Major Changes as Spouses Age

Posted by joyces @joyces, Apr 14, 2020

My second husband and I met while both of us worked in the sport fishing industry, he in a tackle shop only a couple years into the industry, and me working for a publisher of sport fishing magazines and books, a decade into the industry. Our first "date" was fishing together and watching steelhead attempt to leap over a waterfall. He became the second editor of the fly fishing magazine the publisher and I had started five years earlier. Although my job managing the publication of two magazines, a quarterly, an annual, and six books/year was demanding and meant working an average of 70 hours/week, I was paid well and loved it. Because he was a male, the publisher expected him to be off fishing at least a couple of days every week. We were able to fish at many luxury lodges because we made a great writing/photography team. I'm five years older, so expected that we would be able to age–and fish–together. After a few years, the publisher's children were old enough to be a big part of the business, so we started our own design and marketing business to serve the sport fishing industry. We shared an 18' driftboat we'd helped design…and market, of course! Lots of work, but lots of wonderful times spent together.

Eleven years ago, he ruptured a disc in his lower back, had surgery by a really bad fellow who sought out people with underlying health conditions so that he could claim repeated surgery (at his day surgery center, of course) was necessary. Three back surgeries in one year, the final one a fusion. He had persistent pain, was a brittle diabetic with less than 30% kidney function, but he worked full time for our boat mfg. client while I did all the nuts and bolts of design and marketing for all our clients. We still fished every few days, except in the worst of winter weather. He trailered stacks of boats to nine trade shows every winter, each show being a five-day event generally several hours distant. Eight years ago, he had to go on dialysis, so he couldn't travel to trade shows but continued to sell boats from the factory. Even though he was working full time and going to dialysis three nights a week, we still fished most weekends. I continued to do fish surveys in a wild little stream, a project we had started together in 1993, even though following back surgery he wasn't able to hike long distances over difficult terrain. The project is closing in on 30 years, and I'm still volunteering in the same wild watershed.

When he got the kidney transplant, I visualized great days ahead. At the same time, he had planned to retire, i.e., do absolutely nothing, not even the few chores he had been doing around the house, because he felt he had earned retirement. Hmmm…what about those years where I worked long hours while, because he was male, he was allowed to "work" onstream???? His recovery was ultra-smooth, perfect labs, virtually no fine-tuning necessary for the various meds. When he came home from the hospital, he began his retirement routine: he reclines in his recliner and expects me to fetch whatever he needs. He eats all his meals there, watches TV, reads…except for frequent breaks to lie on the couch. We moved to this acreage on the coast, which I had initially purchased when I was 19, and, as a retired person, he expected me to do the packing, haul everything out to the trailer and van, drive it here, and pack much of it upstairs to our new loft. After six months, he had lost most most of his muscle tone, and he had far worse pain. Since then, I've tried to get him to go to PT many times. He did go to a local person, who gave him a pass from doing anything even slightly difficult; that was relatively worthless and only lasted a few weeks. Later, I insisted that he return to the pain mgmt. clinic to which he'd been referred by the transplant team. They sent him to a PT who expected him to work, but she gave up on his lack of progress after 10 months. Since then, he rarely leaves the house other than for doc appts. I nagged him into joining the local fly fishing club, and he did agree to go on a very easy outing, the first time he'd fished at all in years. However, after 15 minutes of me rowing him around a lake, he announced he needed to lie down. I left him at the car and rowed around the lake for 45 minutes or so, got a great photo of a heron and test casted a new fly rod. it's too difficult for him to sit upright more than a short time, so lots of activities are not open to us. If I suggest dinner out, he insists on ordering takeout, which isn't the same at all. I never expected that marrying someone five years younger would work out this badly! Once a week, I escape by making the 110-mile drive to the Portland area to load 400-600 loaves of bread donated to our local Backpack program. That's an entire day away from watching him steadily lose balance function and strength. If he gets much worse, I'll need to use all the money we've saved to pay for care at the only decent facility in this small town. Meanwhile, I work every day to conquer my problems with lack of balance and hearing due to the reappearance almost a year ago of the Meniere's monster. I'm working hard to get a remission in order to lock him in the closet and nail it shut! No matter how bad I feel, I am not retired but must keep the household running, care for the pets, do all the yardwork that acreage requires. Bah, humbug!

I know I'm not the only woman in this situation. The founder of our local Backpack program has the same problem with her husband, only in his case it's following successful foot surgery, even though he refuses to do PT to regain his ability to walk. They also live on acreage, and we often laugh about our similar situations.

