Does he still want his ex-wife?

I am a single woman in my mid-50s. I had a brief, miserable marriage in my 30s, no children, and have been happily single ever since. Until a few years ago, when I met my current boyfriend. "Jack" is 60, was married for a long time, and has grown kids. He thought his marriage was happy, but his wife left him unexpectedly. I'd been friends with both of them before she left.

After Jack finalized his divorce, we moved in together. He's very loving and considerate, we have a wonderful life with fulfilling jobs, and a great circle of friends and shared hobbies. His family has welcomed me with open arms. Even the everyday stuff is great. We've purchased a house together. I could not imagine a better relationship.

Still, my self-esteem has taken several hits being in this relationship. First, Jack did not choose to end his marriage; knowing that he would have preferred to be with his ex-wife can be hard on me sometimes, like I'm the consolation prize. Jack has never said anything about it, but it's something I'm aware of just the same. Second, for some reason that he is unwilling to discuss, Jack does not want to be intimate. We had a few encounters early in our dating relationship solely because he wanted to please me, but it's clearly not an activity he wishes to pursue. Whenever I bring up the subject, he just says he's more interested in companionship. Yet he is very much interested in movies or TV shows that show a little skin. I guess I'm looking for some insight. Is a lack of intimacy common in older people relationships? Or is it more likely to do with him still wanting to be with his ex-wife? Should I stop trying to read more into it since everything else seems great? I'm OK with never having sex as long as it's not a sign that there's something bigger missing in our relationship.

– What's missing?


"Should I stop trying to read more into it since everything else seems great?"

Sure. I mean, Jack has told you what’s happening here. He's interested in love and companionship, not sex. For all we know, that's why his ex picked up and left. I can't read his mind (or hers), but when people are forthcoming about their feelings and priorities, I like to believe them.

For instance, I'll believe you when you say you're OK with skipping the sex as long as you have love. I wanted to challenge that at first, but ... you sound confident that you can live without that kind of intimacy. If you're not sure, though, please give yourself the time and space to consider. Also know that his interest in sex scenes does not say anything about you. There is a difference between enjoying a sexy narrative and having actual sex.

Understand that Jack wanted to stay with his wife when she reciprocated – when she was there for him by choice. She's no longer that person, so everything is new. Humans are capable of accepting a loss and then desiring what's good for them. It's very possible that he loved her, but is now in love with you.

The only think that stopped me in your letter was this phrase: "for some reason that he is unwilling to discuss." Big commitments require communication – like, all the time. It might be worth talking to him about how you're affected by what you don't know.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on what's missing?