What’s a guy supposed to do when his partner tells him she doesn’t want to have sex anymore?
Damn. I barely know where to begin on this one. Let’s set the context first. This article was stimulated by a private response I received to an earlier article on what happened as my wife and I aged and how it affected our sexual relationship.
The respondent is female, in a committed relationship and recently went through menopause. Here is what she wrote:
“. . . it’s been a complete re-direct of my ‘sexual’ energy to creativity and career. I have zero desire and zero need for sex. I don’t want it, don’t miss it. This precipitous drop in libido has not been upsetting to me at all, because it has been concurrent with a huge increase in my creativity and focus for purpose. I feel like I have come out of a hormone driven drugged state, where for years, my
sexual desires were in charge (my forties were crazy in terms of how horny and arousable I was–but I also practiced two solid years of sexual tantra with a committed partner and that too was beautiful).
“There is little room, culturally, for a woman to simply say, nah, forget it, not interested. It means she is less than. She is not serving her husband’s needs, etc.. I have told my husband, go take a lover.
“I am not sure how I will really feel about it, but I can say that the relief I feel since I said that has been immense. I am no longer desperately trying to keep up with his sex needs and because I don’t ‘fake’ anything, my own disinterest was a turn off for him anyway. He wanted me to be sexually interested, not just available.
“And to top off this bit about menopause–without hormone replacement (and I’m not doing that) sex is not even as enjoyable–it can sometimes feel painful, arousal takes longer and frankly, it’s just not important.
“In this new cronehood, I feel as if I am in a state of high arousal with life itself. My genitals are just a small part of that big picture, and not center stage. Yes, sexual energy is more than genitals, and yes, I’ve circulated and streamed and tantra merged it all before.
“There comes a time, however, at least for some women, where that energy is being funneled to greater purpose than orgasm or a partner’s pleasure . . . . I have not had a period for almost three years. I am not PERI meno, but fully menopausal. I also know my experience has been echoed by several women who, in menopause, have found greater expression of their hearts and passions in the world, when the drive for sex gives way to the drive for contribution and creative expression.”
Double damn. Sounds amazing for her. Not so good for him. Being a guy, I’m thinking, “How does he feel about this.” I sure as hell would not be happy. And yet, if I loved my partner and she was clear that sex just wasn’t in the cards anymore, I would have to think long and hard on what that means; for her, for me, and for the relationship.
The offer of taking on a lover is very European and fraught with danger, and some would no doubt say opportunity, and definitely a challenge. Sometimes it works. For example, the female partner of another couple I know have been together for over 30 years and decided to have an affair. Her husband waited awhile, and then figured out that what was good for the goose was good for the gander. He took on a lover. That changed everything. She was surprised at what this brought up for her. Eventually, they resumed their monogamous relationship and both partners believe that the experience was essential for their appreciation and understanding of the other person.
In my relationship, sex is a connecting factor which both my partner and I appreciate. And yet, due to a history of prostate cancer, I know that there may come a time when I may not have the desire for sex and be unable to perform. That does not mean that one cannot continue to have physical intimacy (for an extraordinary story about how one man overcame surgery to have an intimate physical relationship, read Michael J. Russer’s blog post). However, the typical story I hear is that surgery puts an end to the sexual aspect of the relationship.
Furthermore, menopause, surgery or illness are not the only reasons sex stops in a marriage or committed relationship. Long-term anger and resentment will do it. Having lots of kids will do it. This was popular before birth control and still happens for couples who are religious and don’t believe in contraception.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you are in a loving and stable marriage or committed relationship. As in the story above, your partner comes to you and tells you that they no longer want to have sexual relations with you. What would you do?
Please leave your comments below and if we get enough feedback on this question I will post a summary of the results.
P.S. A number of people who read my earlier article were asking how the “sweetness project” was going. It has been a great experience. The home has a lot of playful energy now, we are laughing every day, and there is more affectionate behavior occurring. The relationship feels alive and I am now more aware of how daily attention to my partner is effective in enhancing and maintaining that “loving feeling.”
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