@gingerw…. Ginger, I do appreciate your input. This has been our scenario of late. Hope I am not too graphic. After Jeopardy is over, we go to bed, and he finds a comedy on his ipad. He holds the ipad and I snuggle up next to him, just gently hugging him, touching his face and upper chest, and kissing his shoulder. After two programs, he falls asleep. He never touches me, but enjoys me touching him. I think if he would want to caress me, even in a non-sexual way, I would be content. When I tell him just what I am telling you, he reluctantly says okay. Then I don't want him to with an attitude like this. If we try to discuss it, he keeps telling me he is sick (yes, he is sick) and just doesn't feel like this. I am not gross or overweight and also very clean.

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@maryflorida

@gingerw…. Ginger, I do appreciate your input. This has been our scenario of late. Hope I am not too graphic. After Jeopardy is over, we go to bed, and he finds a comedy on his ipad. He holds the ipad and I snuggle up next to him, just gently hugging him, touching his face and upper chest, and kissing his shoulder. After two programs, he falls asleep. He never touches me, but enjoys me touching him. I think if he would want to caress me, even in a non-sexual way, I would be content. When I tell him just what I am telling you, he reluctantly says okay. Then I don't want him to with an attitude like this. If we try to discuss it, he keeps telling me he is sick (yes, he is sick) and just doesn't feel like this. I am not gross or overweight and also very clean.

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@maryflorida Have you had an opportunity to speak with your husband's doctor or transplant team? There may be depression intruding into the marital relationship, perhaps caused by medication side effects, or other life issues. Also, having a thorough physical examination for health in general, may be beneficial. Lovingly explaining to him that you miss the physical intimacy of your marriage, that there may be alternative activities the two of you can enjoy and participate in, may be of help. Would you consider looking into these ideas?
Ginger

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FWIW, I found my husband's transplant team useless for depression. They asked him if he was depressed, and he, of course, said "No." End of discussion. I've tried everything I can think of, but he just continues to steadily get worse, be able to move far less.

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@joyces Have you considered his medication maybe causing the problems ?Contact your PCP if this started before seeing his heart Dr if not contact his heart Dr again about meds a lot of meds have interactions as well as side effects Hope this helps

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@criss, Thanks for reading my post. I've yet to check out the book on Bones you suggested but today is my appt. with the p.a. for my Reclast infusion. I'll be asking her about the atorvastatin I take. However, she and my pcp disagree on the amount of Vit. D3 to take so no idea how she'll respond…she recommends 10,000; pcp rec's 5,000…so every other day I take one; next day the other….one way to keep diplomacy alive, right??? sigh.

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@joyces

FWIW, I found my husband's transplant team useless for depression. They asked him if he was depressed, and he, of course, said "No." End of discussion. I've tried everything I can think of, but he just continues to steadily get worse, be able to move far less.

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@joyces
It has been many years ago.. I was going to a local pain clinic with my back. Injections did not work and the doctor prescribed Neurontin (also known as Gabapentin). I just thought I didn't feel well and the medication was not helping the pain. My husband spoke up at my appointment and told the doctor that the medication was making me depressed. I could not see that the medication was making me depressed until after I stopped taking the medication. Sometimes we need someone to advocate for us.. others (especially if they are close to us and know us well) can see depression when we cannot even tell what we are feeling. Many think depression is just sadness. It can be much more. It can be confusion, sleepiness, sleeplessness, under active, overactive, I don't care, care too much.. and so much more. A mixture of emotions and no emotions.

If you believe your husband is depressed please speak up for your husband and get the doctors to listen. Of course your husband may get upset with you.. so be prepared for that. I have been marred 51 years and have gone through those upset moments many times. It passes.. cause he knows I love him and only want the best for him as he does for me.

Another time.. also many years ago I went to my family doctor for my annual checkup. I told him I did not feel well, but could not put anything particular to a cause. It had a bit of a rough year.. death of an aunt that I was very close to, breast biopsy for me, my father in law (who was like a second dad to me) had a heart bypass, I had a hysterectomy, my father in law was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had surgery as treatment and it all overwhelmed me. My doctor had me fill out a questionnaire. Diagnosis was depression. I took an antidepressant for about a year and then could cope with life again without the medication. I think I would have done better if I had seen a counselor too.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.. and is very treatable whether it is because of medications or being overwhelmed or something else.

