(Trigger alert to my son. You want to skip this post, TMI. Just sayin’.)
Okay, I confess; like many other teenage boys growing up in the 60’s, I was curious about women and so was fascinated with that rite of passage, Playboy magazine. Mind you, my Dad, if he engaged in that particular vice, never brought a copy into the house, so my opportunities to explore that territory were limited. I know that it was common for people to say that they read the magazine for the articles, and this is going to sound odd, but in addition to its obvious attractions, I enjoyed the cartoons.
Of all the cartoons that I read therein as a kid, there is only one that I can recall today, and the more that I think about this cartoon, I’m amazed that it was in Playboy. In fact, it strikes me that it would be more in line with a Christian publication than Playboy. It was well-drawn and depicted an old man and woman in bed, lying on their backs, side by side. (Unlike crude cartoons, this one had “Hollywood modesty” with the blanket pulled up to chest-level.) The punch line, if you could call it that, was in a shared thought balloon, with both of them thinking, “Thank you, Lord,” with the implication that they were rejoicing that they were still able to have sex, and were giving thanks for another great bout.
We’re Sexagenarians! (Look It Up)
As someone who has taken up writing about marriage and sex only recently, I find that I am in a rather unique position. Yes, I realize that my blog is a niche blog, with a focus that is directed to a small audience. But in a another way, my mere presence would seem to be more of an oddity than my material. After all, I’m sixty-freakin’-six years old! I read a lot of different blogs and different writers, but to date, I’ve yet to come across any Christian marriage and sexuality bloggers who are sexagenarians. (In my case, it’s only a few years until I’m a septagenarian.) So, while I’m a bumbling noob at this blogging stuff, I think I can say Wife and I have trod territory that many Christian marriage bloggers have not gotten to, yet. 🙂
To begin with, Wife and I are able to report that sex can and does survive well into your 60’s. The reason that I want to say that is to let you know that, contrary to popular culture, a good sex life doesn’t have to be sacrificed to age. Several times this past couple of month, I have read ‘testimonies’ by husbands who say that their wives have informed them that “that aspect” of their married life is over, that it has run its course and is no longer needed. I’m here to let you know that that doesn’t have to be true.
This is not to say that there haven’t been challenges, even obstacles for us, but Wife and I have become intentional in learning about who we are and about adapting to our needs at this time in our lives.
Misunderstanding & Communication: Our first challenge was a doozy. It was such that it took a series of posts to discuss it and how we overcame it. You can read the long version here (first of a five-part series), but the short version is that by the end of 2010, we were in a sexless marriage, I had retired early due to a bad arthritic hip, I was depressed over our sexless state, and Wife felt like she was just a caretaker for an invalid.
This is now 2016, Wife and I are both enjoying a satisfying sexlife at 66 and 65, respectively; depression is a thing of the past. Why? To put it briefly, The Talk™; well, my version of it, anyway. It’s not like we have a knock-down, drag-out brawl or anything like that. Instead, by initiating a State of Our Marriage-kind of talk, we unlearned some horribly bad assumptions that we had both been operating under, and changed some routines in our life. Believe it or not, lightning struck and we’re one happy couple.
Menopause: Our second challenge came naturally, as the onset of age took some toll on us. First, Wife went through menopause, but in discussion with her about it, I learned that it wasn’t a traumatic event in her life. She knew that this was the way of all things, and that she (we) would have to learn to adapt to the changes that getting older would make.
There was the mixed blessing of not ovulating any more. Yes, no period; yes, no chance of getting pregnant again (we had twins when Wife was 40, and we didn’t want triplets at 50!); yes, no more periods (Hot damn!). But with that, there was the quiet mourning of the loss of fertility. No, we didn’t want any more children, but still………
Arthritis: I got older, too, and as I did so, my joints started to go wonky on me. First, I had a knee bend backwards on me as I was walking down a hallway, and then my right hip just went bad, fast. I took early retirement in 2010, at age 60, because of the pain. This played out at home by limiting what I could do. First, I could no longer sleep in my bed, as the only position in which I could be comfortable was in a recliner-chair position. This meant that for several years, I didn’t sleep in our bed, but in the living room. Which fed the misunderstanding, above.
We did find a way to overcome this, however: bed wedges. In January, 2011, I started coming up to our bedroom every evening, to be with Wife. After an hour or so, I would go back downstairs to my recliner, for the night. However, I wasn’t happy about that, and in March, Wife mentions the possibility of bed wedges, and I explored them on the internet. I did find a set that looked interesting and so ordered them; they were perfect!!! After that, there was no more going back downstairs; I was able to sleep in my own bed, again, after 3-4 years. With Wife. (But…… see below)
Erectile Dysfunction: Well, after we had The Talk™, and after we renewed and recharged our sex life, we encountered one more challenge, again, hormonal. About six months into…, erm, well, uh…. Just six months into it, okay? I ran into a wall of erectile dysfunction. In May, 2011, after several months of 3-4x a week, I started being unable to get and/or maintain an erection.
