First You Say You Do; And Then You Don’t

20150917-DSC_0074She bent over to pick up some dirty clothes on the floor and he laid his hand on her rear. It was a gentle touch and he let his hand linger into a caress, before he turned and walked away. They had been married a long time, and his touch triggered the confusion again. Was it an invitation, letting her know his desire? Why did he leave? Did she really want him to disrupt her day with this need? His touch had felt good, stimulating.

She knew her sex drive was lessening, even though she didn’t want to admit it. Her love for him had grown over the years, but her need for sex had slowly diminished from several times a week in the early years, to a Sunday afternoon delight every week once the kids had left the house, to now maybe once or twice a month. Occasionally she was suggestive, sometimes him, and she always enjoyed the romp once they got started.

The other day she smiled when she remembered the conversation with a friend when they were 16 or 17. They were trying to figure out how they and their future husbands would let each other know they wanted “it.” She doubts she would be able to answer that question even now – but in the early years they had no trouble with communication. They just fell in bed on a regular basis. Now they communicate more than they consummate.

Why are they struggling with their sexual needs after all these years – almost half a century? They go through this funny little dance of false starts, wanting “it” but deciding maybe not, suggesting but not wanting to put the effort into making it happen. Maybe at issue is that sex takes more work with an old body. Having a quickie takes longer, in spite of the ED commercial that speaks of “when the moment is right.”

She still wants sex; sex isn’t DOA. She finds it fun to flirt with those looks that say “lets” or with mildly lewd comments. He laughs out loud when she talks naughty. But most of all she likes his gentle kisses on the back of her neck, likes the familiar tingle she feels. I saw them lock into a mutual gaze that said so much even though they didn’t speak a word. I might have even detected an intake of breath and the start of a smile. But most of the time they don’t end up in bed.

I overheard them say something about those early years. “Remember on our wedding night? How many times was it?” “Used to be all I had to do was think about you…” “Remember when you came home for lunch and we would run upstairs?” I guess those times were fun to remember – after filtering out all the stress of learning to live together without enough money. They also forgot the tension of trying to figure out how to get what they needed as individuals while building their commitment to each other. They forgot the growing pains. Now it’s hard to know whether their flirting comes from sexual desire or from wanting to be desired or from wanting to go back to the way they remembered it.

So much has changed even though they can almost feel like the same person they were in another time and place. They don’t doubt their love for each other, but they haven’t figured out how sex fits into their aging life. Maybe that is one of the last knots to untie in the long term relationship.

12 thoughts on “First You Say You Do; And Then You Don’t

  1. OH I just burst into tears. Thank you for writing this post! I have been all stuck in an IDEA that my partner decided he is old now, so doesn’t do that. lol I gratefully can’t yet comprehend and I find the mindset silly. For me it is the journey, that look that touch, desire, expression in the many ways it can be expressed. So hard to talk about and so hard to get a real answer that isn’t full of finching as if one is not enough and thus must cause pain instead.


    • It is hard to talk about because so much of our ego is caught up in being desirable and “performing.” It was hard for me to publish this – even in third person voice. I sat on it for over a month. I wish you well, Elisa. People can “do that” well into their 90’s if they don’t stop or have a medical problem.Doctors can help if impotence is due to illnesses.

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