I’m In Love With A Starving Artist With Low Libido – What Should I Do?

I’m In Love With A Starving Artist With Low Libido - What Should I Do?

Hello Evan! I am an attractive, fit 49 year old mom of three girls (14, 17, 20). I was married for 19 years, now single for 4 years. For the past three years I have been in a long-term committed relationship with a 54 year old man. He is attractive, intelligent (college degree), funny, fit, has never been married, no kids but numerous very long term relationships. He is a sane, patient, caring person who puts a high priority on trust and honesty. He looks out for my well-being, is romantic with e-cards, sweet emails, etc. He is affectionate, well dressed, and generous with gifts to me and kind deeds. He’s also attentive to my kids & their lives, although by my choice, they have very little interaction. We live about 30 miles away from each other and take turns staying at each other’s homes on my kid-free weeks most nights that I am free.

My areas of concern are:
1) His financial situation: I’m a self-sufficient homeowner who doesn’t need financial support. He quit his career in business about 7 years ago to pursue being a full time artist. In that time he has depleted all of his savings, his 401k, and is maxing out his credit cards. He has hinted about needing to move into a studio apartment at my house. He may end up filing for bankruptcy – but views it as “suffering for his art”. He seems reluctant to take other jobs that take away from his art career… but I am worried we are headed for a crisis. I help him out with marketing, PR, etc. for his art but it’s a tough way to make a living! He still tries to split our entertainment/travel expenses 50/50 and has never asked for money.

Some people recognize that sex is the icing on the cake and not the cake itself, and this allows them to have happy relationships with average sex lives (as opposed to the more common awful relationship with great sex).

2) Decline in passion – not surprisingly with his financial issues looming, I’m sure he is stressed and our sex life has over time dwindled to a quickie here and there, mostly to cater to my higher level of “need”… we are compatible and enjoy each other, but my libido far surpasses his…. can I live with this? It may be situational, but he may just have lower libido than mine. He’s not really a passionate kisser – except during sex – and I miss this!

I broke things off about 18 months ago for the reasons of lack of passion, concerns that he would never want to get married, etc. but after dating others for a bit, decided that he was a much better fit and started dating him again. I’m much more settled as a single mom, don’t want to cohabitate/marry while my kids are still at home, and truly love this man. What should I do?

Julie

Julie,

Thank you for being the latest exhibit in Women Who Answer Their Own Questions While Asking Them.

So let’s get this straight:

You have a 14-year-old daughter.

You write, “I don’t want to cohabitate/marry while my kids are still at home.” Sounds to me like you’re not getting married to anyone, much less your starving artist boyfriend. I may or may not agree with your black and white thinking but it’s not my job to tell you that. You don’t want to get married while the kids are at home? Great. Don’t get married.

Thus, your question isn’t really about marriage. It’s about the fact that you’ve been dating the same man for three years and you’re ambivalent about your commitment to him, given his two main flaws.

But, once again, this isn’t a question that anyone else can answer. All I can do is ask you more questions.

Have you ever talked with your boyfriend about his libido? I mean, you’ve been together for 3 years – has this subject ever been breached before? Were you hot and heavy at the beginning and then things cooled off? Does he admit to being a low-libido guy in general or is this circumstantial? Do you find yourself resenting him? Do you have sex at least once every week/weekend you spend with each other? Finally, is this something that you can live with?

Some people recognize that sex is the icing on the cake and not the cake itself, and this allows them to have happy relationships with average sex lives (as opposed to the more common awful relationship with great sex). But if his libido really gets you down, then it’s on you to address this issue together as a team – or get out and start fresh. It won’t be hard to find a guy who wants to have sex more. It may be hard to find a guy who is, in your words, an “attractive, intelligent, funny, fit, sane, patient, caring, affectionate, well dressed, and generous person who puts a high priority on trust and honesty. “

Which brings us to the point about the portrait you’re painting of the artist as a middle-aged man.

I’ve been a starving artist. It was called my 20’s. It was a noble experiment, but I was fundamentally miserable, because any second that I wasn’t writing, I was unhappy. Money was scarce. Freedom was nonexistent. Travel was impossible. My default emotions were fear and failure.

There are many women whose husbands support them, but generally they’re raising kids, which is a colossally more important undertaking than oil painting.

Now if I had a sugar mama like you to support me, would I feel better about not making a living? Maybe a little. But probably not much. At the end of the day, it’s not just the act of creativity that matters but the ability to get others to pay money for your art. Without money, art is just a very time consuming hobby.

You didn’t say what kind of art your boyfriend makes or whether you believe in him. That may or may not matter. Let’s assume that he NEVER makes a dollar at his career. Are you okay supporting a fourth child when the nest is finally empty? Because that’s what it’s gonna look like when all is said and done.

