Good Sex After 15 Years Together?


I just read an interview of Ashley Madison’s founder. It’s a website for those who decide to cheat on their spouses but can’t find a partner on their own. I had long wondered about the brand name, which seems aimed at women, not men.
Indeed, it is. The UK version of the site has more than 825,000 members, mainly married women aged between 38 and 42.

“Our brand really resonates well with a married woman, 15 plus years into her marriage who doesn’t feel that celibacy should slip into the marriage at this time.”
– Noel Biderman, quoted by Danielle Demetriou in The Daily Telegraph

Celibacy is no fun, but arranged infidelity requires deceit, lying, breaking a vow, a health risk, a personal safety risk, a pregnancy risk, and the possibility of making one’s spouse and children truly miserable and self-doubting.
Surely there are simpler, less soul-crushing ways to avoid a sexless marriage after the 15th anniversary.
I thought I would ask all of you who read this blog to suggest a few in the comments here. Put a dent in Ashley Madison’s and divorce lawyers’ profits by sharing your experiences or creative ideas. This blog gets a lot of search engine traffic, so whatever you can offer will be read by thousands of hurting people just when they need it most.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Carmen Williams emailed me this recommendation:
    It’s a blog written by a couple in their 17th year of marriage who share how to “get more passion, romance, and sex.” They also offer podcasts and coaching.

  • I also received a couple of emails from Susan. Here’s what she had to offer:
    Why do people expect their sex life to just take care of itself without the time and effort they put into other aspects of life?
    My husband and I have spent time and energy learning more about sex right from the start, with hiatuses when caring for a newborn infant or ill parent. This has included learning general massage, genital massage, prostate and anal massage, belly dance classes, pole dancing classes, classes on strip tease. We have had fun in sex toy shops, lingerie shops and have gone away for private weekends, just the two of us.
    We have a massage table we put to good use. I have been married 16 years and we keep learning new things about ourselves and what feels good. A stranger could never do as good a job as our spouse, who has spent so much time learning what pleases each other.
    Women rarely take the time to explore their own bodies. The hottest thing a woman could do, rather than get a new sex partner, is to invest in learning what really feels good, what gives her the best and longest orgasms and then show her husband.
    When they do, they have a lot of information to give their husbands. I grew up in a repressive immigrant environment with no privacy or chance to explore what feels good. I came to men expecting them to give me an orgasm when I did not know how to give one to myself. Once I learned what pleased me, I was able to have a much, much better sex life with my husband. There are many books and videos one can view on this topic, including many by Betty Dodson.
    Recently we were outside, both of us needing to lose 50 pounds, in our dirty yard work clothing, and as people jogged by my husband said to me with a twinkle in his eye: ” No one would ever guess what a hot couple we are!”
    As a physician for thirty years I have gotten to hear many married people discuss their sex lives. Sometimes, a husband has complained to me that his wife has lost all interest in sex but in reality, as he describes their life (wife is in a killer job because of their expensive lifestyle husband insists upon, she also does all the housework and childcare), I can tell the wife’s issue is exhaustion and anger.
    I always ask the man to consider how he would feel in her shoes and to spend the money he is considering spending on happy ending massages and expensive online dating/cheating websites on a housekeeper, babysitter, and take out meals, and to start to express gratitude to his wife on a daily basis.
    On the other hand, many of my patients suffer from severe disabilities that have put their long suffering spouse in the role of caregiver and sole provider of everything to their kids. Often the disabled spouse is unable to participate much or at all in sexual activity. In this situation an honest discussion, allowing the caregiver spouse to get his or her sexual needs met discreetly and safely outside the home, enables the otherwise good marriage to remain intact and children not to suffer through the trauma of divorce. Even when no kids are involved, often the caregiver spouse does not want a divorce, but just needs some real sex to keep from getting resentful. In this scenario honestly allowing an external relationship helps the caregiver spouse remain more happily in the marriage. I have had patients who had such parallel relationships for decades.
    From Patty: I love that this blog has such wise and sharing readers. Thanks, Susan.

  • My husband was very inhibited when it came to talking about sex. (I was shy , too, but not as much as he was.) So I made up short questionnaires for him, so he could respond in writing instead of out loud. For example, which of these five possible activities would interest you? Check yes, no, or maybe. Or, here is a list of four things that we did in the past couple of weeks. Rate your enjoyment level on a scale from one to five. He found the questionnaires quite amusing, and once he had responded it was easier to talk about sex with each other. Laughter leads to relaxation and makes it easier to talk. That led to our being able to ask questions and express preferences and desires more openly. Talking about it has definitely helped us improve our sex life and have more fun together.

