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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 29

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 think he only wants sex, not a relationship

Jan (not her real name) has spent much of her life bringing up her two daughters alone. Twenty years on they are both Cambridge graduates and Jan is at last feeling that she can spend more time on herself and her own studies and be more free to socialise. She has been happy and enjoyed life with the girls, but missed the company of a sexual partner.

Although she had offers of companionship and sex over the years, she found none of them very exciting prospects until she met a man at work who shared her interests and a similar background. He told her of his divorce, his daughter, who is roughly the same age as hers, his ‘breakdown' following the end of an affair with a married woman he was madly in love with, and his elderly mother who he cares for. He lives in a flat just ten minutes away from both his mum and Jan.

Their relationship has been conducted entirely at Jan's flat. He has promised to invite her to his home, but the offer has never materialised. Despite reminders from Jan, he has never introduced her to any of his family. His visits are just long enough to make love, rest for a while and then he has to leave. They have never spent a night together, as he says he suffers from night-time epilepsy. He is always ill at ease when they venture out together.

Jan has been left feeling that she is unimportant to him and that he might also be hiding something from her. He apparently remains passionate about her, but his calls are made from a mobile phone or the office, as he has told her that he has no landline at his flat. His visits are always arranged at very short notice.

She was stunned lately when he put a note through the door, saying that for the moment they should stop seeing each other. He also wrote that he was going to pay attention to the points she had raised about the unsatisfactory nature of their relationship and go to counselling. He said that he was still not over the affair with the married woman who had returned to her husband but now left again; and that until he met Jan he only dated married women.

Jan's daughters, who have met the man briefly, tell her she could do much better for herself - that she is an attractive and very sociable woman. She recognises that where she is open and friendly, he is introverted, ‘turned in on himself'. He often seems older than his years and is over-protective towards his mother. Jan feels that she is kept at arms length and has always felt that while sex has been ok for him, he has failed to please her fully.

The drawback is that she has been reawakened to the sexual side of herself. He still calls her frequently, and when they talk on the phone they both say how much they miss sex. Jan recognises the inequality in the relationship and has even had a sexual health check since hearing about his affairs.

She is feeling distressed and is unable to concentrate on finishing her postgraduate thesis as she has such conflicting feelings – he does nothing to make her feel she is important to him, but she is hooked in because of the phone calls.

Maggi answers

I get the feeling you are halfway to making up your mind, Jan. Your daughters know you best of all and they are offering you their honest and loving opinion. As you grow more confident in your studies and gain a busier social life you are able to take a good look at what you have to offer to a partner and ask yourself what you would like from them.

  • Now, ask if what you had with this man was a fair exchange, was it balanced, with both partners making mutual contributions? It doesn't sound like it. You mentioned having doubts about the reasons for his unwillingness to stay overnight and how he never introduced you to any of his family. You are right to ask why. Of course there may be a genuine, totally valid reason – I just cannot think of one right now.

  • Perhaps this man is making a sincere effort to sort out the confusion he has between loyalty to his mother, freeing himself of the married woman and commitment to a relationship. But what has he done to demonstrate commitment to you? What are you going to do in the meantime - stay in and wait?

  • It is really good that he has given you a renewed interest in the sexual side of your self, but it sounds as though that is the most he has offered. Is that enough? Yes, you have had some companionship and pleasant times, but there have been no great events like holidays, weekends, concerts, meals out, family gatherings or celebrations. In two years you might have justifiably expected some of these things.

  • You are in an even better position now to exercise more of what bringing up children alone has given you: power to direct your own life. You know you can look after yourself and I am sure you believe that you deserve more than what this man has been able to offer you.

  • Perhaps he will be ‘freed' through his counselling, or when his elderly mother dies, but he cannot ask you to wait for him, and he has given you no sign that he wants you involved in any more than sexual relief. It would be a pity for you to hang on for something that may never materialise and waste precious years that you have worked so hard to enjoy.

    Go out and hunt for fun, friendship, generous sex, open sharing of all the good things you are longing for. You may not achieve all of these things, but you are very likely to achieve some of them. And that's far better than hanging around and feeling dissatisfied over something that may never get any further.



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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