Q: I married my college sweetheart and we have been married for 20 years. She is going through menopause and is not keen in being intimate with me anymore. I have been advised to open the relationship, but I am too afraid she will call me names and leave me. I love her a lot, but I have physical needs too. Should I just keep them for myself for the rest of my life?
Ans: Desires and needs are not a static monolith. One moment we might feel off, the next aroused. One day we can’t even think of being physical, and the next we want to spend the entire day in bed with someone. We all experience change in libido during our lifetime not just people going through menopause.
You mention two solutions but there are a couple of more at hand, each one with a specific emotional impact on the relationship and work to be done. Yes, because relationships involve work, not just the good times. The first one is what you are proposing: You can repress your desires, masturbate and consequently feel resentment towards your wife. This will probably harm the marriage in the long run.
You can also outsource your physical needs without telling her, but spend the rest of the relationship feeling ashamed and guilty. This solution will work until you get caught and then the marriage will be most likely over, with your wife feeling resentful for a lifetime. Opening up the relationship to consensual non-monogamy is option three. It will involve a series of difficult conversations and feelings of disappointment and jealousy.
With professional help, you can learn how to have those conversations and address the impact of your feelings. A professional can also assist you with the last solution: Work with your wife to find a middle ground between mismatched desires. Firstly, you will have to make your wife understand how important your physical needs are without feeling ashamed of them. What will follow is a negotiation of how much you both are willing to play with each other. This could be an opportunity to start a completely new phase for you both.
The writer is an Intimacy & Relationship Coach, Founder of The Intimacy Curator, an organisation promoting self-discovery through emotional and sexual wellbeing (www.theintimacycurator.com). (Have a query? Send it on firstname.lastname@example.org)