ZeeGee

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@fourof5zs, ZeeGee, thank you for sharing this supportive, informative post. So many thoughtful, helpful members gather here and we all benefit.

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@joyces

Maryflorida, you're ahead of me! My husband, now 73 (I'm 78) has been insulin-dependent for 40 years or so. He's had problems with "the general saluting" for decades. For a while, we got by with a pump. At the time, his kidney function was low, but not even close to dialysis/transplant. When he was 62, he had three failed back surgeries, done by a doc who turned out to be a real quack, was later sued by 38 patients. (He actually targeted people with underlying health problems so that he have an excuse for doing repeated surgeries on them.) For four years, he had back pain, failed to do the assigned PT (with two different providers), but worked full time in a fairly active job selling and demonstrating boats, plus was on dialysis the last two years–and we boated and fished most weekends. When he got the transplant, I hoped it would help his general well-being, but, instead, it was the end of everything. He announced he was "retired," which he believes means he does absolutely nothing. After four months of no exercise, he was having severe pain. I dragged him to the pain clinic, where they said he'd need to do intense PT in order to gain some muscle tone before they could even decently evaluate him. He refused. He sat all day every day, alternating that with lying on the couch…no walking, no movement, zip. After five years of increasing pain, I dragged him back to the pain clinic, and he started biweekly PT–but failed to follow through at home without horrible fights. After 10 months, the PT woman gave up, and I certainly don't blame her. It's been two years since, and he's far worse. With the excuse of Covid, he's only left the house for me to drive him to the nearby hospital for labs every three months, and he's gotten far, far worse. We were evacuated three weeks ago due to forest fires, and the 5.5 hours sitting in the car (much of it only a half mile from home) was far too much for him, so it was another big downturn.
I've had some difficult times myself, due to Meniere's going bilateral. For a few months, I had ever-increasing bouts of V&V (vertigo and vomiting) until they were a daily event of several hours lying without moving. Finally found a local doc willing to prescribe hormones, regained the hearing I'd lost and got more stable. Increased the stability by going to a vestibular rehab specialist and have done the exercises ever since, with great good effect. I still hike miles in a wild little river a two-hour drive from home…entirely by myself, no cell reception whatsoever, just me and my dog. Due to volunteering for Backpack for Kids, I drive two hours each way every Wed. to load, give or take, 500 loaves of bread…then unload and pack it into freezers the next morning, followed by pulling bread frozen the previous week to distribute to various charities around town. Since the fire (which took 245 houses just outside our town), I've been volunteering every day to distribute and store food, esp. perishables. I'm exhausted, mostly because of the evacuees showing me photo after photo of what used to be their homes. We're all masked, so sometimes the only thing to do is give someone a big hug (Covid be damned). As I'm sure you've realized, we're stuck in an unfortunate situation where the last years of our lives are not what we had hoped at all. Still, seeing all those photos of burnt homes makes me extremely grateful that this place is still standing. It looks awfully good right now!

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@joyces What hormones? Your sharing does help! I feel like sometimes I live only with a brother not a husband. They only contact we have is lying in bed many evenings watching a TV program on his ipad together. I usually gently touch his face and chest, kiss his shoulder and that is enjoyable. He does not reciprocate at all. I know my body at 79 is a little flabbier than when I was young, but I am not more than 8 lb. overweight and keep myself as attractive as I can. But I have had 11 babies (grown of course) so can't expect a youthful body. I have authored an accredited foreign language course so am busy with that little business too. Caregiving has been lots of work, not too bad, except that the last few weeks I have been in great pain (surgery, infection, then a fall when I forgot what condition I'm in when I decided to jog a little). He still doesn't know how to make a woman feel loved. I am sometimes irritable when I hurt a lot and he just closes a door and "hides" or watches television a lot. .Our children live all over the country and with the pandemic, we don't see them now. Sorry to complain, only I feel that you all know what it is like. Do any of you have physical desires met? Is it just "over" at some time?

