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Big divides in highly age-disparate relationship

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Anonymous asks:

My boyfriend and I have been together about 6 months. We are very compatible in terms of interests and values (the outdoors, conservation of resources, frugal living, healthy eating, etc). I am 22 and he is 60. Both of us have had sex with only one other person in our lives--me, my ex-boyfriend and him, his ex-wife.

He wants more sex than me. Big surprise. He's a man. I understand that. I enjoy sex when we have it (1-2 times a week), but I don't want to push myself to have it when I'm not in the mood. My boyfriend is very understanding intellectually, but his body wants much more. We've been talking about this quite a bit, and the fact that he is willing to talk tells me he is a good man. I don't want any strife over this, so I was wondering if you knew of any coping strategies that might work to help us compromise.

On a deeper level, he acknowledges that he uses time with me as an escape from his worries, whereas I tend to bring my worries into the time we have (I'm a student, so I have to do homework on weekends, for example. I can't just forget about work.) He tends to be very goofy, knocking me onto the bed, tickling me, etc., and it gets tiring responding to this. He says, "I'm sorry I like you more than you like me." How am I supposed to respond to that? DUDE! He's old and I was knocked flat with desire the week I met him! I pursued him because I couldn't imagine letting him slip through my fingers.

He says he wants to live with me, and get married. I don't think that's a good idea if he uses my company to escape his troubles--we won't get through anything if he keeps using my company as an escape. Understand that he is a decent, principled man; he married the girl he got pregnant 40 years ago and stayed with her to raise the child. Consequently, he wants to be understanding of my needs and is compulsive about birth control. We simply have a conflict due to our respective sexes and sex drives. I wonder what we can do.

Heather Corinna replies:

Before we get into anything else, I want to debunk a few things you've said here that don't have any real basis.

He wants more sex than me. Big surprise. He's a man.

Men don't automatically want more sex than women. Not all men and all women, not even most men and most women. Mind, we can say that heterosexual women don't always (or even often) want the KINDS of sex heterosexual men want as often enough of the time, but that's not the same thing. Women CAN -- and plenty do -- want sex just as often as, and some more than, male partners. So, if he wants more sex -- and I'm presuming we are not just talking about vaginal intercourse -- more often than you, that's a character difference, rather than a gender difference.

It should be added that if, given his age, he is using medications like Viagra or Cialis, that can certainly add extra urgency and drive on his part, but if he is, that's optional for him. He can easily choose not to use those medications when you're around, or to ask you before taking them if you want to have sex.

My boyfriend is very understanding intellectually, but his body wants much more.

You know, for the most part, our bodies don't know the difference between masturbation and partnered sex. It's our heads and hearts that know that difference. His BODY can be just as satisfied sexually from masturbation -- especially at his age, since lord knows, he's had plenty of time to practice! -- as from partnered sex. Now, I don't know if he is saying "his body" wants more or you're just presuming, but in either case, that doesn't have much merit.

I don't want to push myself to have it when I'm not in the mood.

Not only should you not want to do that, sex-as-duty or obligation just really isn't a healthy sexual dynamic for anyone.

Those things addressed, what I'm hearing here is you pretty sensibly addressing more than one issue, and a likely interrelatedness between all of them.

You're right: treating you as an escape and a vacation isn't okay, and doesn't take account of you as a whole person. Whole, real people who aren't simply providing sexual service for someone are not always in the mood, do carry over stresses and worries and issues from other parts of their lives, and do share them with their partners. If he is not allowing you to do that or isn't accepting that you, like anyone else, is going to want to do that, then you two need to work that out, unless you WANT to be only his escape and his vacation. And even if you did, that still doesn't mean that you have to say yes to sex whenever he wants it. But if he is treating you as an escape, it's also unsurprising to me that these kinds of expectations with sex are an issue. In other words, it sounds to me like he wants that vacation, full-stop, meaning no worries about his stuff OR yours, and more thinking about his needs than yours.

