Dear Margo: Sex and the Seniors

Margo Howard’s advice

Sex and the Seniors

Dear Margo: I don’t want to be a crybaby, but I am very upset with my husband of 11 months. Prior to our marriage, he was very loving and sexual. We are seniors, and this relationship was everything I wanted. But since we got married, he hasn’t touched me. I am a little overweight, and I’m very self-conscious about it. When I try to get close to him and maybe have some togetherness, he says I am a sex maniac.

Recently, he got some Viagra, but when he took it, he expected it would do everything. I explained that we have to do our share to stimulate the sexual feelings. He hasn’t taken any of it since then.

I feel I have tried everything. After 10 months, we still haven’t had sex, and I am at my wits’ end. In the meantime, I am beginning to hate my body and feel that no one can love me. I have never felt that way before. I don’t want to run around on him; I want the man I married back. I hope you have some ideas for me. — Needy Nancy

Dear Need: You don’t say how senior you are, and whether or not you were overweight when you were courting. If you were slender until you married, and then somehow the pounds got packed on, that could send the message that “mission accomplished,” so what the hell? If you’ve always been the same weight, the sexual activity on his part was to close the deal.

I would suggest a weight loss program of some kind just because the self-image you have is not to your liking. This matter between you two (or three, meaning a counselor) definitely needs to be pursued and dealt with. As for what he expects Viagra to do — beyond the obvious — I would be most curious. Good luck getting this straightened out. — Margo, restoratively

When a Dad Has To Take Over

Dear Margo: I am a now single father looking for some assistance. Several months ago, my wife of 17 years asked for a divorce, and I recently learned she was three months pregnant by another man by the time the divorce went through. The question I am now facing is whether or not to tell my 17-year-old son that she left us to have another child.

After the divorce was final, my son spiraled into a depression and attempted suicide. (This was not entirely due to the divorce, though it was a factor). He has undergone treatment and is currently on three types of medication and seeing a therapist. I’m still afraid that telling him his mother’s true motives might push him back into his downward spiral. Should I let him know why she left? And if so, what is the best way to do it? — On the Fence

Dear On: I hope you can revise your own idea that your ex-wife left the marriage “to have another child.” She left because she fell in love with someone else, and then there was a pregnancy. I hope you will consult your son’s therapist (with his permission). My hunch is that the counselor will advise you and your ex to tell your son, together, about the developments … emphasizing that your marital difficulties and the subsequent pregnancy had nothing to do with your love for him. With luck, your son’s mother will step up to the plate and remain a mother to her teenager. I hope there are better days ahead. — Margo, optimistically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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37 Responses so far.

  1. avatar bamabob says:

    LW2, is your ex completely out of your son’s life? If not, unless he’s blind he’s going to figure out on his own that she’s pregnant. I agree with Margo that you need to rethink your phraseology re: “she left you two to have another child.” If she cheated on you while she was married, I can see where that would have an adverse affect on a depressed/suicidal teen. Definitely get input from the therapist if you want to talk about why she left, but as to the bun in the oven–he’s got eyes, hasn’t he?

  2. avatar mayma says:

    LW2, unless some information is missing, you have an awfully strange way of parenting.  Why jump to the self-pitying conclusion that she left “us” to have another child?  Why include your son in such rejection-laden phrasing?  Like he needs such an odd misinterpretation right now!  Sheesh, don’t pollute his already fragile sense of self with your negative theories.  

    And why in the world is the mother not letting her son know?  Why are you taking that on?  It’s her news and her role.  If the mother is so distant or dysfunctional that she won’t even talk to her own son, then your rationale for why she left is even more bonkers.   

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Well, actually the mom was likely cheating during the tail-end of marriage #1, and depending on how quickly the divorce went through—she could very well have been pregnant during the last part of the marriage. And maybe she did leave to have the other man’s child. We don’t know her motivations.

