Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Saddened,” whose wife has cut off sex. I want to knock some sense into people like you. Life has different stages. We’ve done the sex thing. Why should women look for help? Where are the medications that reduce libido in males? Why doesn’t he get counseling and learn to enjoy life without sex? A complete absence of desire can be liberating. There is so much more room in the brain for other things. — J.P.
Dear J.P.: We received hundreds of letters in response to “Saddened” and were dismayed at the number of women who, like you, essentially said, “I’m not interested in sex, and if my husband doesn’t like it, too bad.” Several women assumed our comment about “medical treatment” meant we advocated hormone replacement therapy. We don’t advocate any particular treatment, only that talking to one’s doctor about what’s available can help. And several women objected to the phrase “knock some sense into,” saying it advocates violence against women. This was an unfortunate phrase, and we apologize. We will remove it from our vocabulary.
Our point is that marriages are partnerships. One partner should not be making a unilateral decision that negatively affects the other partner without first discussing it and trying to reach a mutually agreeable decision. AARP (aarp.org) offers some wonderful information and help under the Home and Family tab, in the section marked Sex and Intimacy. Here’s more:
From Florida: It annoys me when you tell women to consider their partner’s needs and talk to a doctor. I suspect if intercourse were painful for men, they wouldn’t be concerned about their partner’s needs. Hormone therapy has serious side effects. I tried prescription vaginal creams and had terrible headaches. My sister recommended Replens for dryness, and I’ve had fabulous results. It contains no hormones and is sold over the counter.
Texas: I have struggled with painful intercourse for years. Doctors offered my husband Viagra after his prostate cancer treatment, and he said, “My wife wouldn’t want it.” There are other ways to satisfy the needs of your spouse.
California: Intimacy to me is having a conversation, going for a walk, being there in sickness and in health. But my husband has chosen to be intimate with his smartphone, surfing the Internet for porn.
Chicago: After a great deal of research, my wife began receiving treatment with bio-identical hormones. Not only is our physical relationship back on track, but she feels better and has more energy in all parts of her life.
Ohio: Maybe “Saddened” should be bolder. When my husband asks whether I’m interested in sex, I always say no. Then he gives me a back rub. Fifteen minutes later, one thing leads to another, with him doing all the work. In the morning, he tells me what a great lover I am. Deep down, I am glad that he still finds me desirable.
Texas: My husband was 20 years older. After his first heart attack, the meds made sex impossible. I cried every day for three years. Then I started menopause and found that cuddling and hugging brought us closer than ever. I am now 53 and widowed and have rediscovered sex. I am currently seeing a man whose wife is going through menopause. She has agreed to an open marriage. I wish everyone would be so open. It could ease a lot of suffering.
Florida: Women who cut off sex should have the courage to say: “I have decided that I no longer want a sex life. It is not important enough to seek medical or emotional aid. I also realize that this decision means your sex life is no longer any of my business. I hope you will share my abstinence, but will not concern myself with how you satisfy your needs. I’m hoping our love will keep our emotional ties strong. I ask only that you don’t embarrass me. I love you. I just don’t want you anymore.”
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.