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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  1. Emma

    My husband passed away suddenly 9 months ago. We were not sexually active in recent years due to his various disabilities though I wished we could have been physically closer than we were. I was completely numb for a good 5 months, then got busy taking care of things. Now I notice in the last month or so, that I am craving sex in ways I haven’t since I was much younger. I just started playing music which we listened to during our courtship almost 40 years ago. It makes me happy to hear these songs again but it is bittersweet. I have tears in my eyes but it has awakened feelings in me that maybe someday I will have a close physical relationship again. I feel a little concerned that I might just make advances to a single acquaintance of his who has been helping me with some material things. I feel out of respect to my husband I should wait until at least a year has passed. I have not taken off my wedding band at all though I am considering that perhaps with the coming of the 2017 new year, I might. I will not take it off until I am open to starting a physical relationship, but I seriously do think it is possible as I miss this closeness more than I expected. Thank you for giving me the chance to write this down as I have not told anyone.

  2. Michael

    Very interesting letters.
    When I was 20 years old I had the greatest urge to get married and have sex.
    As my father had just passed away when I had found a life’s partner, my mother very tearfully asked me to help her support out family.
    There was an older brother who was not able to take care of himself and also two younger brothers, than I.
    I also had a young lady who was willing to marry me, but I had asked her to await a short time until our family situation was settled to then I would be very willing to be married.
    She was not willing to wait very long until I felt that I could take on the responsibility of marriage, before our mother’s problems could be taken care of, so we parted, and we have had no contact with each other since.

    Shortly after our parting, our area went through its first Oil Field expansion with the result that every lady from the age of 16 to 60 years was married to them many single women of the area.
    This happened twice over the next twenty years, but happily I found an add in a newspaper where a young lady who was my superior was looking at marriage. In a short time we met and also were happily married for 48 years and although we only had one son who is the love of my life, he is also helping me cope with our loss.
    The support of our son has eased the pain of our loss, and me to continue on as long as out Lord gives me life to carry on in our community and help the Lord carry on with his work.

  3. Michael
    Oxbow, Sask.

    Thank you for the wonderful comments. I also lost my wife nine months ago.
    I am in a very different position as about 19 years ago my wife, asked that we no longer have sex, to which I agreed.
    But since she passed away, especially lately the desire for sex had returned, even though I will be 88 on my next birthday on the 29th of October.
    I am at a complete loss without her and my sexual desires seem to be increasing daily.
    I am at a loss that as long as she was alive my sexual desires were very low, but lately as the years have gone by that my sexual desires have been increasing almost daily.
    Michael 28 June 2016.

  4. SarahJ

    I’m so glad I found this discussion … I was widowed 6 months ago after caretaking my husband for 18 years (he had Parkinson’s). My libido took off about a month before he passed, and I felt very uncomfortable about it. I never pictured myself as the Happy Widow … but that must have been what people saw. My libido has continued to engage me at least 3 times a day ever since, which just makes me more conscious of how much I miss my best friend of 37 years, and distress at missing out on so many years of intimacy because of his illness. Finding a “replacement” partner is a challenge … dating a stranger isn’t something I am comfortable with yet; and I don’t know any widowers or bachelors. Knowing I’m not alone is a comfort. And, no, I have not found a solution. I wish someone would study widowhood so we could compare notes on coping mechanisms in many areas.

  5. Glowworm
    North Carolina

    I am an 89 year old recently widowed woman. I am in excellent physical health. I have been experiencing increased sexual feelings since the death of my husband about two years ago. I feel as if this is not normal for a woman of my age. Has anyone else had these feelings? Can it be more psychological than physical?? Please help me feel better about my need for sex at my age.

  6. Neil P.

    I’m a 72 year old widower. I lost my beautiful wife of 50 years almost 5 years ago after a 7 year battle to cancer. Needless to say there was not much sexual activity going on during that time. I have a heavy desire for sex, but during this time, I’ve had such a change in my manhood, that I’m embarrassed to undress or attempt sex with a new female, and don’t really want to remarry. I’m living with a very nice lady now almost a year and we have never had sex, which she says no until we marry. Kinda in a fix.

  7. stillawoman

    I’m over 60 and look like I’m about 10 years younger. I have a high libido, always have, unfortunately, no partner. I’ve tried dating sites for years. I had a short lived sexual encounter with a young man under 30. The word great was underestimating how I felt. But I started looking for a relationship, someone to share with. Big mistake! I invested 1 year with a man, 4 months with another, and various others at least a month before we were intimate. They were basically all the same, inadequate. Now I’m at the point where the meer mention of sex is painful. I wish I could stop thinking of the pleasure derived, it’s making me crazy. Sex is my every thought, my every touch, I cannot get it out of my head. Masturbation , forget it! This is only a more painful reminder of being alone, and the probability of dying like this. What is a girl to do?