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Although the HRT keeps the Meniere's monster locked firmly in the closet (which I hope I've nailed shut this time), it does make me miss having a loving relationship even more. I married a younger man in the hope that he wouldn't "wear out" too soon, but I was wrong. My husband had three failed back surgeries in 2009. In spite of ongoing pain, he worked full time for one of our clients PLUS going to dialysis three evenings every week until his kidney transplant in 2013, exactly seven years ago yesterday! At that point, he announced that he had "worked hard" so was retired. His idea of being retired is that he has zero obligations to do anything whatsoever. Shoot, when he empties a milk jug, he simply leaves it on the counter as it's not his responsibility to even rinse it and toss it into the recycling bin right behind where he's standing. Because he started doing nothing but sitting in his recliner all day when he got home following the transplant, his pain has steadily increased. Six months following the transplant, I dragged him to the Pain Mgmt. Center, where they told him he had lost so much muscle tone that the first thing he needed to do was exercise. He flat refused, got continually worse. I dragged him to the PT recommended by the Pain Center, driving him there biweekly for almost a year…until the PT simply gave up because he failed to do any of the things that she had patiently shown him would, over time, reduce his pain to a manageable level. During the ensuing two years, he's gotten to the point where he spends about half of every day lying on the couch, the rest in his recliner. He can't even stand to sit upright at the table for meals. Even before Covid, we can't invite people here because he ruins the meal by leaving the table halfway through, not can we go anywhere that requires moving about. Our relationship is strictly as me being his caregiver. I tried taking him out in our boat twice (the last time two years ago), but he can only sit up for about 15 minutes before he demands that I row back to the dock so he can lie down in the car. This definitely isn't the way I'd thought we'd spend our semi-retired years! I still have clients, still do graphic work for a few sportfishing companies. I volunteer for Backpacks for Kids by driving two hours each way to load 500 loaves of bread donated by Dave's once a week…and then distribute the bread wherever it's needed. With the fire we had north of our town (293 homes burned) in early September, my volunteering has ramped up to a five-days a week deal. Having one person after another show you photos on their phones of the pile of rubble that used to be their home makes all of us very grateful for what we do have.
HRT was 2 mg generic estrogen plus 5 mg generic progesterone, twice daily when I started it in early May. Currently, I reduce the dose to one each per day every other day. I'll soon try just one pill each per day…as long as neither hearing nor balance suffer. Over time, I hope to cut back to a half dose every day, but that will take time, to avoid losing what I've gained.

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@maryflorida

@joyces What hormones? Your sharing does help! I feel like sometimes I live only with a brother not a husband. They only contact we have is lying in bed many evenings watching a TV program on his ipad together. I usually gently touch his face and chest, kiss his shoulder and that is enjoyable. He does not reciprocate at all. I know my body at 79 is a little flabbier than when I was young, but I am not more than 8 lb. overweight and keep myself as attractive as I can. But I have had 11 babies (grown of course) so can't expect a youthful body. I have authored an accredited foreign language course so am busy with that little business too. Caregiving has been lots of work, not too bad, except that the last few weeks I have been in great pain (surgery, infection, then a fall when I forgot what condition I'm in when I decided to jog a little). He still doesn't know how to make a woman feel loved. I am sometimes irritable when I hurt a lot and he just closes a door and "hides" or watches television a lot. .Our children live all over the country and with the pandemic, we don't see them now. Sorry to complain, only I feel that you all know what it is like. Do any of you have physical desires met? Is it just "over" at some time?

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It wasn't over for me at 81, but I'm 86 now and it's over. My husband tried a few things to bring his libido back, but didn't want to spend a lot of $$ (of which we don't have that many). I tried a device for me, but as far as I'm concerned, it takes two. So, we're both happily married and touch and kiss and are grateful for all the years we have had together. We knew it would come to a halt sometime, but it did seem a bit abrupt. He still complements me on my looks and I do him. He has taken this as a failure on his part, but when I told him I was interested any more, that seemed to lift that load for him. Remember the couple in "Up?" That's us.

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@maryflorida

@joyces, @gingerw, @indiana Scott Not sure where to post this, but… My 75 year old husband has had diabetes for 30 years, and kidney transplant in 2018. He has no interest in sex; he will say he does but that he is impotent. He cannot take testosterone the doctor said. I am 79, not overweight, healthy, fairly attractive, and feel sad that he spends so much time in his office watching youtube videos. Or is it just normal for older couples to stop making love? Can a man ever regain a little of his sexuality with these handicaps? Or not. We have sort of made love 3 times only in the last 10 months. Is there hope?

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@maryflorida It's very possible that the medications he takes have caused a loss of libido. If he's not interested in sex, would he at least be interested in snuggling, that type of intimacy? If he can't actually perform then of course he would lose interest.

As you said, he does love you in his own way. You may need to be satisfied with that. I know that's not the answer you want to hear but it may be the truth.
JK

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Yes, I do need to be satisfied with this. Just difficult and I find i am irritable when there is no reason for it. I try all the time to just be happy, but I miss romance.

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