Have you ever wondered what you would do if your spouse was disabled by an illness or injury and was no longer able to have sexual relations with you?
In my often-morbid musings (being of Irish descent, I manage to look down the road to ill-fortune in intricate detail) what if Henry jumped off a waterfall on the Hana Coast in Maui (does this ring any bells sweetheart?) and plunged into a coral reef rendering him incapable of his husbandly duties?
Then, of course, there’s the possibility he might contract polio (even if it doesn’t exist in North America anymore) like Mark O’Brien in The Sessions, after which we’d have to hire Helen Hunt to teach him how to make love again (no honey, it wasn’t Salma Hayek in The Sessions).
I like to think if something happened I would waltz selflessly into celibacy and become the Fortress of Solitude (the one with Henry Cavill, not Brandon Routh). On other days, I allow myself to contemplate hiring a handsome, young male escort, a professional who won’t fall madly in love with me or, less likely, who I won’t fall in love with.
But before I can really go down that road, I already picture the various STDs I’ll contract and how the male escort will have a drug problem and I’ll be unwittingly trapped in the seedy underbelly of the criminal world, having to pay off said escort’s drug-debts before thugs kneecap him.
And don’t even get me started on his bi-polar PussyCat Doll girlfriend stalking me.
Then I worry that even thinking about Henry becoming somehow incapacitated will make it actually happen, because that damned book The Secret (which blames cancer patients for getting cancer). But enough about me.
Beatrice, the mother of a good friend of mine, lived through this scenario.
Her husband of thirty-five years, Pete, was a heavy smoker in his youth and as the years progressed so too did his emphysema, until he couldn’t go anywhere without an oxygen tank, was too feeble to walk, and had to use a wheelchair.
Beatrice was an amazing caregiver throughout the ten years that Pete’s illness disabled him. She was, in fact, so good at it that after Pete passed, she became a caregiver to other elders in her community.
Prior to Pete’s death, a few years into his ailment, he told Beatrice that he wouldn’t be upset if she decided to take a lover, since he could no longer make love to her.
Initially, Beatrice was resistant and even hurt that her husband was willing to relinquish her to another man.
She told Pete she didn’t want a lover, she assured him that part of her life wasn’t important anymore, despite the fact that she was a vibrant, attractive woman in her late 50s.
A few years later Beatrice had a change of heart.
She began to miss the part of herself that was still sexually vital. Eventually she met another man in her condo complex and began a sexual relationship. Despite Pete’s assurances years earlier that he wouldn’t be upset if she took a lover, Beatrice kept the affair secret for some time. But eventually she felt guilty by omission and confessed to Pete she was having a sexual relationship with another man.
Pete tried to put a brave face on it, but quickly realized that the idea of his wife with another man was quite different than the reality.
Their relationship became freighted and Beatrice’s lover began to have needs. He wasn’t an idea, he was a person of flesh and blood, and people don’t fit in neat little boxes with labels on them. People are messy. As the relationship continued, Beatrice’s lover wanted a real, committed relationship with her, not just a sexual one.
As so often happens, what looked good on paper was a disaster in real life.
Beatrice spent the last couple of years of Pete’s life torn between these two men. Pete was no longer her husband, but her patient and her family. Her lover was dissatisfied being relegated to a small corner of her world. After Pete passed, Beatrice and her lover attempted a more traditional relationship, but because of the way things began and how it affected Pete, the relationship was doomed.
What’s the takeaway here? Objectively, I can certainly understand Beatrice’s need to still be sexually vital. I think everyone did the best they could given the circumstances. But, I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve found yourselves in similar circumstances and how you’ve managed?
And universe, I need Henry ready for action right up to the time we’re in our early hundreds and sex threatens to break both of our hips. Just in case The Secret isn’t a bunch of hooey.
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17 thoughts on “When Your Spouse Asks You To Take A Lover”
I’m not sure if I would go outside the marriage, but as a person who sells sex toys (Passion Parties consultant), I wouldn’t be in shortage of… entertainment.
Hi Erin! Didn’t I come to one of your Passion Parties?
Yikes. I’ve never known anyone to be so disabled that they were incapable of making love! And I’ve known quadriplegics. My personal experience has been that there is always a way to sexually satisfy one another even when a severe disability is involved.
Just started reading your blog, love it! And that picture, and his expression, is wonderful, down to the smirk. I love the fact even though your face can’t be seen fully, there is a story being told from your posture, profile, etc.
I can relate, as I married my university sweetheart who had become disabled (quadriplegic) in a bike accident. I married him knowing full well of his disability, but ignorant of the toll it would eventually take on me. You are much more than wife, regardless of extra help.
You, as the wife become a full time caretaker, and that can zap any and all sexual feelings. I eventually made a conscious choice to have a relationship outside my marriage, and although it was for selfish reasons, things got complicated.
Leading a double life became too much, I did love my husband and I did not want to leave my husband for my lover, but my trying to balance the two relationships was too much and I found myself drinking too much to ease the guilt.
