My husband and I have been married for 48 years and treasure our physical relationship very much. It has always (or nearly always anyway!) brought us great pleasure and closeness and is something we both very much value. However, the knocks of age are affecting us and we are both feeling frustrated and a bit isolated because our mobility has caused us to give up on being intimate in bed. My husband has arthritis which gets very painful and I am waiting for a hip replacement, leaving me very stiff and lots of positions cause me pain. Neither of us wants to put pressure on each other so we have not talked about it very much, but we are feeling bereaved of part of what made our marriage close. Have you got any advice for us oldies – who are still up for it in our heads and hearts – but not our bodies?


It is so easy in these situations, where we cannot make love in the same ways as we are used to, to end up withdrawing from each other sexually altogether. Sometimes that is because it is upsetting to face the reality of what we cannot do, and so we would rather forget. Other times it is because it is physically painful and therefore demotivating. Sometimes it is because we have not reformed our sexual self-image in the light of our new physical limitations. Our sense of sexual confidence and sexuality was expressed through our physical mobility and once our physical ability changes we have to dig into a different place for our sexual freedom.


It sounds like neither of you have lost your libido, just your approach. Reset your expectation that it doesn’t matter if it is not comfortable to have penetrative sex; what matters is that you are sexually intimate and make each other feel good within what is comfortable for you both. Talk together about what would be the most comfortable position to be in physically for each of you. Think outside of your bed too. Maybe you are more comfortable sitting on the settee together or on the other person’s lap. Have a laugh thinking about what you could do differently to make it comfortable but still be able to touch each other. Break a few moulds and get creative within what is physically possible.


Don’t fear putting pressure on each other by talking. I think you will find the opposite will happen and that actually by chatting it through you will release some pressure and be able to find out what the other person is really thinking and feeling. This will break down your sense of isolation and give you insight into what the other person needs and feels so you can better reach out to them.


It may well be easier to bring each other to climax just with your hands or through kissing, if you can position yourselves right. Buy some good lubricant such as Liquid Silk which you can get from and apply liberally with plenty of tissues to hand!


But if you don’t get that far either it really doesn’t matter. Just take it as far as you both want to, knowing that the main thing is that you can both let go as much as you want sexually and give yourselves to each other again. The ‘all or nothing approach’ is what is leaving you both frustrated and isolated. Better to have a taste and find your level within that, than to deny and withdraw.


Maybe once you have had a good chat about it all, you could kick start things again by treating yourselves to a hotel break for a few nights. It’s amazing what a new setting, a romantic environment, dressing up for a candlelit dinner and some pampered time together can do for breaking out of the rut of avoidance.


Be confident to be yourselves as you now are and to express your passion for each other within that. It’s an ancient river that you know well and simply needs rechannelling to find an alternative path around new obstacles. I am sure over these 48 years you have done that before with other obstacles and you can do it again.