Aging and Sex:
How to have a fulfilling marriage when sex gets difficult

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Sex… the act itself brings people together, both literally and figuratively. Wars have been fought over it and people have died or killed for it. It also has the power to inspire and create. Sex can be one of the most beautiful things or the most toxic. So, what happens to us when we are no longer able to have sex because of the natural aging process?

Let’s face it, it will happen to all of us, and it is one thing no one talks about.

It is an uncomfortable topic. No one wants to think their time will come. Maybe it is because people do not believe that it will ever happen to them. So, what do you do if you become physically incapable of having sex? Is it going to cause strain on your marriage? 

If you let it, absolutely it will… So, what do you do about it?


First, communication is always the key to any successful marriage. One thing I will tell you as a person who has treated couples in my time as a therapist is every couple could use education with communication skills. We just do not talk. We do not want to fight so we actively avoid discussing how our partner is not meeting our needs.

Tell your partner what is happening! If sex is hurting you or you are having difficulty maintaining an erection, communicate that! Do not just avoid the topic and hope that he/she does not ask about it. You can only be “sick” so much before they figure out that something is up. If you are not talking about what is happening, you are leaving the door open for your partner to make up their own conclusion for why you are avoiding sex. We know how creative our other half can be…

If you are scared about what this change means, communicate that. Your partner is supposed to be your best friend. Give them an opportunity to support you through this process. This gives them an active role in solving the problem with you, rather than having to stress about a problem that is not actually happening.

If you feel like it is time to seek medical advice or attention, let you partner know you are making an appointment. Chances are, they already know something is wrong, they just do not know how to talk to you or what to do about it.

Work Together:

If you know something is wrong and you have decided to see someone about it, go together to the appointments. That way, whatever is being shared with one, the other heard as well and there is no secondhand information being given. Is this always comfortable? No way! Again, this is your best friend, and they have probably already seen you at your worst.

Discuss the benefits of medications with your partner and doctor and ask about the side-effects. Solving the problem may be as simple as a prescription, however, in some cases that may not be possible. If you are not comfortable with taking the medication, express those concerns and the reasons why. 

Counseling is also a good option. If you notice that you are struggling to be happy with your partner because of sex, then chances are, there are other issues there that need to be worked on as well. Having a mediator to teach you skills to work on together, can go a long way to repair distance that a declining libido can have caused. 

Sex is not the only way to be intimate with your partner.

Continue to be intimate in other ways:

Sexual intercourse is just physical intimacy. There are other ways to be physically intimate with someone and be equally as satisfied. 

  • Oral sex
  • Heavy petting
    • digital penetration
  • Massages
  • Use of sex toys
  • Public Displays of Affection
    • Holding hands
    • Kissing 

Ultimately, the end goal for sexual intercourse, is an orgasm. We can do that in other ways. 

Staying intimate means that we are doing things outside the bedroom to let our partner know that we still find them attractive and that we still “need” them. 

  • Make time for each other
    • Cook dinner together
    • Clean together
    • Take walks together
  • Write each other love notes.
  • Put on music and dance together.
  • Regularly take them out on “dates.”
  • Find new hobbies together
  • Travel

At the end of the day…

Do not be afraid to act like teenagers at the local Wal-Mart. Kiss and touch each other every chance you get and do not worry about people reacting. Their reaction is not your problem, it is theirs. You are essentially redesigning the whole identity of your relationship and whatever that looks like for you. It can be a scary process so be brave and bold. Have fun figuring it out together. Give yourself the best opportunity to still have a fulfilling marriage by openly communicating with your partner and always giving them an active role in supporting you. 

By: Merri Copeland-Cook

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