Maybe I shouldn’t be that harsh. There are many women whose husbands support them, but generally they’re raising kids, which is a colossally more important undertaking than oil painting. As far as the men who support wives who make art, or do charity, or shop, or workout obsessively, I’m guessing that they’re valuing these qualities “attractive, intelligent, funny, fit, sane, patient, caring, affectionate, well dressed, and generous.” over their wives’ ability to make a buck.

You can do the same, Julie. Just don’t expect him to change.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Selena

    I’m much more settled as a single mom, don’t want to cohabitate/marry while my kids are still at home, and truly love this man.
     
    He has hinted about needing to move into a studio apartment at my house.
     
    I take it moving into a studio apartment on your property would feel too much like co-habitating to you?
     
     You love him, you’ve been together for 3 years – minus a period of time where you explored “what else is out there”.  And realized what a catch he was?
     
    He’s also attentive to my kids & their lives, although by my choice, they have very little interaction.
     
    After 3 years together why do want him to have so little interaction?
     
    I can’t help but think you like your life just the way it is, and the way it is is compartmentalized. That’s okay, but have you explained it to your lover?
     
    And here’s a big question: if he were a financially successful businessman do you think you would feel the same way? Is the possibilty of becomming his “patron” turning you off? Great guy, 3 years, you love him…that really is something to weigh.
     
    Low libido. Between my spam filters and television commercials, I thought the cure for that was as common now as asprin. Has he looked into it? Perhaps you could suggest it in a “I might be fun if we…” way.
     
     
     

  2. 2
    Ruby

    As someone around the same age as Julie, and who has had careers in the arts myself, I can relate to this. I’ve been surprised by the number of men I’ve met in this age range who want creative careers and are looking for a sugar mama to support them. Actually, I dated one of them in my thirties too, who ended up with a wealthy woman while he became a house-husband. They are now divorced. But that isn’t going to happen at this age when kids are all grown or almost-grown.
     
    Seriously, few people earn a living solely from their art, unless their art has a practical component that makes it more marketable, like a craft. Most artists teach or find another way to support themselves. And let’s face it, not everyone is that talented. After 7 years, the boyfriend should have at least gotten a toe-hold in his new profession, and she should be seeing some forward momentum. He also should be able to come up with a way to supplement his income on his own initiative. The fact that he has depleted his savings and is looking for the OP to bail him out, is a red flag to me.
     
    I wouldn’t expect the sex to get better, either. Julie contradicts herself when she says that she’s concerned that he will never marry her, yet that she doesn’t want to marry while she still has kids living at home. I suspect she wouldn’t marry him, even if he wanted to, because she knows what he’s really about. He doesn’t even want to live with her, he wants a “studio apartment” (rent free, no doubt) in her house.

  3. 3
    Karl R

    Julie, (original letter)
    You don’t want to cohabitate/get married for the next several years.
    You’re concerned that your boyfriend may never want to marry.
     
    Neither of you is in a rush to get married. That’s your solution for now.
     
    Julie said: (original letter)
    “He seems reluctant to take other jobs that take away from his art career… but I am worried we are headed for a crisis.”
     
    If I was in your position, I wouldn’t get married. I wouldn’t cohabitate. I would keep my finances completely separate.
     
    You’re self-sufficient, but you didn’t give me the impression that you’re able support him (and save for the future) on your income. If he decides to take financial risks, that’s his choice. But it sounds like you’re better off letting him bear the full burden of those risks.
     
    It’s entirely possible that every dollar you spend on this man (dates, assistance, etc.) will be completely wasted. Therefore, I recommend that you treat it like it’s an entertainment cost (or some other nonrecoverable expense). It’s not an investment that you may recover later.
     
    If you keep that in mind, it will help you decide how much money you’re willing to spend in this situation.

  4. 4
    Sunflower

    Sounds like a path I wouldn’t want to travel down.  I’m 51 years old and the one thing that’s most important to me at this age is security.  I don’t care to wake up each day not knowing what direction I’m headed or where my next meal is coming from.  Need money in the bank, stable home environment and lots of friends and family around……that’s just me 🙂

  5. 5
    Jackie H.

    Yes, definitely, time to make the list…the list of pros and cons..and the weight of some cons may outweigh the number of pros…good luck!

  6. 6
    Karl S

    If I was in your position, I wouldn’t get married. I wouldn’t cohabitate. I would keep my finances completely separate.
    This.
    If he is someone worth staying with, he will take ownership over his own life choices and deal with his financial issues independently. If he makes you feel guilty for not “helping him” then you have your answer – which is to let him go. I say this drama school graduate trying to make it in the performing arts. 

