DEAR ABBY: I read that letter from the widower who wondered when to tell his new lady friend that he was unable to fulfill his "bedroom duties." As a single woman in my 50s, please let him know he is not alone in his difficulties. I've learned that as men age, sexual problems become more frequent due to diabetes, heart attacks, prostate trouble and other health problems.
Research shows that couples in their 80s and 90s enjoy sex. Sex is what you make it -- it doesn't have to be intercourse to be enjoyable. Our lives and bodies change with age, so why not our view of sexual pleasure? We should work with what's available.
Men need to communicate openly and honestly with the women in their lives. Doctors need to be aware of how traumatic this is for couples and offer advice, bringing the subject up rather than waiting for the men to bring it to their attention. Some men are too shy or embarrassed to initiate the discussion. Sex is a basic human need, and there is no time line for it. -- A LAS VEGAS READER
DEAR READER: I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that I received hundreds of letters and e-mails from men and women offering support to the writer of that letter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I applaud you for encouraging that man to seek medical treatment for his problem, as there are, indeed, many new treatments available for erectile dysfunction (E.D.).
However, I want your readers to also know that even if E.D. is untreatable, one's bedroom activities need not be over. The brain is the most important sexual organ that we humans possess, and extending from there, the human imagination offers any number of wonderful ways to express erotic love for our partners.
I would advise that gentleman not only to explore further treatment but also his own and his partner's creativity. There's more than one way for that gentleman to be a red-hot lover to his lady. -- TONY IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR TONY: I agree!
DEAR ABBY: If the widows I know had that man's address, there would be a stampede to his door. Most of the women in my circle who are older than 65 just want dinner and the theater and a peck on the cheek at the door. I'm sure you know this to be true. -- LOIS IN LONG BEACH, CALIF.
DEAR LOIS: Some do; many don't. That's why I never generalize.
DEAR ABBY: A few years ago I was impotent. I was seeing a wonderful woman who, when she learned of my problem, told me, "We'll face it together." With my best friend and soul mate, I found that intimacy and affection are not an X-rated movie. Love is much more important than that.
I later saw a doctor and overcame my problem, but in that time of difficulty, I learned more about love than I had in any of my 40-odd years. If the woman that widower in San Diego loves cannot accept reality, then I hope he can take comfort in knowing there are women in the world who can. I have been there, and I am grateful for my best friend. -- LONGTIME READER
DEAR LONGTIME READER: Although we live in a sex-drenched culture, not everyone has the same appetite, ability or enthusiasm for it. While sex is an important part of a relationship to many people, sex itself is not enough to keep a relationship going. And I have received thousands of letters from readers over the years that prove it.