Stacy was our third child in six years. On her first birthday, my wife told me that she didn’t want to have sex any more. ‘Not ever again,’ she said. It was as if I had received a blow to the stomach. She said that she had stopped enjoying it after our first child was born, and had kept trying to make it work. But she was very clear that she never wanted it again. It was all so strange to me; I felt like a man in a dream listening to her talk. This was the woman who had pulled me into a club toilet in a fit of passion. This was the woman whom I had made love to for weeks on end while hiking through India after our wedding. She said it was fine with her if I did other stuff, like watching porn and masturbating, but she wouldn’t tolerate an affair. A lifetime of no sex loomed before me. I was forty-two.
It worked for a while. We slept in the same bed, we reared kids together, and we had loads of fun. But no sex. No touching. It was all very strange to me, but she felt totally relaxed with it all. We settled into a comfortable routine. I watched porn quite a bit and kept my libido at bay by masturbating.
Then, six years later, I fell for another woman. It was a purely physical thing. I desperately wanted sex, so I had an affair. The affair lasted about six months before I confessed to my wife. She kicked me out. She was unequivocal. She said I had agreed to stay with her, and I knew the terms. But the freedom of the separation was exhilarating. I dated and slept around, though not as much as I would have liked; getting laid at nearly fifty was far harder than I remembered it being in my twenties. I stuck it out for eight months, but I was lonely. Having sex wasn’t as thrilling as I remembered, and the women I dated weren’t as hot as the twentysomethings in my mind. I missed my family and I asked my wife to take me back. I knew that there would be no sex in our relationship, and I was okay with that.
Sure, I still miss it, but I love our family life. When the sex ends, we all have to decide if we are going to stay together as life partners anyway. My wife and I have just reached that point a little earlier. Every few years, I try my luck and she gives me a glare. I still don’t get it, but we’re still married and raising grandchildren now. I don’t spend much time watching porn any more, but I have a semi-active sex life. Even if it is with myself.
Even sexless marriages can work.
Her story: We bag whomever we want
I was sitting on the couch when Brian looked at me. ‘I slept with another woman last night,’ he said. My heart started racing. I was forty; we had been married for twelve years, and it was as if the entire world was shifting on its axis. But the feeling wasn’t horrible at all … I was desperately excited. I felt a rush of pure lust for him. I wasn’t appalled; instead, I found it incredibly sexy.
That’s when it all started. It would never work, all our friends told us. They were all enjoying domestic married bliss, while Brian and I still felt a bit crazy. We had had our kids very young and we still wanted to party and live a bit. We were bored in our relationship, but we wanted to stay together. It was my idea. ‘Let’s sleep with other people,’ I jokingly said to him during a casual conversation a few weeks after his confession. He liked the idea. Now we had to see if we were ready for this. We agreed that there should be a few rules.
Neither of us could have an encounter that was any longer than a one-night stand.
The kids must not find out.
It could never happen in our house.
We would remain each other’s primary sexual partner, we just wouldn’t be exclusive. This was before the days of HIV and there was no real stigma attached to multiple partners. At first, we played around a lot, but over the years it became quite infrequent. Mostly it would be a quick affair here and there. It was only ever about the sex and we seldom discussed it with each other.
It only got strange at one point, and that was when I met a man who I fell for completely. Brian was calm. He reminded me of the rules and asked me to stop seeing him. I did, and it faded into the past soon enough.
As the kids got older, we rarely slept with people outside of our marriage. My teenage daughter asked me about it one day. A friend’s mother had told her that we ‘swing’. Brian and I both sat down and explained to our kids that we love each other and we are a family, and that sometimes we see other people, but most often we don’t. They shrugged; it was a non-issue somehow.
Now they are all married or in their own relationships. The other day we hooked up with a group of old friends, many of whom are now divorced. We may not have had the most conventional relationship, but ours has lasted the longest. We are the best of friends, and, after all these years, we still have good sex.
Relationships are about reinvention. If you don’t find new ways to break through the bad times, you are going to end up one really miserable old fox. Anyway, there’s far more fun to be had when you find your very own style.