It happens in so many later-middle-age relationships: The man, a few years older than the woman to begin with, shows signs of aging at a faster pace than the woman does, leaving her frustrated on a number of levels.
If this is simply a dating couple, and the woman isn’t fully committed to the relationship, she may bolt at this point. If they’re a married (or live-together) couple, breaking up for this reason is unlikely but not unheard of. Most women, though opt for less extreme solutions…while others simply sigh in resignation or grouse to their friends. Fortunately there are some answers.
One set of problems, of course, is those brought about by health issues. To begin with, men typically don’t take care of their health as earnestly as women do. Then, in addition, the average male in a couple is older than the woman. As a result, he may not be up for going for walks with her anymore, or engaging in other physical activities with her.
Food is another area rife with strife. The man’s newfound health issues may require restrictions in his diet, leaving the woman frustrated whether they’re eating in or dining out. At home, suddenly she can’t prepare a whole assortment of recipes from her repertoire, including many of her favorites. If dining out, her favorite restaurant may suddenly be off-limits because there’s nothing there he can eat.
Perhaps most troublesome of all is the issue of sex. The man’s sex drive may have dropped markedly. On top of that, he may have erectile dysfunction, either brought about by age, or caused by one of the meds he’s now taking, or perhaps as a result of prostate surgery.
Let’s start by taking apart the woman’s desire to go walking with the man. There are two things she wants: To engage in a pleasurable activity with him, and to have someone to go walking with. She needs to do two things: Find someone else to engage in these activities with, and find something more sedentary she can enjoy doing with the man. Now is the time when her friends will be more necessary to her than ever. They can be her companions when she wants to do something physical that the man will no longer take part in.
At the same time, she can look for a less active pursuit that she and he can enjoy on a “togetherness” basis, whether it’s playing cards, doing crossword puzzles together, or some other quiet pastime.She can also become more independent. There are some enjoyable activities that don’t really need to be shared at all…with the man or with a friend. Not only walking but gardening and other pursuits can be very enjoyable on a solitary basis.
If it’s tough getting him out of the house at all, the woman should look for activities she can indulge in on her own or with friends, such as joining a book club, taking classes, or volunteering. (Even if she’s still working during the day, there are some volunteer opportunities available for the evenings.)
If she is used to traveling, but he no longer wants to leave home, she can join a travel club, or travel with a friend, or even go it alone.
What about the food issue? Again, friends may be her salvation. She can go out to dinner with a friend from time to time, enjoying the restaurants she loves that he can no longer eat at. She can also have friends over for dinner and cook for them the recipes she can no longer cook for him and won’t bother to cook for just herself. Of course she’ll need to cook something separate for him, but at least she once again gets to enjoy that yummy recipe she’s missed eating lately.
Sex is the toughest situation to find answers for…but by no means impossible. If his problem is ED, Viagra or Cialis may provide relief. If not, I’m sure I don’t have to point out to you that intercourse is not the only form of sex, and that ED doesn’t affect his tongue or fingers. If he lacks a sex drive altogether, ideally he should want to see to it that her desires are fulfilled all the same. Even if he isn’t motivated by a sexual hunger, if he loves her, he should want to see that she’s happy.
Yet we all know of couples in which the man doesn’t fulfill his wife’s sexual needs by any method. Then it’s time to turn to “BOB” (as one of my friends calls her “Battery Operated Boyfriend”). While self-service sex with a buzzing device doesn’t offer the intimacy and connection that partnered sex does, it sure can give you one hell of a satisfying orgasm…and as often as you want. No waiting till “BOB” is in the mood. No worries about whether he can get an erection, or whether he can last till you’re satisfied. All you need is spare batteries tucked away in a drawer.
I don’t mean to make it sound like these are all totally easy solutions. Particularly problematic may be the suggestions that involve her leaving him to his own devices while she goes off with friends. If they’re a couple who’ve always done things together and didn’t enjoy a great degree of independence up till now, he may be hurt or alarmed or both by the woman’s taking off and doing her own thing without him. Even if they did enjoy a degree of independence throughout their marriage, his new restrictions on himself may leave him feeling isolated and resentful when he’s cooped up in the house and she’s off having a good time on her own or with friends.
She needs to make proactive suggestions for how he can enjoy himself during her absences. She can suggest he rent a movie or watch one on-demand on TV. She can suggest a project that is sedentary yet will occupy him, such as labeling the pictures in a photo album, so that when the kids inherit the album they will know who all the people pictured are, or writing his memoirs. She can suggest he call up one of his buddies to come over for a game of cards or to watch a ballgame together on TV. She can even give him a “honey-do” list of minor tasks around the house that don’t require much exertion.
It’s only temporary
Though it’s not a pleasing prospect, at some point the woman, too, will feel the restrictions that age and its associated health issues brings about. At some point she, too, will slow down and may stop taking walks, find her diet restricted, and discover that her own sex drive is diminished. So she needs to make the most of this stage of her life, even if it means that she has to engage in some activities solo or with friends instead of with her husband, significant other, or boyfriend. Once she, too, begin to slow down, she’ll be back on a par with her man and no longer feeling frustrated by him. Till then, the coping mechanisms I’ve outlined will go far toward preserving harmony and eliminating discord in the relationship.
Cynthia MacGregor is the author of 54 conventionally published books and over 50 e-books, not to mention ghostwritten books, articles, and many other kinds of writing. She also does freelance editing. In addition, she is the proprietor of a website for single parents and the producer and host of Solo Parenting, a TV show for single parents airing in the West Palm Beach viewing area. Busy and happy, she says, "There is no one in the world I'd want to trade lives with."