      The issue here is how LW2 is responding to this. I say cut him some slack at his perceptions for now, since he’s dealing with a divorce and a depressed son and God knows what else. The son is 17—and he knows by know what a cheating parent is. I say simply tell him that she found someone else and is having his baby, and let the son fill in the blanks.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        I don’t cut him slack here. He obviously has some issues and is sympathetic based upon what happened, but he loses that when is pushes his issues (even through inadvertence) onto his kid, especially a suicidal 17 year old.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          “I’m still afraid that telling him his mother’s true motives might push him back into his downward spiral. Should I let him know why she left? And if so, what is the best way to do it?”

          Aren’t you jumping the gun here a bit about withdrawing sympathy from his “pushing his issues” onto his kid? First off, the issues belong to both of them since they are both family, and secondly—he’s not done anything yet, which is why he’s writing.

  3. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#2: I don’t think he should contact the son’s counselor — he needs to get his own. His child is struggling as it is, and now he wants to run to him and say: She left us to have more children! This is dumping blame directly on his child as if to say _We_ weren’t good enough!

    Spouses don’t leave otherwise happy marriages because of the children. It’s because the relationship with the partner wasn’t working anymore. He needs to accept the breakdown of his marriage as a result of his own and his wife’s actions. It’s time for this guy to step up and protect his son by fully taking responsibility and telling him that even though things didn’t work out it’s not the sons fault at all and that both parents love him dearly. That’s the only message the father needs to give to his son.

    I understand the man’s distress at the breakdown of his marriage and his wife’s infidelity, but the welfare of his suicidal child has to take precedence. This guys needs to get his own counselor because he obviously needs someone he can pour out his sorrows to. 

    • avatar Koka Miri says:

      Ariana, you nailed this. 

      I’m willing to bet the son has had a lifetime of guilting on the part of the father, if not both parents, which would contribute to anxiety, suicidality and depression. The father needs to step up and recognize that he and his son are not a unit in the (ex) marriage. He should also start paying attention to his tone of voice and what he says, and what results he hopes to get out of what he says to his son.

      The most important lesson is what Ariana said (in not so many words) – your son is not your therapist, or your new partner. He’s your child and you need to work on giving him the tools to build his own self-esteem.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        Yea I’ve got to work on the succintness of my posts. The box is called “Comment” not “Dissertation” 😀

        • avatar KL says:

          I’m not so sure the wife was unfaithful — if she was, I think the LW would have said so. To me, it looks like they separated and she started a new relationship (which I don’t think is infidelity by most people’s standards) and by the time the divorce became final, she was already 3 months pregnant with that new relationship. Some states require at least a 6 month waiting period and it’s not uncommon (at least in California) for divorces to finalize for over a year or more. And starting new relationships during a separation wouldn’t be cheating in most people’s eyes, unless the couple specifically agreed to no new relationships in that period (and in my experience, that’s the exception rather than the rule).

          • avatar Ariana says:

            It’s true KL – The letter doesn’t specifically say, but “several months ago she asked for a divorce” and by the time the divorce went through she was already 3 months pregnant. That’s not a lot of time in there, so I didn’t give her the benefit on the doubt. Whether or not she was truly cheating isn’t the point though. Anyone would be understandably offended if their spouse left them and then promptly got pregnant by someone else.

          • avatar KL says:

            I understand it being painful. I’ve just also found that it’s not uncommon for people to rebound extremely quickly, especially after long relationships as they’re used to being part of a couple. I think you see this dynamic a lot when the genders are reversed. And usually the one leaving has felt that way for a long time, so it doesn’t feel as much of a rebound for that person — but to the spouse for whom it’s a surprise, it can be quite shocking and hurtful.

            This guy’s point of view just seems very self-absorbed, so much so that he’s willing to cause his very fragile son considerable harm because he can’t see past his own pain. I find it very strange that he’s not trying to shield and protect his son more, but instead is looking to demonize his wife — regardless of the marital woes, she is still his son’s mother. I know the poisoning of such things is common, but it’s just sad when parents can’t see past their own pain and do what is best for their kids because they’re so hurt, bitter, jaded, etc. about their marital problems. I think people like that tend to keep repeating the same behaviors that contributed to the downfall, and then just blame others.