Eventually I broke down, ended my marriage, went to rehab for depression and began a new life. I think I entered into my marriage believing a could “fix” my husband and we could live happily ever after. But that was not our reality. When I realized what my reality did look like, I was neither happy with him or me or us. I was scared, depressed and felt totally alone and ashamed by how I felt. I needed to get out and fix me…a decision that left me feeling guilty and wounded for a very long time.
Dear Lisa — what you undertook in caring for your ex-husband is monumental. My mom’s husband (my stepdad) had a massive stroke and she became his caregiver for the next six years. It really took its toll on her. It’s the day in day out of caring for a sick person that is so debilitating. I hope you will go easy on yourself with regards to your story. xo S
I’m really glad this was the conclusion. 🙂
Hey sweet pea — it was so great seeing you at BlogHer and it made me miss my roomie. xo S
Umm…I think I’d go the Passion Party route.
Oh Emma, j’adore.
I have been the primary caregiver of my disabled spouse for the last 17 years. While we were able to have sex in the beginning, it’s been years since we have been able to and I’m only in my mid 40s. I am also a sexual freedom activist so the idea of spending my best sexual years celibate is heart breaking.
Vivienne – I won’t ask any personal questions. But your situation is one of those shades of grey that this post has brought up. There are no easy answers. And there’s no room for judgment. Kisses to you.
When I was younger, my mother got incredibly sick. The doctors told her she had 6 months at best. ( We did not live with her). She gave my step-father permission to take care of his needs outside of their marriage and he exercised that right. My Mom kicked cancer’s arse…and 25 years later she is still with my step-father. The outside party, showed up 10 years after their deed and claimed she had a child by my step-father. My step-father and the other woman were both caucasian. The child appeared to be on the darker end of mixed race, so there was significant doubt that the child was his. The mother refused to DNA test and after bickering for about a year with my step-father, asked him to sign over rights to the child, whom he had never met or known even existed until she showed back up. He did, but I know that my Mother has said she is still waiting for this poor little boy to show up on their door step one day looking for a connection and answers. I am sure this has to be hard for both my Mother and my Step-father…but they are still both amazing people with a relationship I aspire to have…minus maybe the lover and love-child…I don’t think I could handle that.
Hey Katie — this in many ways reminds me of my friend’s story. There are so many complications that arise. The idea of a lover is so much less complicated than the actuality.
Hello. My story is a little different, and as yet I really haven’t found a solution to my problem. My wife and I have been together for 45 years. In the beginning our sex life, like most newlyweds was amazing. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We were friends long before we became lovers or husband and wife. After the birth of our two boys our sex life gradually began to diminish. We have always been totally honest with each other, about everything. But I have to admit that I was hurt and astonished one day after making love to her that she admitted to me that sex, for her was only about having children. As she had her tubes tied after the birth of our second son, she didn’t really need or really want sex. I have always had a very strong sex drive and my wife has lived with that Burden for years, occasionally “giving in” to me when the pressure got too great. She claims, and I really believe her, that when I give her an orgasm that it becomes painful for her. We are now in our early 60’s and we have both had issues with bad backs and all of the pain and restrictions that goes with it. We haven’t made love to each other in years, we no longer sleep in the same room, it embarrasses her when, after approaching her for intimacy only to be rejected once again, I resort to masturbation and the internet to get some relief. I have never cheated on her despite having had several opportunities in the past. I long for and miss intimacy with another human being, yet odd as it may sound, I still love my wife deeply and I would never under any circumstances do anything to hurt her or bring her pain. This has been tearing me up for years. It is her I want, but I have come to believe that she no longer wants me, at least in THAT way. She has never understood my need for sexual intimacy, and she still doesn’t understand why, at 63 years old with health issues of my own, I still long for it. She tells me she loves me, she has always told me so, but she only shows it by reluctantly giving in to my desire for her when I really press the issue. That has been our pattern for the last 30 years or more, and now for the last 5 years or so, nothing. Any thoughts or advise is welcome. I’m both frustrated and at a loss on what to do.
Due to the incredibly long time I have been monitoring your site and realizing that evidently no one there seems to really care about the problems a good loyal husband is experiencing with his marriage, I must assume that like a lot of these so called support sites they only apply to women who are experiencing problems within their relationships. Not to men who ARE faithful and good husbands and fathers. My wife and I have been together for 48 years. I had served in the US Navy and had plenty of opportunities back then to cheat on her but Honestly, I never did and I fully trust her word that she never strayed either. We have raised 2 boys and are grandparents 5 times over and our family is everything to both of us. I wasn’t looking for justification to cheat on my wife like some other pricks I have known out there, but I was looking for some advise as to how My wife and I could get some of the old fire back into our marriage. I realize that there is a lot of abuse out there directed towards women and they need and deserve every bit of support that anyone can give them. I don’t condemn you or disparage your efforts to help other women in any way you can. I guess I was just hoping for a little support for me and my wife. Good bye.
i would just bring an end to the marriage and set her free. i could not endure such things. No matter what she thinks she wants.I would just divorce her. then i would make it clear i would never want any contact with her again.
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