She’s back! Gynecologist Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., a member of WVFC’s Medical Advisory Board, has written many articles for us as one half of WVFC’s “Sex Talk Team.” In the past, Dr. Hutcherson and her teammate, gynecologist Patricia Yarberry Allen, have had many vigorous—and frank—discussions of sexual matters on this site, from terrific orgasms to the use of sex toys to sex after hysterectomy to vaginal conditioning.
Now Dr. Hutcherson is back with us, ready to write a “Dr. Hilda on Sex” column now and then. She is introduced below by her former teammate, Dr. Allen, who is WVFC’s publisher. Both physicians encourage our readers to send Dr. Hilda any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) you may have been too shy to ask. —Ed.
Dear Dr. Pat:
My husband and I were always well matched sexually. We liked intimacy and frequency. We are both in good health, and the children are grown and have happy lives of their own. My job is great and the salary is fine.
But . . . my husband lost his job two years ago at the age of 60. He tried to be a “consultant,” but it didn’t work out. He has visited headhunters and sent out too many résumés to count. I think this has had an impact on his libido. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in sex. He has stopped initiating sex and has become somewhat resistant to my advances. He doesn’t want to go out with friends; in fact, he acts as if he has a disease. (I call it “I-am-one-of-hundreds-of-thousands-who-have-lost-ther-job-and-will-never-get-another-one” disease.) We are fortunate in so many ways. We like each other and treat each other well. We have shared interests. I just don’t want to lose my sex life. How do I start the conversation, since I know this is not an erection-function problem?
Dr. Pat Responds:
Your question confirms what Dr. Hutcherson and I hear often. Many women do have a fine libido as they age, as long as the genital tissue is comfortable and they have regular sexual activity. But if an otherwise healthy man in a compatible relationship has a change in his “interest” in sex, the media focus on erectile issues or low testosterone as the cause of that decline. In the first of her occasional posts for Women’s Voices, Dr. Hutcherson—author of What Your Mother Never Told You about S-e-x and Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need and Deserve—offers suggestions for starting the conversation about reigniting your sex life with your husband.
Dr. Hilda Responds:
I hear you. Of course you don’t want to lose your sex life, and you shouldn’t have to. With love and patience, chances are excellent that your love life will return, perhaps better than ever.
The truth is that few things can damage a man’s ego like the loss of his job and career. This is especially true for older men, whose chances of starting over and reinventing themselves professionally are limited. And looking for a new job that seems never to materialize can be very stressful.
In our culture, men are traditionally the breadwinners, and when they are unable to fulfill that role, it can be devastating to their manhood and, quite frankly, depressing. When he doesn’t feel good about himself as a man, his desire for sex can plummet. In fact, loss of desire for sex can sometimes be the first sign of depression. Add stress to the mixture and sex becomes the very last thing on his mind.
So what can you do? First, be patient, understanding, and loving. He is hurting. Pressuring him to perform sexually will only make him feel like more of a failure as a man and push him farther away. (Aren’t “real men” supposed to be ready to have sex every hour of every day?) Let him know that you understand his feelings and that you are there for him. Find things to compliment him about. To help boost his ego, show gratitude for the things that he is doing around the home and for you and your family. He needs to feel loved and appreciated at this time. So if you have been complaining—he might call it nagging—about the lack of sex, stop.
It is important to build non-sexual intimacy into your relationship. Make sure to have conversations that do not focus on his job search. Laughter is a wonderful way to build intimacy. It helps you to relax and feel closer to each other. Try renting a comedy and watching it together while snuggling on the couch with popcorn, or spend an evening at a comedy club. Sit close to each other and hold hands. Give him a back rub or massage, and spoon as you fall asleep, without any pressure for sex.
Now find a good time to talk about your needs and desires. It should be a time when you are both relaxed and ready to have a serious conversation. Keep it positive, and speak about your feelings. Let him know how much you miss the closeness and physical intimacy that you once had. Let him know that he is still hot and turns you on. Don’t criticize, blame, or threaten.
If you have tried all of these things and nothing has changed, it may be time to suggest that the two of you see a sex and marital therapist. Working as a team you will most likely rekindle the sexual flame, and you may find that sex is the best that it has ever been.