Grieving for My Sex Life After My Husband Died by A. Radosh
One minor theme I sometimes bring up on this blog is that getting married is not a recipe for ever-lasting happiness: your spouse, should you marry, can develop early on-set dementia, or die from cancer, a car accident, etc. Or, maybe your spouse turns out to be abusive or so self-centered that he doesn’t care to meet your emotional needs.
So, here we have an article by a lady whose husband died, so she’s not having sex.
I’ve mentioned before in a few other posts on this blog that married people should not think they’re off the hook just because they have a spouse and a spouse is providing companionship – because if your spouse dies before you, you will be single again and find yourself lonely.
In this case, if you know and believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong you’re not going to start having sex with other people after your spouse dies. This should be another reason why Christians teach that sexual purity, chastity, and celibacy are for all people, not just teens or single adults.
…Bart and I never bought into that stereotype. We were septuagenarians now, and the sex was still fun. It bound us together.
When Bart was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in his mid-70s, we were both stunned. He had always been strong, athletic, energetic, and healthy; but now the cells in the marrow of his bones were being destroyed by cancer. Within a few months, our hikes up the Catskill high peaks were replaced with quiet walks along the stream near our house.
A few more months, and those walks were replaced by visits to doctors. Eighteen months after diagnosis, Bart died.
…Bart’s death brought into sharp relief all of the ways our lives had been inextricably intertwined.
Gone was the person who shared my pleasure in (and anxieties about) our children and grandchildren. Gone was the partner who slept next to me on the ground as, year after year, we ventured father into the Canadian wilderness on our canoeing trips,…
…But not until the immobilizing despair of those early months of grieving abated was I blindsided by realization that the sexual intimacy Bart and I shared was also gone for good.
I was unprepared for the shock and depth of this loss. This felt far more essential than things like concerts and canoeing, which were things we did together. This was about who we were together.
I called this feeling “sexual bereavement,” and immediately understood that this loss would not be easy to share with family and friends.
Despite the recent spate of best-selling books, popular blogs, and talk shows “discovering” that older people enjoy sex, I soon realized that the taboos around sexuality are still strong and entrenched. We’re already not supposed to talk about death in polite company. Pair that with sex, and you’ve got a double taboo.
When I tried to bring it up with friends, I felt I was trespassing on other people’s privacy.
Awkward statements about the absence of intimacy in their own marriage for the last ten years and various versions of “Who cares about sex anymore, anyway?” were quickly followed by “Want another cup of coffee?” One good friend, a therapist, told me I was “brave” to bring this up.
By far the most commonly offered antidote to my feelings of sexual bereavement, though, was suggestions from well-intentioned friends that I set up a profile on a senior dating website.
But I didn’t want a new partner.
I wanted the decades of shared humor and pillow talk that were critical to sexual enjoyment, the appreciation of bodies that had aged together, the understanding that develops over a long period in an enduring sexual relationship. I wanted Bart.
Well, lady, I always wanted my own Bart, but I never got one in the first place. You at least had a Bart for a few decades before he passed on.
More excerpts from her article:
I started to search for confirmation that my feelings were not inappropriate. What I found instead was a culture of silence. I read Joan Didion’s and Joyce Carol Oates’s classic memoirs about mourning a beloved husband. They are lauded as unflinching, but in their combined nearly 700 pages, there is no mention of the type of sexual bereavement I was experiencing.
[The author sent out a survey to older women about how they’d react if their husband were to pass away and they could no longer have sex]
…The majority of the women surveyed said they would definitely miss sex if their partner died, and most said that, even if it felt awkward, they would want to be able to talk to friends about this loss.
….This piece was excerpted from the book Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome, a collection of essays by Modern Loss co-founders Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, as well as more than 40 contributors, about loss in all its messy forms — the good, the bad, the hopeful and the darkly hilarious.
(Link): Why Christians Need to Uphold Lifelong Celibacy as an Option for All Instead of Merely Pressuring All to Marry – vis a vis Sexless Marriages, Counselors Who Tell Marrieds that Having Affairs Can Help their Marriages