  4. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#1: There are three possible scenarios I can think of:

    1: He has acquired sexual disfunctial syndrome (or whatever it’s called) and is so embarrassed about it, he can’t even share this information with you. Not surprising for a man in the ‘senior’ generation.

    Solution: Work on improving communication between you by seeing a communication counselor. Gather some pamphlets from your doctor about the topic and offer to go with him for consultation.

    2: This is the more disturbing scenario, so I hope this isn’t the case. Barring the reason above, a man that turns off the sex directly after marriage like a faucet wasn’t being honest with you. Calling you a sex maniac because you expect to continue your loving relationship after marrying? That’s a nice big slap in the face. In this case, the ‘man you married’ is a myth that doesn’t exist. This man has ulterior motives and was putting on an act to con you into marrying him. Unfortunately these kinds of people often single out people with low self-esteem because they are more vulnerable and therefore easier to manipulate by assigning shame and guilt, e.g. by giving verbal slaps like the above.

    The most commons reasons would be his search for someone who:
    Needs someone to:
    * do laundry
    * cook
    * clean
    * share their substantial nest egg with him (are you previously widowed, or have a good pension?)

    Solution: Document his behavior and contact a divorce lawyer

    3. After marriage, you immediately changed your behavior and let yourself go. You mention being overweight, so did you pack on 40 pounds overnight, and never make yourself presentable like you did in your courtship? 
    Solution: Open communication with hubby, tell him your plans for changing back to the person he thought he was marrying, then follow through.

    So LW, have a good think about which scenario more likely applies to your situation. Good luck! 

    • avatar Miss Lee says:

      You left one off:  babysit their grandchildren so they can see them and not have to take care of them themselves.  My mother never dated after she was widowed because all the men that were available were looking for a mate for all of your reasons and this additional one.  Similarily, I do not date either because I have found most men in my age group (late 50’s) are looking for services and money also. A couple of them thought that five minutes of sex was the service that they performed for me in return.  And trust me, it wasn’t a fair exchange. 

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Another huge reason for older gentleman to marry is to have someone who will take care of them as their health declines. I know my husband worries about this & always has because he has frequently commented about how childless couples may have no one to take care of them. He comes from a culture where generations may live together symbiotically. As a physician, it really irks him that people leave family to fend for themselves in the hospital.
      My dad has mentioned this before as well saying they put me through nursing school so I could care for them when they are old.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        My grandmother, (another side of the family from the above two) never remarried after her hub died when she was 59 because she claimed most of the men were after a nurse type to take care of them as they aged..

  5. avatar wlaccma says:

    Get off the “I’m fat so I am undesirable sexually” kick. That is a myth. Many men prefer women with curves. This guy married you to have a housekeeper. Kick him to the curb if he is not what you want. You can get your marriage annulled if he had sex before marriage but is withholding it now.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      LOL, you don’t think there is the possibility that the LW is obese and weighs like 200+ pounds?  About 9 out of 10 obese people think they are a little overweight, while 9 out of 10 overweight people think they are about average weight.

      Men like curves, not fat where there are no curves.

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        What an incredibly shallow POV John Lee.

        The world is filled to the brim with women that married men that looked one way at the alter and a few years in have a gut hanging over their belts, “love handles” and a 2nd, 3rd and 4th chin – yet they still look at him as if he is George Clooney. Yet many men that look like Santa Claus not only lust after – but think they are deserving a young woman that could be a Victoria’s Secret model.

        Given he married the letter writer, one would assume he married for love and companionship. Speaking as someone that recently lost a lot of weight and am still “big, beautiful and yes, sexy” the sad reality is more men are accepting of women with extra weight than the very women that are carrying the fat. What this letter writer needs to do is understand she should be allowed to carry as much weight as she wants and still be desirable to her husband. There is more at play here than her extra weight. It’s men that think like you that are clogging the divorce courts.

  6. avatar marywells says:

    My, Ariana nailed the situation. And no, men don’t usually get their sex drive zeroed because their spouses got overweight. I’m sorry to say that the second possibility (i.e., he didn’t marry for love) is the likeliest. Brace yourself, find a good lawyer and document all his behavior.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Let’s remember too that this sex drive zeroed in the first month they married. That’s hardly enough time to become undesirable (physically anyway).

