A cluster of email arrived lately from folks in inter-generational relationships. They raise some very interesting issues. Check it out.
Dr. Dick, I’m a 20-year-old lesbian and have been involved in a relationship for a year and a half. She is also 23 years older than me. As much as we don’t want to admit it, our age difference is becoming a problem for us. We have had a difficult and stressful ride for the time we have been together. We are just at different places in our lives. Neither one of us truly wants to break it off; we have put far too much effort into this. I don’t doubt our deep feelings for each other, but is love enough to keep a relationship healthy? I would like to think so, but then of course I don’t have any prior experience. I am young and have many years and many possibilities in front of me. This doesn’t concern me, because more than anything I want this to work. What can we do? – Dena
The issues you present get right to the heart of some of the stickiest stuff of human relationships — sex, intimacy and love. Each one of these is different from the other and each satisfies (or frustrates) a specific need in each of us. The problem, of course, is that many of us jumble them all together and make a muddle of things. Let’s see if we can parse things out a bit.
You ask, “is loving someone enough to make a relationship work?” The short answer is, yes, absolutely. The rub comes with defining what that particular relationship will look like. Simply loving someone will NOT be enough to satisfy a need for sexual expression, nor will it satisfy every intimacy need.
That being said, if maintaining your relationship at all costs is your objective, I’d suggest that you consider making some kind of adjustment to your current relationship to allow you to experiment with satisfying your sexual and intimacy needs outside the relationship. Of course, this is often easier said than done.
If your girlfriend is mature enough, she’ll understand your needs and give you the permission you request. If not, you’ll have to do it on your own. You need to grow; so does your partner. Pretending that this issue will somehow disappear, just because you love one another, is foolish. Unattended, these needs will worm their way into every facet of your being together and they’ll destroy everything you currently have in place.
I always favor the up-front approach. Have a frank discussion with your partner. Work out some new, temporary parameters for your relationship. Check in frequently with one another. Take note of how each of you is adjusting to this fresh approach to problem solving. Assure her of her rightful place as your primary partner. All other relationships are merely satellite relationships that are meant to augment what is available on the home front. Of course, you’ll need to grant her the same latitude you seek for yourself. Honesty, communication and assurance will be your keys to success.
Doc, I am 72 years old and I live with a 38 year old young man. Ours is a celibate life but with lots of touch and love. We decided that sex between us could be destructive so we put that aside. We are free to make sexual liaisons outside the relationship, but they have been minimal. We enjoy each other so much without the tension of having to perform that we would like to share the idea with others. We have a freedom that others could cherish. Many have sex without love why not love without sex? I am happy for the first time in my life and suggest these kinds of alternatives in every forum I can. Thank you for your time. – Bill
You and I share the same mission. We’re both encouraging others to consider the array of different models of loving, intimacy and sex that are available.
Most of the mail I get is from people who, despite being intelligent and sophisticated in most other matters, have absolutely no creativity in terms of the relationships they form. Just about everyone wants to know how he/she can mimic the look and feel of the dominant heterosexual, sexually exclusive model. As if that were the only legitimate means of being together. Why are gay men and lesbians so eager to buy into a lifestyle that rarely works for straight people? Maybe the wisdom you speak of is that which only comes with age and life experience.
There is one thing I’d like to point out. You say, “Ours is a celibate life…” I think you mean to say that you and your partner live a sexually abstinent life together, correct? Celibacy means something very specific; it means not being heterosexually married. This is a common enough mistake, one that permeates the popular culture.
I applaud your determination to bring the “good news” of alternative models of loving, intimacy and sex to every forum you can. I’m doing the same. Good luck in your efforts. You have a kindred spirit in Dr. Dick.
Dr Dick, I’m currently in a long-term relationship with a man who’s 18 years older than I am. I’m 29. It seems that I want to have sex more often than he does. It may be the age difference between us. I have tried masturbation to relieve my need, but it does not work too well. Whenever I’m with him in bed, I feel like touching him and so on. What should I do? – I Need More
Congratulations! You’ve discovered the joys of inter-generational relationships. And I see you’ve also discovered the challenges.The issue you present is a common one, even for people dating within their own age group. A disparity in terms of sexual needs often appears between individuals in a relationship. This can be an opportunity for some creative problem solving or it can destroy the whole damn thing.
Here’s my suggestion.
- First, try to discover if the difference in need has to do with sex or with intimacy. They’re not the same things, ya know. Does your partner even know that you are withering on the vine? Give yourself permission to explore other options to satisfy your libido. Could you have a sexual playmate outside the relationship? Is a three-way possible? Spice things up with some role-playing or a new sex toy. It’s easy to lose interest in sex when the play is boring, repetitive and ho hum.
- There are lots of sex manuals on the market, to be sure. You could consult one of them for ideas if you can’t tap into your own god-given creativity. Of course a less expensive, and I think a more fun way to do this is to visit your local sex emporium. Don’t have one in your town? Too embarrassed to darken the doorway if there is one in your town? Never fear there are loads of them online. Make a date with your partner to visit a store. Pick out something new and naughty for him/her. Let him/her do the same for you.
- Remember that sex oughta be an adventure even for an old “married” couple like you. Take all the opportunities that present themselves to make magic happen. You’ll be saving more than your LTR.