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Widows Disagree On Coping With Sexual Urges

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Sex sure gets people excited. They fuss and fret about every aspect of this human behavior.

Frequently readers of this column agonize over lack of sexual desire or inability to perform or enjoy the experience. But recently a woman contacted us to complain about a different kind of problem:

"I have been a widow for 10 years and am terribly annoyed by needs I cannot satisfy. Masturbation just increases my sexual desire.

"I am too embarrassed to talk to my doctor about this. I know it sounds ridiculous but I am desperate for something to take away my sexual desires."

In our response we suggested that she consult a sympathetic physician about a medication that could dampen libido. Antidepressants like Prozac as well as the hormone progesterone may reduce sexual desire. Chaste tree berry extract is an herb traditionally used to lower libido.

We were unprepared for the outpouring of emotion we received in response to this answer. Many widows chastised us:

"When I read your answer, I came very close to bursting into tears or hurling the paper across the room. Would you have given that same advice to a man?

"Let me tell you about myself: I am a 63-year-old female widowed when I was 51. I was born in 1938 and raised by provincial parents who were very restrictive about sex. Coming from that background, I can well understand the feelings of a woman older than 60.
"I managed to overcome my upbringing and in the early 60's I married the man who was my husband for the next 28 years. We were sublimely happy and sexually well-matched.

"After five years of mourning the loss of my husband and going through the first five years of menopause, during which my libido disappeared totally, I again had strong sexual urges. There are many older women who just need to realize we are human beings with natural urges until we die. We shouldn't be scolded for relieving those urges the only way we can, by ourselves."

Other widows wrote that they had similar sexual urges. For one woman, these feelings are a welcome reminder: "My mate and I were exceptionally sexual during our joyous 47 year marriage. My sexual yearnings are stronger than ever, because I miss him so. I could not consider sex (or romance) with anyone else. I don't want to lose my sexuality. It's a validation."

Another reader has a different approach: "I was really surprised by your answer to the widow who wanted to dim her sexual desires with medication. Sex is good for you.
"I would have told her to find a sexual partner. Many men do not want the commitment and responsibility of marriage but I've never met one who didn't want sex.

"I am a widow also, age 62, and I have a great man in my life with whom I have sex as often as possible--usually three or four times a week. I can't imagine a life without passion."

Our society has a hard time dealing with sexuality in older people. The death of a spouse does not banish sex drive.

We suggest, however, that those who find partners take the same precautions urged upon younger people. Sexually transmitted diseases can strike anyone, so using barrier contraceptives makes sense at any age.

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18 Comments

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I think the comments from other women are very valid here. A woman's sexuality should be validated, not suppressed artificially, in my opinion. I applaud you for printing the other women's comments!

Being a widower, I have to agree with everything stated. It is so hard to deal with the tremendous loss and then the guilt of feeling sexual. I am conforted to know that I am not alone in going through this process, without having to feel the guilt involved.

I am not a widow but I am a caregiver for my husband of 45 years who has both Parkinson's Disease and dementia. I am only 63 and my desires are almost as strong as they were when I was younger.

My old-world Italian upbringing and Catholic sensitivities prevent me from looking outside my marriage for sexual fulfillment. I do what I can to cope but I sure miss the intimacy of a loving man. However, the last thing I would think of doing is to find a way to suppress my desires. I am human, after all, and expect that one day my turn will come.

I ask if you check the validity of these letters. You have a woman who claims to be 63 and says she was born in 1938. I am 71 and was born in 1940. Either this woman is mentally disturbed and cannot count correctly or someone is playing. It may be worth your while to vet some of these claims

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: HER LETTER CAME FROM OUR ARCHIVES, AND IT IS LIKELY THAT HER REPORTS WERE ACCURATE AT THE TIME SHE WROTE IT.

I thank you for the advice on what to do to dim sexual desire. For the reader that suggested "just finding a sex partner", I say, maybe the lady that was originally asking, as myself, reads the bible and knows how God feels about having sex without the benefit of marriage. I myself no longer have a partner and have ALWAYS been a very highly sexual person. I enjoyed it so much that I always have thought "I hope I never stop wanting sex when I get older" having seen it happen to older relatives. I'm older now and have not stopped wanting sex, but I don't feel that i can just have sex so casually as the woman suggested above. My love and devotion to God sustains me when the urges arise. I remember what God expects of me and the urges subside. I don't give in or let them smolder so that they lead me into something I'd be sorry for. If there is something to help keep them from arising at all, all the more better. Thank you for answering the woman on the question she had asked. I feel you answered correctly.

These sex-crazed women cause other women problems. Obsessively seeking sex, the sex-crazed women try to have sex with their yard men, deliver men, workmen, any man they meet. As a result, many men get the idea all women are like that and the men try to make advances on women who want nothing to do with them. Life is much better when you get over sex. Do something constructive such as exercise, volunteer, garden, paint, get a job, get a life!
Sex addiction is like any other addiction...alcohol, drugs, gambling.
There is treatment. I wonder if there is treatment such as AA for sex addicts.