  7. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – This is a tough one to make a comment on because of all the missing information, but on it’s face I would agree with what others have said, it is pretty clear this man did not marry you for the right reasons. He did to you what so many women have done (and do) to men, pretended to be one thing to close the deal, and then once the marriage license is signed, the rings are on, the real person emerges.

    Therapy is the solution. If it were me I would grab a good bottle of wine, two glasses and a long candle stick. Sit down with him in a darkened room, look him in the eye and say “I married you because I love you and believe you love me to. I married you because I thought you were my best friend. I should be able to talk to you about anything and everything and that includes sex. I want to have sex and I want you to want to have sex with me, but we aren’t. I’m lighting this candle and by the time it burns down, I hope we will have gotten to the core of why we aren’t having sex………wine?”

    But that’s me. 🙂

    Letter #2 – This letter writer is still in “his feelings” as the old expression goes. Blaming her in a passive aggressive manner for the end of their marriage. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but he is coming across as a big baby. And a son that is mentally crippled in the way he is needs strong, loving parents now, not wimps that are so caught up in their own personal drama to avoid seeing he is in pain.

    I say the mom is the one that needs to tell him he is pregnant, and she needs to do it now! Not wait until she is showing. I say she should do so with a therapist there but I disagree that dad should be in the room. He should have nothing to do with that because the truth is she did betray him AND was irresponsible enough to get pregnant, so that speaks loudly about her judgement. This letter writer needs to sit down and speak with someone about his own emotions surrounding the betrayal and fear he has about his son.

    But in terms of telling the son, again I say, let mom. She made the mess, let her clean it up.

  8. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Your husband may need a neurological work-up. Do make an effort to shape up yourself, get out in the community, and change the tenor of things. If things haven’t improved within six months, evaluate whether you want to see a divorce lawyer.

    LW2) “Left us to have another child?” You sound like the font of many of your son’s problems. Your ex left YOU, not your son. And it was likely a smart move on her part. Divorces aren’t instantaneous, and before hers was final, she had gotten pregnant. Get things straight and quit contributing to your son’s difficulties.       

  9. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: He’s now taking Viagra and that didn’t help? I’m having difficulty, though, believing he’s suddenly impotent. If it’s due to your having gained weight since, then you need to lose that weight.

    L #2: Handle with care. I would NOT tell him “Mom left us to have another child,” because your son will likely interpret that as her having abandoned him. Say something like “She wanted to be with someone else,” leave it at that. Least said soonest mended – for your son’s sake.

  10. avatar julpfeif says:

    Letter #2. How do we know she was cheating on him while they were married? (Yes, it’s certainly possible.) Some divorces drag on for more than a year (mine did). She could have asked for the divorce, left, then met someone and got pregnant. Sounds like he is using his son as the scapegoat – maybe something he does a lot (any problems are someone else’s fault).

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Several months ago the divorce was asked for and by the time it was final, she was 3 months pregnant. How many months is several? In this case, it sounds not just possible, but more than likely.

  11. avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

    LW2 We get it. Your ex-wife did you wrong. There is no excuse for it. But, keep your kids out of it, particularly if they have significant mental health issues. If you were not so wrapped up in thinking of ways to get back at your ex-wife, this would be common sense. You probably don’t even know why your wife actually left, unless she told you, but even so, what business is it of your kid what problems you and your ex-wife had. Just tell him that the marriage was not working anymore and that it had nothing to do with him, if he asks.

  12. avatar John Lee says:

    LOL, amazing how many commentors have zero sympathy for LW#2.

    If the Letter started like this, people sing a completely different tune:

    Dear Margo: I am a now single mother looking for some assistance. Several months ago, my husband of 17 years asked for a divorce, and I recently learned his girlfriend is three months pregnant by the time the divorce went through. The question I am now facing is whether or not to tell my 17-year-old son that he left us to have another child.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      I disagree. I do have sympathy that he was left and was probably cheated on. But a parent, whether male or female, never has the right to dump on their child like that, not to mention a suicidal one.

