My husband, 64, and I have been together for 34 years. We love each other, laugh a lot and enjoy the same interests.
He is my dearest friend — but, sadly, no longer my lover. I asked him why we didn’t make love any more, thinking it might be all the tablets he has to take or perhaps just stress.
Stupidly, I asked him to be completely frank. His reply has upset me so much: ‘Well, to be honest, you just don’t turn me on any more — I guess you just got a bit old.’
After the hurt came the anger – I told him he was balding, pot-bellied, insensitive and too stupid and uncaring to know when a white lie was called for
It’s left me devastated — like a hand grenade thrown into the heart of our marriage.
I wasn’t imagining I’m gorgeous, but I’m 59, slim and still reasonably pretty. And I can’t seem to get past that remark.
Especially when I read about men who have been married a long time who still find their wives as lovely as at first.
You see, if he’d said I was too fat or bad tempered or didn’t make an effort — I could have done something about it. But I can’t help getting older.
I said I’d never enjoyed sex with him anyway, so was now relieved to know how he really felt. Oh dear! I might have grown old, but not grown up…
Every time I buy a lipstick or visit the hairdresser or paint my nails, I hear his words.
I do it for myself but it was always to please him, too — but now it seems pointless. It’s not even truly that I do want sex — it’s that I want him to want to.
He wishes he hadn’t said it and could turn the clock back and is trying hard to put it right.
But now if he pays me a compliment I accuse him of sarcasm.
In past strong exchanges of views, we’ve said regrettable things but always forgiven. Why can’t I get past this? Must I resign myself to never making love again? Have an affair?
When I threatened that he said; ‘Well, it looks like I’ll have to step up to the mark.’ (I ask you! Don’t force yourself!)
I can’t afford a facelift. As I was typing this, he sent me a text saying he just wanted me to know he loves me. I replied, ‘No you don’t. I guess I just got a bit old.’ Not helpful.
I wish I had your wisdom and dignity. I wish I wasn’t so hurt and angry. I wish I wasn’t so intent on hurting him back.
I wish I wasn’t so immature. I wish I wasn’t so old.
This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail.
This is a very moving letter and there are various things that are surprising about it. It’s strange that you expect to get over this – it was a devastating thing to hear and I’m surprised that you’re surprised that you’re angry. Perhaps what was most hurtful was the intention to wound which must have been there for this to come out of his mouth. Then there is your fixation on outward appearance, his and yours. You say everything’s great in your marriage, but you obviously haven’t had sex for a long time and it simply can’t be about what you look like. You so much want to believe that it is in some ways. And then there is the last line – ‘I wish I wasn’t so old.’ Again, the feeling that this is to blame, taking his words at face value. So a face lift might be the answer?
Of course, he has said a terrible thing and it is hard to imagine this being easy to get over. But it can’t have come out of nowhere in the way you suggest.
On first reading of the opening paragraph one can hear only your husband’s cruelty. However, what is slightly less glaring, but nonetheless present, is your own. I wonder how it sounded when you confronted him? When you write ‘all the tablets he has to take’ and ‘just stress’ there is a tiny, very subtle edge of derision. Also, you assumed the problem had nothing to do with you. Odd in itself.
If he is taking a lot of medicine one assumes he has conditions, perhaps related to age? ‘Just stress’ sounds as though you would not be very understanding about stress as a cause for lack of libido? I wonder if, in your tone, he heard accusations of being too old and ill to have sex? And I wonder if, unconsciously, they were there? By the sounds of your subsequent attack on his looks, it seems he hasn’t looked after himself as well as you have looked after yourself. (Outward appearance only – again).
You say you are best friends, so it’s not unlikely that he already knew what you thought of him physically before you said it all. Is it possible that you feel he is too old and ugly for sex and that he knew that and it came across in your tone when you confronted him? I do understand that you have been very hurt by his lack of interest, perhaps for a long time, but I think you are possibly less in touch with your own lack of interest in him, despite having told him about it after his wounding comment. You say yourself that you don’t want sex, you just want him to want it. Could he have been aware of that all along?
I think what has happened between you has got all tangled up. You find him old and unattractive. He is aware of this. You are then worried that maybe he finds you old and unattractive. You are devastated by the aging process (and you say you spend time on your appearance so this really matters to you) and you take it out on him unconsciously, then he refuses sex, or feels castrated by your (perhaps unspoken) criticism and is incapable of sex. Then when he said you’d got too old, your own fears and feelings all came back at you and felt unbearable.
You say his comment was like a grenade thrown into the heart of your marriage, but I suggest the grenade was already there in your own fear of ageing (and ultimately dying), your feelings about him as an old man and your fantasy of being physically desirable. It sounds as though you were told you pretty growing up, that your value as a person rested mainly on your appearance. Whilst you were clearly devastated by his nasty remark, the idea of his lashing out at you because of insecurities of his own, because of how he knows you view him, doesn’t crop up in your letter. What you write is: ‘How dare he not fancy me? He’s ugly and I’m still attractive!’ This is all about you and how you would like to be perceived. You threaten to have an affair and are appalled at his unsatisfactory response. You find him unsatisfactory (and he surely knows this, is castrated by it) but concentrate solely on the idea that he is not satisfied by you. You cannot bear the idea that you might BE unsatisfactory and can only think here of your physical appearance. Might he not feel derided by you?
I am thinking about what you didn’t say. You confronted him and demanded he be honest. But you weren’t honest. You asked him to explain why you weren’t having sex, but you don’t entertain the idea that he may not know. And you didn’t say; ‘I’m upset because I feel as though you don’t fancy me any more and I’m so miserable about getting old, looking old.’
Or perhaps you did. But in your letter you tell a story of a pathetic old man making an unfairly cruel remark to a capable and attractive woman who then attacks so violently (the grenade thrown back but much harder) that she worries things will never be resolved. The suggestion that this might be sorted out if you could afford a facelift is almost brilliant. It’s such a perfect illustration of how superficial you imagine the problem to be. It’s not about what you look like. It’s about what you really, truly think of him and what you demand of him. Whatever it is (and it’s your fantasy of manliness, I think), he feels inadequate and incapable of supplying it and is humiliated by your continuing to ask. Then, when he is openly cruel you attack, perhaps expecting him to magically make things better. But he can’t. And you seem to be waiting for something to stop you minding. An impossibility in the face of a statement like his I would have thought.
You write; “I wish I wasn’t so hurt and angry. I wish I wasn’t so intent on hurting him back. I wish I wasn’t so immature. I wish I wasn’t so old.” This is very moving and also very telling. What you are saying is that you wish reality would go away because you don’t want to accept it. Unfortunately, there is no choice. You are hurt and angry, you do want to hurt him (as he wanted to hurt you), you are immature and you are old. None of these things is bad – simply true. And we can all understand that you wish things were otherwise.
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