To listen to most of these people if you don't have sex you might as well quit living. Get over it! Sexual desire and ability comes and goes in life. It is not the be all and end all to living and happiness.

People would be healthier and happier if they stopped dwelling on how much sex they get or don't get and paid more attention to keeping themselves physically and mentally fit.

Yes intimacy is important, but balance in life is more important and more sex is not the answer to an unhappy life. People have to stop acting like they will be 20 forever and learn to accept the reality that all other animals seem to accept, that as we age our sexual abilities diminish.

As George Burns once half jokingly said, "Sex at age Ninety is like trying to shoot pool with a rope". Now that's reality.

I live a chaste life, and I am happier than ever in my life. I am divorced, and I have a boyfriend, but we are committed to abstinence outside of marriage. If I live without a man for the rest of my life, I'll be fine. My best friend, Christ Himself, makes this not only possible, but incredibly exciting. I don't know what He has for me next!

Did you ever think that she may have made a typo???? Give someone the benefit of the
doubt, perhaps the birthyear was 1948??? As I see in my 55+ (I call it 99 and under)
walker/prostrate possey adult community) we have mostly wining, complaining, miserable
pill taking old bit and bitties living here, who NEVER contribute anything but
criticism and make our Board members' life miserable, calling them even late at night
to chew them out! You'd fit in here very well, indeed.
LEAVE THE PEOPLE'S PHARMACY ALONE, they do great work FREE!!! Do you help????

I believe that the woman who wrote that she REALLY MISSES the sexual life she had with her partner-------she can find a nice, non committed male---maybe through a club or organization that she should join. Perhaps a photo club, or a dancing group, or an art club, or a sport of some kind.

Just pretend that you are 20 years old again, and GET OUT, make new friends, and you will be able to find a good sexual partner in a little while after you become "active" in your community.

I am a widow age 50. My husband and I were very sexually active and when he left this world I was crushed and missed him so very deeply. I needed distraction to be able to get through the days and nights. I could not focus on anything only my sexual desires. I just wanted to be with my husband but that wasn't possible even though I would fantasize constantly about him. When a man 20 years my junior started dancing with me at a concert I felt something I had been missing for months.

To hold someone close and enjoy grown up pleasures is not bad... it is natural. I find that we all just want love even if it is for just a weekend. I see my partners as often as needed and we are both fulfilled.

Right on Brother!!!!

I have been widowed exactly four months ago. Have two children aged 16 and 14. They will certainly need me to be around but at 52.

I feel sexually deprived (India is where I live and it is a culturally different world if you look at the conservative side of even urban India). I find it revolting to think of sex so early after my wife departed but we both had a sexually fulfilling life till she fell ill in Jan 2011.

Does it make sense to think of marrying again, not just to take care of my sexual needs but in turn do a good turn to someone who will also fulfill her desires ?

I'm a widower at the age of 29. My wife and i were only married for 3 years but we were together for almost 7, we knew each other for almost 16 years and I've loved her for almost 16 years. We both had insationable (can't recall how to spell that, been doing that a lot lately) appetites for sex. We liked to explore new ideas and fantasies. I've found that since i lost her so suddenly I've never wanted sex more in my life. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, but now I see I'm far from alone in these feelings, thank all for that.

I'm also a widow at 40 yrs old. My husband passed from cancer three months ago. I've learned to deal with a lot of the loss, but the sexual desire that follows this loss is almost unbearable. Maybe it's a natural thing that occurs to draw us to someone else. This is the first I've heard anyone else talk about it. I have the same experience. It is a strong desire.

My husband was the only one I was ever with and I was very proud of that and the fact that I never looked at other men while he was alive. But a week after his death, I was seeing how attractive some men my age are. I'm glad for the posts. I thought I was the only one dealing with this. It isn't a joke and it causes some deep feeling of guilt. I choose to not go sleep around but I would not be opposed to meeting someone. Shame, only 3 months out.

As for the medicine, I didn't take antidepressants after my husbands death or while he was sick. I was able to deal with it without meds and I prefer natural ways of dealing. I've wondered if there is a pill and I will look into the natural one. But after reading these posts I realize it wouldn't be to stop my sexual desire as much as it would be to appease what is considered moral. I'm very Christian and spiritual. God made me this way.

Of course that came from the archives and was written in 2001. What a silly message - I am amazed that you allowed it.

No I do not agree. Sex desire is just like other needs of human being and no law is bigger than natural law. Everyone has right to fulfill his/her desire gracefully by consent and remain happy. No moral preaching can change the law of nature.

You need not worry at all. This life is very precious and we must not allow it to be a hell. You may find nice guy on this earth who may take u to greater heights enjoyment and may be in need of you. That way you will do good to him and to yourself. Just get up and start looking for one.

How do you think somebody can help a widow during this time. It involves the risk of getting scolded also.

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