I went to our family doctor who did an immediate blood panel on me, and it was discovered that I had extremely low testosterone levels. Testosterone, as you know (or you should know, jes sayin’), is the hormone that gives most men [note the qualifier, folks] their high sex drive and powers their libido. My testosterone level, I believe, qualified to me to be classified as inorganic matter. Normal T-levels fall between 300-1000 ng/DL; my level was 92, woefully low.
Our doctor was all in favor of prescribing Cialis or one of those other pills, but we were chary of the side effects that came with them. After conferring, Wife and I decided that testosterone therapy would be something to try, instead. There are several different application methods for testosterone–gel, cream and injection; our HMO at the time covered a brand-name gel, Androgel, and so I began that treatment.
Within two weeks of the first application, the ED problem became a thing of the past. What was interesting was a revelation that came during this time. In one of her usual great blogposts from three year ago, entitled Mourning Wood, Chris Taylor (Forgiven Wife) tells of missing the customary morning manifestation of her husband’s drive. Two or three weeks after the start of the Androgel regimen, I began to experience said manifestation. It was then that I realized that it had been years since I had “manifested”. My body had gotten older and stopped producing enough testosterone, with the result that it began to affect our lives and our marriage.
Somebody once asked a man who was over 100 years old what the secret to his long life was, and he replied, “I never stopped breathing.” Okay, maybe it wasn’t that profound, but, yeah, breathing would seem to be a requirement for the task. But breathing alone doesn’t make the life worth living, nor endow those years with joy. I’m happy to say that, while I’m not yet 100, Wife and I can state that we are experiencing the happiness and joy of life, even in our 60’s. We feel we are reaping the rewards of learning to face our challenges together.
Renewed Intimacy: Well, yes. As I stated above, we did reconnect physically, but intimacy is more than sex. Mind you, I’m not jumping into the “It’s just sex!” camp, but I am saying that what happened for Wife and I was a more complete intimacy. As I wrote in one of my Why and How Of Our Now posts (linked above),
Don’t get me wrong, the sexual intimacy, the re-kindling of our sex life, was great, but the best that that happened was that we talked. Sex was only happening 2x a week. But we were going to bed together seven nights a week, putting on music, lighting a candle, and enjoying being with each other.
We weren’t going at it like crazed voles (obscure Star Trek reference, that), but we were intentional about being with each other and communicating with each other every night. The result is that we were closer than we had been in years.
Greater delight in each other: Yes, I was now able to be upstairs and sleep with Wife. But time and arthritis moves on. Within the past year, my hip has sometimes made it too painful to try to climb the stairs to our bedroom, and I am forced to sleep in my chair. When this started happening, Wife started sleeping downstairs, on our hide-a-bed sofa. She said that it was in case I might need her help during the night. (But prior to 2011, she never slept downstairs with me. Jes sayin’ 🙂 )
Recently, because of snoring issues (it would be ungallant of me to say whose snoring!), she asked if it would be better for me if she slept upstairs, in our bedroom. And you know what? I found myself not wanting to say “Okay, I’ll be fine.” The truth is that I’ve NEVER had a fall incident, that she doesn’t really need to sleep downstairs with me, but I have come to the point that *I* don’t want her to sleep apart from me, either.
Yes, we’ve realized that both of us delight in the presence of the other. We may not be saying anything at the moment; I may be writing while she sews; we may be comparing Facebook feeds or reading sections of books aloud, but we’ve discovered that whatever we’re doing, we like doing it in each other’s company.
Greater delight in serving each other: This has had impact in more than one area. For Wife, physical intimacy truly became a delight when she realized that my interest wasn’t so much in getting my jollies as in making sure that she received the best in my giving. Wife tells how reading Proper Care And Feeding Of Husbands, by Dr. Laura, opened her eyes to how men receive love through sex; but she didn’t comprehend that she could receive love, feel loved, through sex. Learning my delight in serving her in this manner helped her to open up to seeing that I am seeking to love and serve her through her sexuality.
Physical Touch is my “love language” (a popular term among marriage writers); well, according to an online-test for the Five Love Languages. But a problem in our marriage was that Wife viewed her Acts of Service (another of the Love Languages) as giving love, but I didn’t feel that. However, as we’ve learned more about each other through our conversations; as Wife learned to demonstrate love through Physical Touch; and as I’ve become secure in how Wife shows love, I’m better able to appreciate the full range of ways Wife demonstrates love to me.
One example of this is Wife’s statement to me in our State-of-the-Marriage talk that cleared up our misunderstanding. She told me that she felt that she was going to be a caretaker of an invalid for the rest of our marriage. However, while the physical aspect hasn’t changed (I’m still severely limited in mobility), the approach is no longer “have to”, but “love to”. And that makes all the difference in the world.
End Result – Don’t Give Up Hope
Yes, I know that there are many voices saying that the so-called Golden Years aren’t all that golden. Wife and I want to encourage you that, while cynicism sells, you don’t have to buy. Every marriage is a DIY project, and you don’t have to accept the pronouncements of conventional wisdom; you can prove them wrong.
In fact, I encourage you to do so.
(my apologies. somehow, the link to Forgiven Wife’s article got corrupted and sent folks to a gamers site. this link has been corrected.)