Fulfillment at Any Age

How to remain productive and healthy into your later years

Finding Joy in the Sexless Marriage

Many factors contribute to a couple’s decision to refrain from having sexual relations. Using the social exchange theory of relationships provides a way to understand why people remain together. The sexless marriage may not be for everyone but for those who choose this path, there are several paths to successful coping. Read More

Older women's sexual value

"Traditionally, particularly as they get older, women have fewer options to have sexual partners than do men because the older woman is seen as less sexually desirable than her same-age male counterparts."

I think the word you are looking for is not "traditionally" but rather "stereotypically" since the idea that older women have no value on relationship markets is more propaganda than reality. The observation that the overwhelming majority of divorces are instigated by women does not lend much credence that women are more willing to stay in relationships because they believe they cannot do better elsewhere.

fewer options for older women?

I thought older women had fewer options for sexual partners simply because many of their age-peers are dead. And even if older men are seen as more sexually desirable, it's not like there's a huge excess of younger women to go around. And even if younger women pair up more with older men, well, that leaves an excess of younger men for older women, no?

the real reason

The real reason why women have fewer options for sexual partners is that women are only willing to marry up. A woman only considers a man a candidate if the man is more educated, successful, wealthy, intelligent, etc., than herself.

Of course there are plenty of available men. They're just invisible to these women.

oh really?

How do you explain the growing number of men who have fewer college and graduate degrees than their wives? Or the significant fraction of couples where the woman earns more?

I guess a lot of women are choosing men who are not their "options". Which kinda blows your theory, doesn't it?

No. It doesn't.

I was generalizing, obviously. Of course my statement doesn't describe every woman.

What it does describe is the many educated, attractive women whom I know personally, who go around bemoaning the 'fact' that, "There are no men!"

Naturally there are plenty of men. There are even men who are interested in these very women. Men who approach them and try to get to know them. But these women reject them out-of-hand if the man isn't higher status than she is. Maybe you haven't seen it, but I've seen it plenty.


Seems like one of the contradictions feminists faced. On the one hand, they wanted equality with men in the workplace. And then some of them realized, to their chagrin, that it meant they needed to rethink their desire to marry up. Otherwise it would continue to teach men that they needed to achieve more than women or hold back their progress in the workplace in order to be able to marry them!

Stereotyping, not Generalizing

In the US today there are more women married to men with less education than themselves than there are women married to men with more education than themselves. Almost 1 in 5 new marriages of women between the ages of 40 and 65 are to men who are more than five years younger than themselves. These comments here stereotyping the behaviour of women completely ignore the most recent trends in marriage.

trend will continue

That educational reversal will probably continue for a long time. For some years now, most college degrees in the USA have been earned by women. Many women will have no choice but to "marry down" educationally.

It wouldn't surprise me if the average age difference in new marriages is widening in recent years. Perhaps there is now less stigma to non-traditional age disparity? And people are now marrying later when there are fewer practical limitations on wider age differences. Would be interesting to read about if someone had done a study.

Oh come on...

She needs to accept the REALITY that as women age they become less attractive --- PERIOD.

All this "you go girl..." "Beautiful at any age..." media driven women reader pandering doesn't change biology.

On dating sites, if older women want sex, they'll find some low quality male for a fling. As soon as they say that they are done with that and just want to cuddle --- they are out of luck.

That's just the way it is.

Re: Oh come on...

Actually, what biology shows it that nature provides variety in sexual tastes for both men and women. That's not even an argument. For example, for many men, even a young woman is not only less attractive, she's not attractive at all. They're called gay men.

Last I heard, the 3rd annual cougar convention took place in Las Vegas a few years ago. Minimum age for women, 40. The place was packed with young guys looking for older women.

And there are plenty of men who don't want much sex, or any at all, and would be happy with cuddling. Just check the endless posts by women (including young women) on many forums whose husbands are no longer interested in sex.

