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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 27


It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

I admit I have neglected the physical side of our love

Michael writes...

My partner and lover of many years has fallen out of love with me. About six months ago, she renewed a relationship with an old boy friend from the very distant past - from over forty years ago in fact. We have shared mutual love and affection for over thirty years. I am 64, she will be 60 in August.

I admit that I have neglected the physical side of our love for two years. She has told me that she wanted more and I didn’t give, although we got on well together, no bickering no arguments. Now I am absolutely devastated to find she doesn’t love me anymore. I love her and want her so much, it hurts very badly. We still live together, in our house, but I don’t know for how much longer. I am frequently telling her I love her still, but it doesn’t seem to help and I feel more rejected each time I do so. I have started counselling with Relate. I am too afraid to tell her about Relate, for fear of further rejection. Should I tell her?

I have read the responses to your posting in the laterlife forum, Michael, and am glad to see some responses have recommended that you tell your partner of Relate. It is, as they suggest, a way of demonstrating your commitment to the relationship.

It sounds as though other assurances have not been heard or believed. I wonder why that is.

When we have been with someone for so long it as likely that we slip into a way of being together that is comfortable and has its own communication system. Much of this is based on knowing a great deal about each other; simple things like what food or drink preferences the partner has. These pose very little problem, but when we begin to assume we know that our partner is happy because they have said nothing to us, we can slowly lose contact with the real person without even realising it.

When the that loss results in lack of communication, especially about sex, it is very hard to think of a way to regain closeness.

Yet there are ways to do this, though they require a commitment to make some changes on both sides. You say that you have neglected the physical side of your relationship for two years and that your partner wanted more.

  • Did you talk about this as it was happening and check out if the situation was all right for her?

  • How often did you discuss this together?

  • Did you both manage to acknowledge it as a joint problem?

  • Or did you both assume it was your problem alone because you had lost desire for her?

Loss of desire, or drive, or physical loss of ability through illness or disability, need not shut the door on intimacy and sexual pleasure for a couple. Providing it is talked about and seen as a ‘couple problem’ rather than an individual problem, it stays manageable.

An ailing sex life in long-term relationships, if unattended to, can lead to a feeling of alienation and an assumption that a partner no longer wants you physically, or is not interested in you as an individual, is bored with you or finds you unattractive.

Unless those assumptions are cleared, that person will begin to feel unattractive, less sexually confident, become worried over the state not only of your, but their own libido. It is an ongoing project for us all to maintain communication about this.

(Of course, if the lack of interest is mutual, there is no problem, but in that case both people need to acknowledge this too and share the feelings about it.)

The good news is that there are many ways to maintain, prolong and enhance our emotional and sexual enjoyment these days and plenty of books that clarify things and inform us in a simple, constructive and helpful way. Sex is much less of a taboo subject for discussion – although still rather a tricky one for many mature people. The older a person is the less likely their upbringing was one where sexual awareness was encouraged, discussed and information made easily available.

A Relate counsellor will help you to find ways of expressing yourself and offer you information that can be very helpful and supportive in all areas of relationship. I am very pleased to see you are going to talk to you partner about what you are doing. Whatever the outcome, you will benefit from having somewhere to explore what it is that you can do to help you work through the difficulties you are having.

The following books may prove useful to you. They can be ordered on the Relate website:  or type `relate books` into Google and you are there in a flash.


Relate Guide to Loving in Later Life: How To Renew Intimacy And Have Fun In The Prime Of Life

Marj Thoburn & Suzy Powling



This constructive guide to sex, loving and relationships for the 50-80s age group suggests that life - and loving sex - begin at 50+. The book draws on a wide range of case studies and offers advice for those who want to keep improving the quality of their relationship, whatever their age.


The Relate Guide To Sex In Loving Relationships

Sarah Litvinoff



This understanding book guides the reader step-by-step through the underlying problems which can arise in any relationship and inhibit a fulfilling sex life. It offers a wealth of practical advice on sexual techniques and sympathetic guidance on overcoming possible sexual difficulties.


After the Affair (Relate guide)

Julia Cole



Finding out that your partner has had an affair can feel like the end of the world; the ultimate betrayal. This book takes a frank yet sensitive look at why people embark on affairs, explores the devastating effects on the person who has been betrayed, and shows how individuals and couples can recover.


NB Look out for a new book, Intimate Relations: Living and Loving in Later Life by Dr Sarah Brewer to be reviewed next month in laterlife.

(Published by Age Concern Books price £9.99)





You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling & Advice Index



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