    • clubman772

      It is natural and normal for a healthy person to high level of libido. Me at 72, still am sexually active. I believe being active enhances our body functions and gives one younger looks ( like you ).
      I am very surprised to say that you have found your male friends to be inadequate. Considering your age and also that of your male friends, you have to higher degree of patience and understanding as for as the performance of your male friends. How well they ‘ do it’ also depends on you too. Maybe you have too high expectation from your partners. Sex is give and take, giving and sharing and understanding your partners needs and ability.

  8. Fletch P.

    This was a big help to me. I lost my darling wife of over 62 years only 3 months ago. During those 62 years never once did I ever have any desire to have sex with any other woman, and never paid much attention to other pretty women for she satisfied my sexual desires completely up until her Alzheimer’s set her back to being a small girl again at the very last. Right after her death I started noticing and admiring all the women I saw in a sexual manner and I started feeling a terrible guilt about it, as though I was deserting her after such a long wonderful marriage. I had no idea what had come over me.

    All of a sudden there were sexually attractive women all around I had not ever noticed before. I didn’t realize what was happening to me. I thought that there was something that had really gone bad wrong with me. Now I find that I am not alone in my experiences. What a blessed relief! For all of you that have input your most private feelings, I thank you from the depths of my broken heart.

  9. karen

    I am disturbed at the criticism I see here. Sex is a basic instinct that is God given and society driven. I have always had a strong sex drive but my husband didn’t due to chronic heart issues. we were married for 40 years and faithful to each other. He is gone now and I miss him dearly. But I still have a very strong desire for sex. I hope to find someone with a strong faith, strong personality and strong sex drive who will love me,my children and I can share the rest of my life with. And I hope to find him soon. I have had only one partner my entire life. just because I want to date again and find another partner does not mean I loved him less or am sex crazed. It just means I am addressed my whole person the way my God intended.

  10. Struggling

    I really appreciate what Survivor wrote about harnessing one’s libido to provide energy for other endeavors in life. I am trying to learn to do so. Can you give me any advice, guidance, or method?
    Thanks! :-)

    • going to goa blog
      the planet

      You can harness your kundalini (creative/sexual) energy via yoga and yogic breathing techniques. Find a good yoga studio nearby and begin gently. Or do vigorous workouts at a gym, running, walking…use up the energy physically and you’ll be set for the day. You might also take up painting and see what comes out on the canvas.

      It feels like people are projecting their own issues onto this post. IE the querant specifically wanted information on what and how to REMOVE her libido. She didn’t ask “How can I find a new lover?”. The answer was thoughtful and gave her alternatives to continuing to explore her sexuality.

      Everyone deals with grief in their own way.

      • stillawoman

        Harnessing sexual energy is a temporary solution to a long term problem. If you have a high libido , practicing yoga is a good fix to curb those feelings for a few hours. However, when the sexual energy is a constant, yoga would be ineffective.

  11. Survivor

    As a 59 year old woman whose libido has not waned since early teens, I can vouch for the other widows who post here.
    Through a marriage and children even exhaustion did not have a dampening g effect on my libido.
    I have had difficulty finding a partner now. Of course there are a lot of divorced and widowed men looking for a quick hookup but none seem as or willing to consider their partners. It is not worth the frustration.
    Besides the quality of sex I have found to be disturbing. I had a lover and best friend for 14 years and our sex life was so phenomenal he wanted us to go on international teaching tours. Because many miles now separate us we must settle for imaginative reruns and lengthy phone conversations.
    I am coming to understand that my libido will never wane, and that is good. It is a vital creative energy that. We can learn to harness, distribute throughout our bodies (instead of dissipating it or leaving it bottles up). It is that energy that gives us an edge, charisma, and drive to keep living. Whether or not I have sexual fulfillment I will never let that energy to to waste.
    Do not stifle it. Do not ignore it and hope it will go away. Use that creative force for your own good and the good of others. Sure, I could take care of dissipating (& wasting) that energy several times a day but that would leave me addicted to the dopamine rush–like a crackhead. I accept who I am and choose to live. Should the opportunity return to be with a like minded partner I would of course consider it. Until then I am seizing each day and giving thanks for the wellsprings within.

    • wALT
      East Long Beach

      Wife and I are sixty eight. She is absolutely not interested in sex any longer. Been married fifty years. I still strongly desire sex.

  12. una

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

  13. NINA

    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.

  14. BJ

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

  15. Ms

    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.

  16. John

    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.

  17. Dee P.

    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 ?

  18. Big D

    Right on Brother!!!!

  19. vn

    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.

    • Jack

      Wonderful!! There is no shortage of partners out there, communication is the key.

  20. RES

    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.

  21. ebm

    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????

  22. Darla M.

    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!

  23. RMD

    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.

  24. Jesse

    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.

  25. F.M.

    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.

  26. William H.

    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

  27. Corky47

    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.

  28. jay

    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.

  29. Kathy S.

    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!

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