By Dr. Dorree Lynn for Island Connection
Dear Dr. Dorree,
I’ve been reading your articles for the past few weeks in The Island Connection. I would like to ask you a short question. I hope you will respond.
My husband and I are in our late 60s and retired to a lovely home on Kiawah five years ago. We have two grown children and five grandchildren who live elsewhere. We are comfortable and we were looking forward to our retirement. However, our retirement has not turned out as well as we had hoped. My husband had a bout with prostate cancer, which has impacted our intimacy.
Also, he was a workaholic who has transferred his style to the golf course, days with his buddies and other activities. After a fall and a broken hip, I have less mobility than ever in my life. I was a homemaker and find I am more alone than ever.
Can you help?
Name Withheld Upon Request
I’m sorry your current life has not turned out as you had hoped. I’m glad you reached out. Life’s phases are often unpredictable. Aging and retirement often toss unanticipated curveballs. Regretfully or hopefully, you are not alone. Many others find themselves in similar situations. A safe, planned and ample lifestyle can offer its own issues that impact individuals and couples often turning long-held dreams into reality issues that have always existed or causing new challenging issues that require attention.
In your situation, you seem to have both. The roles you and your husband chose in your marriage and which may have worked well when you were younger and were raising children didn’t appear to give you the closeness you currently desire. He has taken his well-honed work life and transferred his pattern to retirement, substituting other activities that keep him away from home. In addition, illness has impacted each of you individually and as a couple.
Addressing the first issue: I wonder if you have talked with your mate about your own current needs? If you have never had much communication, it’s not too late to start. A few sessions with a good coach or relationship therapist might be well worth it. Secondly, although your mobility may not be what you wish, there are many lonely women in retirement. Try joining a group that interests you or where you have hobbies – or a group that does service for others. Helping others is a great way to become part of a like-minded community, and it might also help you. Some other suggestions might include becoming active in the religious affiliation of your choice, a book club or nature-watching group. As the saying goes, whatever floats your boat. Just do it. All you need is one friend or buddy to attend with you, and you are off to a good start. Loneliness does not bode well for health or longevity.
As to health, which appears to be impacting your intimacy, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t need to. Touching and cuddling are always welcome by the body and heart. You didn’t mention the extent of your husband’s prostate surgery and results. If he is impotent and unable to react to sexual aids or even feels too shy to discuss it, there are solutions. However, here you may have to take the lead. If a local hospital or center hasn’t brought satisfaction, centers outside of the Charleston area may have more expertise than many locally. They simply see more people with similar conditions. The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, for example, has an entire department of experts who see cases where others have not found solutions. They are expert at diagnosis, treatment, even penile implants and other forms of help not as commonly performed at smaller clinics and hospitals. Other major renowned centers have large departments as well. Keep searching until you find help. Best wishes on your journey to a more satisfying life.