anonymous on August 29, 2011

We’ve been married 33 years and sex is no longer satisfying. Why?

I have been married for 33 years. For the past several years, I have had problems keeping an erection with my wife. For a long time, she’s made up excuses not to join me in sex. I’ve slept on the couch, been depressed and been on medication. I cheated and told her about it. Now we’re trying to work it out and we’re seeing a therapist, but I can’t seem to get excited by her. I love her and feel depressed over the whole thing. What’s the problem?

answered by Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on August 29, 2011

I empathize with your situation. It can be quite difficult to deal with sexual problems, especially in a long-term relationship.

It sounds as if your wife has lost interest in sex. Thirty-three years is a long time to be with the same partner, and it can be a challenge to keep sex interesting. But it’s definitely possible to enjoy sex with each other again, as long as both partners make an effort.

Also, keep in mind that – as men age – it’s normal that they need more direct physical stimulation of their penis in order to get and maintain an erection. Young men can get an erection just by thinking about sex, but not so in men as they get older.

Could the fact that you have had problems keeping your erections be related to too little touching and stroking of your penis? If so, that’s something you can easily change during lovemaking… either you can stroke your penis yourself, or your wife may want to do the touching and caressing.

It sounds like you have a number of issues that you’re tackling at the same time…depression, emotional issues and possibleerectile dysfunction (ED), to name just the obvious ones. So I commend you and your wife for taking the important step of seeing a therapist, which will hopefully help you to work through issues of guilt and trust, and better understand what might be causing your sexual response to your wife and the dynamic between the two of you.

You obviously love each other, and want things to work out…and that’s a great starting point. Hopefully you and your wife can discover new ways enjoy sex that are mutually satisfying.

I would also encourage you to speak with your doctor or urologist about any potential physical causes of not being able to get or keep erections with your wife. A low sex drive (libido) is a side-effect of some medications, and your doctor may be able to make an adjustment in your treatment that could make a big difference in the bedroom. Other health conditions – like heart disease and diabetes, among others – can also affect libido and ED, as can the normal process of aging.

Again, your doctor should be able to identify if there’s an underlying physical issue that’s holding you back, and whether you need any further treatment or therapy to give your libido a boost.

I wish you and your wife courage and insight during this difficult time. Thanks for writing.  

Related Info:

Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD

Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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