    • avatar mayma says:

      I would say the exact same thing no matter what the genders. 

      To phrase it that way — “Parent left us to have another child” — is so needlessly rejecting, self-pitying, misleading and inaccurate.  There are a thousand ways to say it differently, ways that don’t give a suicidal kid even more problems.  It’s like the parent is picking the most hurtful way to convey the news! — which seems very odd to me.

      Parent left because 1.) marriage didn’t work out, 2.) parent is mixed-up, 3.) parents married too soon… something, something other than 4.) “parent rejected both of US.”  I mean, sheesh.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      John, My reaction is no different to your adjusted letter. There is little sympathy for the guy because, at this point, we are all wondering if he says crap like this all the time-hence, the kid’s poor self-esteem, depression, etc. Maybe ex-wife was tired of some of the crap he said like this & maybe she felt like she couldn’t help her son because her hub was constantly sabotaging his self-esteem. Some people are chronically negative and take no responsibility for their own emotions or actions. I can actually think of cultures, ethnicities & religions that live in this way. Only the strong ones get out & become successful in all facets of their life.

  13. avatar susan says:

    LW2, I had a similar situation. My husband left for another woman leaving me with two teenage sons, one of them being bipolar. First, they didn’t have to have things spelled out for them, they knew their dad cheated and left for her. Second, ALWAYS take the high road, yes what she did to you was devastating, but if you’re dealing with a son who is fragile please think of him first. I know how helpless you feel, but with the help of a good psychiatrist and therapist you and your son will both get through. Always think of your son’s well being first, he’s much more important to you then the wife that left.

  14. avatar JoyJennings says:

    Sadly, many senior men think that after they take a Viagra, they should sit down and wait for an erection. They don’t realize they need to get things started with kissing and caressing. As for LW1, she’s overdue for a talk with her husband, and if he balks, her next conversation should be with his doctor or a lawyer.

  15. avatar M W says:

    LW # 1 – do a search for “I Live in a Sexless Marriage”

    There is an online community of 30,000 plus members that will give you support.

    I believe you are the victim of a bait and switch. Many members of ILIASM complain that their spouses were sexual and loving until the rings went on. Know that you are not alone, and that it’s not you.

    • avatar M W says:

      P.S. you aren’t the first person who has been called a sex maniac by their refusing spouse. It’s unfortunately all too common.

  16. avatar MameSnidely says:

    I wonder, if with the second letter, if the issue is that the ex wife really did reject both of them and pull a runner. Perhaps the son has been begging his father to tell him why Mom isn’t returning phone calls/emails/efforts at contact and what the man is really trying to ask is “how do I tell my son that we have been abandoned and that wishing Mom back isn’t going to work.” Depressed teens are often regressed — this could be a lot more like talking to a kid about death than a teen about infidelity.

  17. avatar LovePacino says:

    LW #1:  I agree with the posters who believe this woman’s husband had an ulterior motive for marrying her. For those asking if she “let herself go” — that seems unlikely. If I’m reading the letter correctly, it seems they haven’t had sex since the first month of their marriage — seems like a very short time for the husband to become “turned off” by his wife.

    LW #2:  I think people are being unnecessarily harsh about the jilted husband. I DO agree that he should NEVER say that his wife “left THEM to have another baby” — BUT I think that’s the hurt talking. It sounds to me like he is trying to figure out IF or HOW to tell his son that his ex-wife is having a baby with another man — knowing that this news will likely further wound his already-fragile son. It sounds to me like she is NOT in the son’s life, because IF she were, then he would surely figure this out on his own (or she would tell him). He sounds like a heart-broken man trying to figure out how to protect/shield his boy from hurtful news (that she IS having a baby AFTER leaving the marriage). Further, even if she did NOT abandon her son, she DID choose not to take him with her — which would probably FEEL like abandonment to an emotionally unstable teen. As such, I’m not feeling much sympathy for her. 

    Just one question for all of you who are bashing the husband: Would you be as harsh if the letter writer were a woman (BE HONEST)?