Q: My husband and I - both in our early 70s - have raised our two children and had a terrific marriage until lately, which is the cause of my concern. Even though my husband is not impotent, his brother, a physician, has been prescribing for him an anti-impotence pill that is about to make me leave home. My husband has now become obsessed with having sex, sometimes three and four times a day, which is totally out of character for him.
At first I tried to keep up with him, thinking that all of this would blow over, but during more than a month of marathons, I have been to my doctor several times. My doctor tells me that I am being physically abused, and I am beginning to agree.
I have tried to talk to my brother-in-law, the doctor, but he laughs it off with "boys will be boys" and "let him enjoy his last years" comments.
To make matters worse, my husband now brags to our friends about his sexual prowess. I get calls from the wives of our friends who want to know all of the details of our "revived" sex life. Even our children are appalled at his behavior.
While my husband is having a great time, I am being abused emotionally and physically, and don't know what to do. My husband is a different man, and I can't reason with him at all. I hate to think about separation after more than 40 years of marriage, but I don't know how much longer I can hang on. When I approached my husband about my concerns, he told me that if I want to leave, that's my decision, as he now knows he can find any number of women who would be willing to move in with him. He also told me that if I wanted to sue him, I should go ahead, because he believed that any male judge would throw me and my case out of court.
A: After receiving a number of questions like yours from our readers, we quizzed some of the leading matrimonial lawyers in the country about possible solutions to this apparently growing problem.
Some lawyers suggest that by prescribing this medication for a person who is not impotent, your brother-in-law has left himself - and possibly the drug manufacturer - open for a lawsuit by you for damages. We believe that this suggestion would take years, and recovery would be quite uncertain. In addition, suing your brother-in-law would not engender good family relations.
Others suggest that before you even think about filing for divorce or separation, you and your husband should attend counseling; however, if he is reliving his teenage years and having that good a time, we think this might be a waste of time.
Even if your husband won't, we believe you should attend counseling with a professional you trust and try to give things a little more time to see if they even out. If they don't, we would suggest that you contact an experienced matrimonial lawyer who can fill you in on whether you have a cause of action and what to expect in your state.
Whether this type of conduct constitutes physical or emotional abuse legally is a big question that must be answered.
There are always risks when it comes to litigation, and so, if you are going to sue, you need to get your ducks in a row. Document everything. Think about writing your brother-in-law about the problem and asking him to help you so at least you have documentation that you made efforts to resolve the situation. Get a clear understanding of the risks, match them against the potential rewards, and then make the best decision for you.
With TV ads on the air from breakfast 'til bedtime suggesting renewed sexual youth for men, we understand your husband's sense of euphoria. It takes two to tango, however, and you, as his dancing partner, should be entitled to sit out a few dances.
Jan Warner is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and has been practicing law for more than 30 years. Jan Collins is editor of the Business and Economic Review published by the University of South Carolina and a special correspondent for The Economist. You can learn more about elder care law and write to the authors on www.nextsteps.net.