This also is not an atypical dynamic in age-disparate relationships, especially those with such an incredibly large disparity. Nearly forty years apart is a HUGE age difference, and it IS going to be very difficult for people his age to view people your age as real equals. Too, if he's gotten to retirement, or a point in his life where he isn't juggling a ton of things like someone your age is, that's a big gap to bridge. It also sounds to me like some of the way he's responding to you when you're expressing that certain things he does aren't okay with you, or aren't always appropriate, is pretty manipulative. He's not 12, he's 60. So, it'd pretty hard to swallow that things like "I'm sorry I like you more than you like me," are in earnest and are not him being emotionally manipulative and not making room for YOUR wants and needs when they don't match his own. You say he wants to be understanding, but some of the behavior you're describing stands in conflict to that assertion.

Someone can be a good, decent man and still not be the best person to be in a sexual relationship with, or a marriage (and I have to say, I'm relieved to hear you say you don't think the latter is a good idea -- I don't either, especially since you're so young, he's your first partner, and some of the dynamics here are troubling). I'm not saying you two can't work these things out if you both really want to, but you'd both have to want to -- and both have to have an earnest investment in both of your likely very different kinds of needs, and I'm not talking about sex -- and he'd have to really start listening more to you, making concessions and compromises that make room for someone's needs besides his, and he'd also have to both see and treat you and your time together as more than an escape. But too? That also means that you have to accept that relationships of any kind of substance DO have times of strife and conflict: you can't work out a conflict without some strife. It's part of the deal, and it's part of how people evolve together IN relationships. Sometimes, they take work, sometimes we have to be critical, and sometimes, that work isn't easy or fun. So, I think you have to get comfortable, too, with not being Ms. Good Time all the time, okay?

As well, if he's really serious about wanting a serious relationship with you, a real partnership, then part of respecting you and treating you as a partner is both allowing you your worries and also letting you in on his, not leaving them all at the door. If he lets you in on none of his worries and other parts of his life, then the intimacy you're sharing is even more limited.

So, if you want to work this out, what I'd suggest is that you ask to start taking some of your time together to talk out and work out some of these issues. I'd be firm that you need to be heard, and that your issues need to be taken seriously. I'd be clear that you expect him to be accountable for things, not manipulate or blow your concerns off. I'd set a ground rule that when you;re trying to address serious things, or are dealing with your worries, that tickling you or throwing you around isn't appropriate or respectful: you're not a doll, a puppy or a child. That kind of behavior, when there's a conflict, or you aren't behaving the way he wants you to for his own desires, is also manipulative and evasive.

Too, you may have to make clear that if his wife had sex out of obligation (and if he only got married to "be a good man," it's entirely possible that their sex life was less than marvelous), he needs not to expect that of you or anyone else, especially since it isn't a healthy sexual dynamic. I think it also may be because he really is not seeing you as at his same level, maybe overall, or maybe just because during sex or because of your age and/or gender (and talking about the challenges a huge age disparity can create and how you're going to deal with that is essential). This isn't just about "simply" differing libido levels, from what I can gather: it's about him not expecting you to fall in line with what he wants both in terms of sex, about him not approaching your relationship as his vacation time, and about some of the dynamics of your relationship, including those which likely are not just sexual.

And you know what? I feel confident saying that if you cannot draw those kinds of limits and boundaries, and easily -- and with easy acceptance from him -- come to these conflicts from a place where you feel you can call him out when that needs to happen, and have real conflicts recognized that this relationship is not likely as okay outside of the bedroom as you think it is.

I know that's a lot to look at an absorb, but I think if you consider it all and bring it all to the table with no apologies, confidence and care that one way or another -- perhaps even if it means you two decide a sexual relationship or romance is NOT the right one for you -- things will work out.

Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
Potholes & Dead Ends: Relationship Roadblocks to Look Out For
Reciprocity, Reloaded
Safer Sex...for Your Heart
Sexual Negotiation for the Long Haul
Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models

written 06 Dec 2007 . updated 29 Jan 2014

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