  • I would think the first step would be to try open communication. If one spouse is unhappy with the lack of sex, it’s quite possible that the other one is, too. Sex is such a sensitive issue that often, even people who have been married to each other for a long time are inhibited about having a frank discussion with each other. It’s important to be gentle and not blame the other person. You’re in this together. It may be that both people feel the same way and both have been afraid to start the discussion. Summon up your courage and take the first step. What a great relief it would be to get it out into the open, especially if you find that you and your partner are on the same page after all.

  • If you think a stranger can please you more then your spouse can. Then you probably are not communicating your needs/ desires effectively. Sex is much more than mutual intercourse, and most caring people can find an expressive, creative way around physical barriers. It just requires trust, talk and time.

  • Amanda, thank you for sharing this. I am sorry that it slipped my attention when you first wrote it. I was in the middle of moving at the time. It’s six weeks later, and I am finally getting some time to catch up with this blog.

  • I just posted a little while ago, so I hope its okay that I post again. I mentioned in my last post that I just came across this blog and that I believe it was a godsend. It’s funny that I actually used the word “god” send because I just received a phone call from one of my sisters telling me that another sister has cancer. My sister “Toni” and I have been estranged for the past year. We haven’t talked primarily because of our religious differences – she is a Christian conservative and I – well, religion is not for me. So now am I not only working on assuming love with my husband I will be working on the same with my sister. Yes, this site was a godsend.

  • I am tickled that you will get double-duty from my writing, Joanne, but really sorry to hear about your sister’s illness. The others who comment here are Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Baha’i’s, atheists, agnostics, gay, straight, bi, male, female, transgender, active in their religion or not, many different nationalities, and probably a bunch of other things, so pull up a stool and make yourself comfortable. Feel free to ask for help; there may be other readers who know exactly what to say to your sister to keep the love strong between you when her certainty conflicts with your skepticism.

  • I have been collecting data for an article on couples who have erotically hot relationships. Interestingly enough, particularly in the long term relationships, most of these “hot” couples are considerably overweight. All of these couples had excellent senses of humor too and joked around a lot. Perhaps a sensual nature enjoys all senses – sex, food, smell, music, humor, etc?
    Given there is so much media pressure telling us only thin people are sexy… I’d like to offer this competing view of sensualists as people who enjoy the sensuality of everything-including food. If we really want hot sex we might turn toward those folks who take pleasure in all the senses, which is not the folks who easily live on rabbit food 🙂

  • arranged fidelity is tricky…I did it for 4 months then also through the separation of my husband and I and then finally the divorce. my secret lover and I are still together and still fully enjoying each other. it was easy choice because my husband refused to have sexual relations with me for our entire 10 years of marriage. our honeymoon was hilariously bad. he told me in year 3 that we could start going on dates as soon as the kids were in college bc we would have money..haha, I suggested a walk along the beach for free but nope ….so no connection for me, well maybe once every 5/6 months. I bought new lingerie, hired dancers, tried EVERYTHING. but nothing inspired him. on a blue moon he would half heartedly “do the deed” we did get pregnant twice. so yes, I am divorced with 2 boys and it is sad but much happier than when I was married. I find it much easier now to be a good mom to my boys. I did all the things you could try to do to save the marriage, I fully lived even though he didn’t want to. I was fun and active and put on a happy face “in the midst of him” but he refused to hug me, kiss me, touch me or even sit near me on the couch. I decided I could only take so much. now that I am divorced and with someone else, he suddenly wants to go to counseling. ridiculous. I am going to have fun first then will see if he is still interested in a couple of years. I find it unfair for the author of this blog to talk about going back to unhappy marriage when she got to be married again.

  • Sara, I never ever suggest anyone go back to an unhappy marriage. I always suggest things that those stuck in a problem may not have thought of for turning their marriage back into a happy marriage. I also like to warn people about choices that paint themselves into a corner, like having an affair to save a marriage, because the road back from infidelity is almost always a longer, rockier one than the road back from really unhappy.
    I do it because I could not figure out what went wrong or how to fix it in my own marriage and right at its worst my husband dropped dead. His death exposed the flaws in my thinking. I met my second husband 11 years later, when our son was 20.
    As for the point of this blog post, your arranged infidelity, however tricky or enjoyable, did not preserve your marriage while meeting your sexual needs, which is what the folks at Ashley Madison would like us to believe it will.
    You and your ex-husband sound like a particularly bad match on an aspect of marriage that’s very important to you and apparently unpleasant for him. The usual marriage counseling seems unlikely to be able to help you come up with an acceptable Third Alternative that meets both your needs. A sex therapist might, but you’re getting those needs met, and apparently not much missing whatever else your husband added to your life, so you have little incentive to seek one out. If you have some interest in going back, I would say, rather insistantly, “Don’t go back to an unhappy marriage until you find a way to make it a happy one.”

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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