DEAR NATALIE: I am a 68-year-old man and my wife is a year younger. We have been married more than 45 years. I still have romantic needs, she does not. Any physical intimate contact is forbidden. She says being intimate makes her feel “cheap.” This issue has caused great tension and stress between us as I still desire a romantic, intimate life with her and it seems as though she does not. Can you suggest a solution for this problem? Thank you.
DEAR UNHAPPILY WED: I find that the solution for most (if not every problem) is open and honest communication. You need to find out what is at the root of this. Maybe it is emotional. Maybe it is hormonal. Maybe she is not attracted to you for whatever reason. Maybe your romantic life has always been about you and not about her and she’s just over it. Instead of asking her to fulfill your needs, try asking her what her needs are. If you are uncomfortable doing this alone, find a reputable sex therapist to mediate these conversations. She may be uncomfortable with this idea, but make it clear to her that you love her and want to strengthen your marriage. You may be surprised at the answer. Perhaps she needs romance outside of the bedroom in order for her to get in the headspace for the bedroom. Do you still date? Do you still take her out to dinner or bring home flowers for no reason or clean the house without her having to ask you? When was the last time you cooked her dinner or encouraged her to take a day to herself and spend time doing something she loves independent of you or your family? Do you listen when she speaks, engage in thoughtful conversation together and laugh together? Romance starts in the mind, and it seems as though you are disconnected mentally as well as physically. If you try counseling and she still doesn’t want to participate in that part of your marriage, anymore, then it can get tricky. Either you become a monk of some sorts and accept the end of your sexual life, or you have a real conversation about the idea of an open marriage for physical needs. You may have no intention of ever doing this, but just bringing it up may make her recognize the necessity for this part of life in your life. Who knows? Maybe it’ll open her mind to finding a way to save your marriage together instead of drifting farther apart.
DEAR NATALIE: My wife is considerably younger than I am and when we first met, she told me she never wanted children. But now she is almost 37, and I am 59 and the idea has been coming up a lot lately. She seems to have changed her mind. We have married for five years and have a great relationship. I have four grown children from a previous marriage and the idea of starting all over again is not something I am interested in doing. I want to travel and enjoy our lives. I was able to retire recently and we live a very comfortable lifestyle. I am not sure how to put my foot down on this one, as she seems adamant about having at least one child with me. What should I do? --NO MORE KIDS PLEASE
DEAR NO MORE KIDS PLEASE: Sounds like you are about to become a father again, congratulations! I hate to bring you back to reality, but someone had to do it. If she wants to have a baby, and you have already had four with someone else, do you really think you are going to win on this one? Clearly, having a child is not about winning or losing, but on what planet do you marry a woman twenty-two years younger than you and not think that this will become an issue? If I were you, I would tell her how you feel and what your concerns are. If you have resources, then you may still be able to travel and live the lifestyle that you want, just with a little one in tow. You may balk at the idea of being a father to a teenager when you are seventy, but I think this is the trade-off for marrying someone young enough to be your daughter. Either accept it or let her go to find someone else who wants to fulfill this dream.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Look at every new situation as a way to meet new friends and make new connections. Be friendly and approachable to the people around you. People respond to energy, so make sure that you are giving off positive vibes.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)