As for women finding a low quality male for a fling, uh, ha ha, that would be what you hear guys doing all the time -- finding a low quality female -- and some of them seem very proud of it, so I think you got your putdowns reversed! Even our great former President Clinton seemed to have had flings with some, er, ah, low quality females before he reached the White House.

it happens to everyone

Yes, we ALL, men and women, become less attractive as we age. Good genes and a healthy lifestyle can slow the decline, but it catches up to everyone eventually.

Differential mortality

Differences in mortality rates between men and women don't start to show up in any worrisome way until women are their 70s. For example, at the age of 55 there are about 94 men for every 100 women. By the age of 65 there are about 88 men for every 100 women. I don't think these differences are enough to encourage women to stay in loveless marriages.

Availability ratio may be worse for women

Those numbers agree approximately with the data on page 82 of Sex in America (1994) from the Chicago sex survey, where they list 88 women per 100 men in the age range 60-64. But the book suggests that the ratio is actually worse for those on the market. I think what they're talking about is, as a simplified and possibly exaggerated example to make the point, if you assume that 70 of those women are married to 70 of those men, that leaves 30 women looking for 18 men. And if you then add the wrinkle that men are usually paired with slightly younger women, the ratio is even worse.

Of course, anyone determined and resourceful can always find someone, if for no other reason than that most people don't try that hard.

"Those numbers"

Are my own calculations using 2011 mortality data. These arguments you have made are pretty much meaningless since they are based on the assumption that everyone wants to be in a relationship, or worse they rely on the assumption that women want to be in a relationship and men do not. I am not convinced at all that is the case for people in this age group. I am also still not convinced that women stay in loveless marriages because they have no value on the market. The fact that women are more likely to end a marriage just doesn't support that argument.

yes, it's complicated

Yes, almost any argument is going to rely on shaky assumptions on this topic. Indeed, who wants to be in a relationship even, and how much? Or how many older people are actively gay in older age, etc.

I can only report what the Sex In America (1994) book said, and it devoted several pages to a surprisingly dismal outlook for older women, even starting at age 50. The book provides many reasons in the discussion, though those conclusions didn't seem to be as rigorously surveyed and researched as other statistics in the book.

I'm reminded of a Newsweek article long ago which said that single women over 40 (or some such milestone age) had essentially a zero chance of getting married. It caused quite a stir. I know a woman in that category who panicked. But funny thing, she found the love of her life about 10 years later. We still laugh about that article.

Not exactly funny

I am glad you can laugh about that article. Personally I don't find convincing a generation of women that the have missed the opportunity to marry simply because they chose to go to college particularly funny. That particular reckless use of data could very well have convinced a generation of women to make poor decisions that influenced the path of their lives. How sad is that? Telling older women today that they are less desirable than their male counterparts and therefore have fewer options available them is equally reckless. And based on what, a 20 year old statistic that ignores the reality of the market for relationships later in life? Women staying in loveless, maybe even abusive relationships because society feeds them a perpetual line that they are unworthy of love because they stopped ovulating is really, in my opinion, nothing to laugh about.

I'm 50ish

and my last 3 lovers have been in their 30s and my current lover is 32. I don't think I'm that much of an anomaly. I think young men are waking up to the fact that older lovers have a lot to offer. One of my lovers told me he didn't like the drama that young women put him through.

sexless marriage not by choice

I am 43 and enjoy sex not just the act of sex but the closeness I feel after, my husband can't get an erection and when it started I took it personnaly which lead to arguements that just made me feel even more insecure this situation has made me crazy he's not made any áttempt to resolve it either medically or through therapy. I'm so hurt, lonely, and my self esteem has plummeted, I love him so much and it hurts even more that he's not concerned about my emotional well being. This has evolved into a daily (majority) of my days thoughts I've become over the top jealous and resentful, I'm terrified that I'm running to divorce because I just don't and can't much longer deal with the pain of the emotional and sexual rejection - I no longer know what or how to resolve this!!

too young for ED

That's pretty young for having ED. Is he on any kind of medication which could cause this? Is he overweight or does he smoke? Does he exercise? Is this a new problem in the last few years?

