Each week i asks experts to answer readers’ questions about love, sex and relationships
My wife and I have been together for 20 years. I’m 55 and she’s 45. We have three kids who are teenagers now, and one has left home so we have a bit more time together. It’s been great but I’m feeling under pressure sex-wise. We’ve always been pretty up and down with that side of things – we have long patches with no sex and then times when we are together more – and that’s always been OK with me.
But now it seems like my wife wants it all the time and she wants much rougher and more intense sex than we usually have. I liked it at first but I am not up for that all the time. We talked and she told me that she wants to have sex at least three times a week and that often when we get going she could stay at it all night. I would be happy with sex once every couple of weeks.
We had sex last night and she told me she wanted to go again straight after but I wasn’t able to. We did other stuff instead which she enjoyed but I felt that it wasn’t enough.
I don’t know what’s happened to her – it’s like she is a different person, at least in bed. She wonders if it’s her hormones. We both agree that she has a higher sex drive but it seems like in the past few months the gap has got even wider.
She recently told me she has been unsatisfied for quite a while and that was hard to hear. I thought we were doing OK on that front. She says she hasn’t looked for sex elsewhere but I worry I can’t give her what she wants. She has a friend who has just got divorced and seems to be out every night with a different man and I’m wondering if that’s what she secretly wants to do.
Nicola Foster sex and relationship therapist says:
It may run counter to the “all men think about is sex” cliche, but in half of the couples I see for mismatched desire the woman is the partner with the higher interest. Given your ages, it’s true that your wife’s high libido could be connected to hormones. In the early stages of perimenopause women often experience a higher libido, while for men in their 50s the time it takes to get a 2nd erection after orgasm can be up to 24 hours. In the most recent UK study of sexual behaviours people said that they had sex on average three times a month, down from five times a month 20 years ago.
Why all the facts and figures? It’s possible you are simply experiencing the normal ebb and flow of sexual interest in a long term relationship. She’s in a flow and you’re in an ebb. They are both to be expected over a lifespan, and there is nothing “wrong”. It’s not unusual for sexual interest to come and go – there can be a lot of influencing factors like stress, health issues, energy levels and emotional concerns. A health check up with your GP (including checking your testosterone levels) is worth doing just to rule out any physical factors.
However, you’re feeling some pressure to perform, and one thing that desire doesn’t respond well to is pressure. In order to take the pressure off, you need to have a kind and realistic conversation about what would be a good frequency of making love (not necessarily sexual intercourse) that considers the relationship needs as a whole. Also, when are the times that work for both of you – maybe late into the night isn’t your ideal time and morning or daytime would be preferable.
I hear that you are willing to offer her pleasure. You could try asking this powerful question – “Is there anything that would make it EVEN better?”- you might discover something new. As for wanting more “rough” sex, I wonder, is it what she wants all the time, or something to play with now and then?
It’s vulnerable to share your fears with her about not being able to meet her where she is. But if you can sit down and have an honest conversation about what sex means to you, and listen to each other’s wants, concerns and hopes for the future – without making unrealistic demands or blaming the other – I hope you’ll be able to find a way forward that works for both of you.
As told to Marianne Power