  7. 7
    Scott

    This question is not about their romantic relationship.  Julie seems to like their current arrangement just fine.  She has a FWB at her call to scrath her itch (just barely).  He is good with her kid but also willing to accept limited access.  Which combination enables Julie to avoid having to go find another guy – who might want more of her time (and more contact with her kid 2 or 3 years into the relationship) than Julie wants to devote while her kid is still home.  To me, the problem here is that the guy wants to move in.  Whihc is bad because it means Julie can’t sever ties with him as easily when her child leaves home and Julie wants to create a relationship with a man shoe DOES want to marry.  If I were Julie, I would not let him move in.  If that means he goes looking for another patron, so be it.  Better to be a little lonely for a few years than to open a can of worms.

  8. 8
    Karl S

    *I say this as a drama school graduate I mean.

  9. 9
    Zann

    I could be totally, entirely wrong, but I get the feeling that what Julie is really asking for is permission to dump her artist. She heralds all of his great qualities and yet there remain two areas where things are not equitable: sex drive and financial stability. A little creativity and better communication could alleviate the imbalance in their sex lives. But financial self-sufficiency is another story. Julie’s boyfriend made a choice to pursue his artistic calling, and that choice has, unfortunately, depleted his nest egg. Of course, he has options besides moving into Julie’s studio apartment for some freeloading. She didn’t get him to where he is now, and he’d be broke whether or not she was his girlfriend. If Julie’s  unwilling to house him for free, that’s her call to make, but it enmeshes them in a whole new way, and I predict resentment is inevitable. 
     

  10. 10
    AllenB

    Few people make a living at art. Evan appropriately labelled it a hobby.  A hobby means you have some other means of supporting your hobby.  I think there are plenty of folks who earn a living in something that is just a job while they pursue creativity in their free time. His unwillingness to do so indicates fear or at least major impracticality.  If the OP  is content with the relationship as is (which she isn’t, or why write?) then that does not matter, but it sounds like she would like more. I do believe she should have a talk with him about libido at least.  Address that as best as they can, but I bet part of that involves him feeling more secure and happier with himself.  Invite him to move into a nearby studio, but not to sublet.  That is an invitation to add more stress to the relationship should he start being late with rent….

    @Karl R .
    You write as if she is supporting him, yet she explicitly said

    He still tries to split our entertainment/travel expenses 50/50 and has never asked for money.


    Perhaps they are headed towards her paying for everything, but they aren’t there yet.  Interesting that you assumed that they already are there. . .

    @Selena 1 Between my spam filters and television commercials, I thought the cure for [low libido]  was as common now as asprin.

    Although this is off topic, it points to what is a common misconception amongst the half of the species who don’t have the equipment. I assume you are referring to erectile dysfunction medications since that is the only non-snake oil medicine that addresses something related to libido in men.

    You equate a low libido with no erection and therefore the converse, if a man has an erection he wants to have sex. WRONG!
    Erectile dysfunction medications are for men who WANT to have sex (already have something going on in the libido department) but their John Thomas refuses to wake up from his nap. If a man has no libido, walking around with a woody does not mean he wants to sharpen his pencil.  It means he has an erection, nothing more. That said, the physical sensation of engorgement is a little arousing, but on its own is not really sufficient to want sex. Most men when they wake up with rebar in their pjs, but their biggest urge is generally to find a toilet. Most teens, plagued with a 90 minute cycle of erections are more concerned with hiding it if they have to go to the board rather than finding someplace nice to put it.

    No erection can mean not turned on, but it can mean a lot of other things too.

    Viagra and Cialis = erection, not desire for sex.

    AFAIK, except for therapy or otherwise feeling good about himself (which could include having that troubling ED problem addressed) and his  life, there is no way to increase libido in a healthy man with normal testosterone levels

  11. 11
    Kiki

    I think it is important that the man in the relationship provides at least some of the income, and initiates sex most of the time. It is nice if he is also very attentive, sweet, etc., but the first two things are the masculine element, and I would have difficulty to feel feminine if the man fails to be masculine.
    On the other hand, a woman needs to be realistic about what her options are. When you are single mom with three kids, very few men will be ready to have a relationship. Many might be interested to have occasional sex, but a committed relationship is a tall order.  But, if she is not feeling an urge to get married or move to stronger commitment, she might be better off to next this guy, and be open to meet someone with whom to at least have better sex.

  12. 12
    Karl R

    AllenB said: (#10)
    “Perhaps they are headed towards her paying for everything, but they aren’t there yet.  Interesting that you assumed that they already are there. . .”
     
    Maybe you need to reread what I said.
     
    I’m aware that Julie isn’t supporting him. But her boyfriend has hinted that he needs to move into a studio apartment at her house. He has begun trying to move things in that direction.
     