It's VERY IMPORTANT that your husband see a doctor because ED is now considered a possible early warning sign for cardiovascular problems. This should be done before you even think about going to therapy.

Explain this to him and make an appointment for him. I know someone who died because they were too embarrassed to check out something which would have been easy to cure at an early stage.

Get out now. It never gets

Get out now. It never gets better - but it can certainly get worse. Seriously. SAVE YOURSELF.

excellent advice

I second what Anon50 wrote. It will not get better. You are 43, so you have plenty of life left. If you get out now, you can find another relationship with a man who wants to have sex with you (if that's what you want) or just live a fulfilling life on your own.

I am with you. I am 42 year

I am with you. I am 42 year old and I have been struggle with my emotional pain of being rejected for over 10 years. I ve trying to cope with this kind of unusual marriage life, but I still feel hurt and lonely every night. My husband is completely healthy. If he had some sexual disorder that would make me feel better because if so, I can comfort myself that it is not because I am too unattractive or too clumsy in my husband's eyes. I know my beauty is above average and I am not clumsy. Divorce Seems not a choice because i still love him. We have 3 children and I want them to have a stable family. But it's really not fair for me to live a life like this.

I attempted, just last night,

I attempted, just last night, to ask him if he wants his single life back and he turns it around that he and I see things so differently, and he can't undersand where I get these thoughts. yet when I look into his eyes or try to hug him, he says, "that's enough". He gets uncomfortable with our being close.

just last night....

the same thing happened to me last week......he won't let me look into his eyes, i tmakes him uncomfortable......if I ry to hold him he says, "that's enough". He just cannot handle touch.

I have this problem with my

I have this problem with my husband.. I'm 32 and met him at 18 it has got worse.... Please let me know if you have any ideas( I don't want a divorce).

see a therapist

You and your husband should see a therapist. If he won't tell your husband you're going alone. That might motivate him to join you. Go anyway.

Do you nag?

Nagging is a very serious and leading cause of ED. It relates to hateful, nagging women circumcizing their infant males in a cycle of abuse that ends in marital nagging and lack of sex due to depression or poor health.

I am 56 and my husband of 1

I am 56 and my husband of 1 year is 53. It was 4 nights before we consummated the marriage and then only made love 3 times in a 3 month period. I got fed up with trying and lying there thinking when will it happen. I told him I was fed up and that I did not want to have sex anymore and that he was now a companion and not a husband. He did not like it however neither did he go to GP to get checked out.
I love him but it has put a wedge between us and at times I am bitter towards him. I fight it as I do not intend to end the marriage it is just that I am very tactile and we just don't touch or kiss anymore. We kiss hello and goodbye but not romantically. I am turned on by the romance of the marriage and now that this has gone I feel rejected and unattractive. I am a modern professional lady with my own business and grown up children. I could be independent again as I was prior to meeting him. I am not sex mad I just love the romance and satisfaction feeling of being intimate with just one person, doing to them and vice versa what we would not do with anyone else... I cope most of the time just occasionally I could RIP HIS HEAD OFF!!!!


A sexless marriage is not usually a mutually agreed-upon decision. One partner unilaterally refuses sex to the other. In these cases, I don't think it should be considered cheating when the denied partner seeks sex outside the marriage. In fact, the refusing partner should give their blessing to do so.

totally agree

I totally agree. Since sex is really the one thing that is supposed to be totally exclusive in a marriage, if you refuse that to your spouse, you have essentially broken your marriage vows.

As a common sense matter, you'd have to be a fool to expect that your spouse is going to remain involuntarily celibate. Yet I do see a number of people have exactly that expectation -- and that includes otherwise intelligent people too, amazingly enough.

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Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her latest book is The Search for Fulfillment.


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