About Last Night: Are we too young to stop having sex?
Q: Can a marriage be good, happy and fulfilled but sexless? Gino (52) and I (48) have been married for 20 years. After our two children were born, sex dwindled, due to the usual pressures of family life. We are still relatively young, but haven't had sex for almost three years because Gino lost interest too. We both agreed this was OK. I was never a very sexual person. Gino usually initiated sex, and I don't miss it. We still have a very good relationship, and kiss and cuddle, and have physical contact. Are we too young to stop having sex?
A: There are many commonly held misconceptions about sex. One is that it is compulsory if you want to have a healthy relationship. Another is that real sex involves a penis entering a vagina, and that couples who do not want to do this must be dysfunctional, and should persevere at it in the same way that they should eat a healthy diet, and should get regular exercise. All of these things can enhance your wellbeing, but not doing them should not be used as a stick with which to beat yourself up.
The intimacy you enjoy sharing is your sex life. It is the tender bond that keeps you connected as a couple. Credit:SHUTTERSTOCK
In Dr Rosie King's classic text, Good Loving, Great Sex: Finding Balance When Your Sex Drives Differ, the operative word is "differ". If a couple want sex twice a day, twice a week, twice a month, or twice a year it does not matter, as long as they are both happy. Some couples enjoy frequent "quickies", while others prefer less frequent, but more intense sessions in which they try out a variety of activities. Nobody is standing at the end of your bed holding up scorecards.
Your initial statement is not, in fact, accurate. You say that you enjoy kissing, cuddling, and affectionate touch. I expect you touch each other in ways that you would not feel comfortable using with strangers, friends, and family members. The intimacy you enjoy sharing is your sex life. It is the tender bond that keeps you connected as a couple. You are not just house mates.
Relationships are fluid, and evolving.
Where you and Gino are in your relationship is perfect in this moment, but there is no need to apply labels such as "sexless" as though this is a fixed position. Relationships are fluid, and evolving. Be happy and fulfilled, enjoy what is, but keep an open mind, and be willing to change. Remain open to possibilities.
It is true that you and Gino are still young. You are, however, at an age when the body begins to change. Some men experience issues around getting an erection. Others notice that urination gets less easy, or have other symptoms involving their prostate. Hormonal changes can impact on desire and sexual interest.
For women, this is often the time of perimenopause, as menopause approaches. For some women, it is a time where unpleasant symptoms can happen. The massive hormonal changes can impact physically, in the form of hot flushes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and insomnia. Emotional symptoms can also be overwhelming – weepiness or depression, forgetfulness or clumsiness that leave you feeling inadequate. It is important for both of you to stay in touch with your bodies, and monitor your health.
After menopause, the old adage, "use it or lose it" can mean more than muscle strength, joint health, and flexibility. A number of older women find that, after years of sexual inactivity, they meet someone with whom they wish to be sexually intimate, only to find that it is not easy.
The vagina changes as we age, but a rapid change can occur at menopause. Natural lubrication can lessen, which can result in vaginal dryness. This can be painful. The vaginal canal can shrink, or atrophy, and its walls can get thinner, and easier to tear. As a result, having penetrative sex can be difficult.
There are treatments available that can ameliorate some of these symptoms, but it is better to keep in touch with all of your body, including your sexual health. You might never choose to reignite your sex life, but try to keep your system roadworthy.
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