lack of desire.

In your particular case, your wife's drive was never as high as yours, so you cannot expect that to change. It certainly looks like the menopause has been having an effect on her libido. There are actual physical reasons for this, and bear in mind that the effects of the menopause can last for up to ten years. During menopause, the ovaries gradually decrease their production of estrogen, which in turn leads to vaginal dryness. Without using a lubricant, then intercourse can be painful and I wonder if this happened with your wife. Hot flushes and night sweats are also a feature, which can mean that a woman might not get much sleep and is left feeling pretty exhausted. She certainly doesn't feel very sexy while all of this is going on. This may not all apply to your wife, but some of it will. A very good resource for any woman going through the menopause is the website www.mysecondspring.ie and you should suggest that she at least take a look at this and see that she is not alone.

We cannot, however, blame everything on the menopause. You have been together an awfully long time, and it is so refreshing to read your lovely comments about your wife. But the length of time may mean that your life together has become very predictable. When was the last time you surprised her? Even something small like a bunch of flowers for no particular reason can let her see how much she means to you. A weekend away - or even one night in a hotel just for the heck of it - can bring a certain freshness to the relationship and make her feel more loving towards you. Likewise, an unexpected breakfast in bed earns a lot of brownie points.

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At the end of the day it is about communication, but with tact. Explain that you know she doesn't like talking about all of this but tell her that you miss the intimacy that you once had and tell her about your fear of straying should the opportunity arise. Don't blame her or criticise her but put your point of view across lovingly. Hopefully, she will respond and you can go forward together.

My drinking days are over, so I need a social life outside the pub

Question: I am writing this email in despair. I am a 50-plus male who never married or got close to it. I am financially secure. I work in construction, and early in life I  did drink a lot but due to the recession and health concerns, I no longer drink. In fact, the pub was my social  life. Unless a female was  interested  to going to the pub I would have no interest. Hence my present problem. I have limited contact  with my old pub pals. I did have a steady relationship but it foundered. I live in Dublin during  the week and visit the country at weekends. I attend local gyms.

I now find myself isolated after employment hours and at weekends. I have tried online dating but it is like buying a lottery ticket. I have lots of interests. I wonder if you could advise or help me improve my social life without having to visit pubs.

Mary replies: You signed your email 'not looking forward' which I take to mean not looking forward to the rest of your life. If so, that is very sad. Life is for living and we should make the most of every day.

Well done on cutting alcohol out of your life. We are such an alcohol-oriented society it cannot have been easy for you. But as you are avoiding pubs you are finding a chunk is missing in your life and that is what you are seeking to replace. Online dating has indeed got a lot of advantages but it also has drawbacks. Nothing can really beat live face-to-face interaction, because even if a couple are getting on really well online they often find that there is no chemistry whatsoever when they meet. So I would encourage you to investigate an organisation called Meetup whose aim is to help people meet other people in their local community with shared interests. There are groups set up all over the country consisting of single, separated and divorced people of many different ages and the activities are so varied - anything from hill-walking to dancing to theatre nights and many more - that you are bound to find some group that would suit you. Bear in mind that each person in whatever group you chose has gone there for the first time on their own so people watch out for one another: www.meetup.com/cities/ie will let you know what groups are in your area.

Another way for you to meet people is by volunteering your time to whatever organisation interests you. This has the benefit of helping out a worthy cause as well. It is difficult to be specific as I don't know what interests you, but hospitals, hospices, and Meals on Wheels all have a big need of volunteer workers who are willing to give a few hours a week.

I hope you find some outlet for your non-working hours. There is a lot going on all over Ireland so you do not need to be alone.

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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