    If Julie lets him move in, do you think he can pay rent? Do you think he’ll be able to help out with utilities? What will happen if he runs out of food?
     
    If Julie ends up paying for everything, it probably won’t happen all at once. It will probably happen one small step at a time. Julie can’t afford to start down that path.
     
    This man is a financial time bomb. He’s 54. He stopped paying into social security at 47. He used to have savings and a 401k. Now he has massive debt and a bankruptcy coming.
     
    If someone reading this is a financial planner, would you care to explain how lousy of a financial position this man is in?

  13. 13
    Goldie

    @Karl R #12
     
    Not a financial planner, but I did know someone who had to take a loan out of their 401K. The penalties are huge. The interest rates are huge. I was told that taking money out of your 401K is like the absolute last thing you do, when the choice is between that and living on the streets. And this, 54yo man, who had apparently accumulated a good-sized 401K, has already “depleted” it? I agree with Karl, this man is a financial time bomb.
     
    Julie, two of your three children will be starting college soon, and one might in in college already. You cannot afford this guy. I’d follow Karl R’s advice.
     
    Not to mention that him living in your house as your tenant, and as such having financial obligations towards you, will create a weird power dynamics and add to the complexity of the situation.
     
    Not to mention that, from what I’ve read on this site, it is much easier to let a person move in than it is to get them to move out. (KE, was it you that had to hire an attorney to get an ex move out of your own house?)
     
    I just had another idea, does he have an online portfolio? If what he does is good enough, maybe there will be people on here willing and able to promote him, buy his work, get him an exhibit even? This is, after all, a site where smart, strong, and successful women congregate.

  14. 14
    Lola

    AllenB @ 10: agree on the libido vs erection. My ex-husband lost his job a few years ago, couldn’t find one for a long time, then things got even worse due to the step-parenting conflicts between us.. He became emotionally and physically distant. His libido went down the drain pretty fast. He still had his erections – but so much resentment toward me and such low self-esteem that he didnt want to have anything intimate with me. 

  15. 15
    Chance

    @Kiki:
     
    “I think it is important that the man in the relationship provides at least some of the income, and initiates sex most of the time. It is nice if he is also very attentive, sweet, etc., but the first two things are the masculine element, and I would have difficulty to feel feminine if the man fails to be masculine.”
     
    I know what you mean.  I think it’s important that the woman in the relationship at least does some of the cooking/cleaning/laundry, and lets me have sex with her most of the time I initiate.  It is nice if she’s also very attentive, sweet, etc., but the first two things are the feminine element, and I would have difficulty feeling masculine if the woman fails to be feminine.

     
     
    @Karl R.
     
    I agree with you that he is a financial time bomb, and I wouldn’t take him in if I was in her position.  However, I believe her situation is two-pronged.  First, she needs to assess whether his other qualities outweigh the negative ones.  It does sound like he is a great partner, apart from the issues she noted.  For generations, men have been willing to support women that otherwise were great partners.  However, a lot of women have trouble letting go of this part of inequality between the sexes by refusing to support men who are great partners.  While many women who don’t work are caring for young children, in my part of town, many wives still don’t work even if there are no children or if they are of school-age or grown.  From my observations, these women instead spend their time shopping, playing tennis, scrap-booking, going to yoga class (for the “stress”), or doing the occasional breast cancer walk.

  16. 16
    Julia

    @Chance
     
    I know what you mean.  I think it’s important that the woman in the relationship at least does some of the cooking/cleaning/laundry, and lets me have sex with her most of the time I initiate.  It is nice if she’s also very attentive, sweet, etc., but the first two things are the feminine element, and I would have difficulty feeling masculine if the woman fails to be feminine.
     
    Perfectly acceptable expectations.

  17. 17
    Goldie

    @ Chance
     
    “For generations, men have been willing to support women that otherwise were great partners.  However, a lot of women have trouble letting go of this part of inequality between the sexes by refusing to support men who are great partners.  While many women who don’t work are caring for young children, in my part of town, many wives still don’t work even if there are no children or if they are of school-age or grown.”
     
    Having a stay-at-home wife that was agreed upon from the start, is not exactly the same as mom’s boyfriend moving in with mom because he’s broke, and blowing through a daughter’s college fund. I am not saying that this will happen, but it has a potential of happening. After all he has already blown through his 401K and shows no sign of stopping. I cannot even imagine the resentment and tension this would create in the household. And, since we’re talking inequality of genders, I’m pretty sure that, if the roles were reversed and it was dad’s new model girlfriend blowing through the kids’ college funds, there’d be just as much resentment and tension as a result.
     
    This is not a new family that has the luxury of establishing roles from scratch. She is already supporting three people and cannot support the fourth. And, sorry, but in terms of support, her kids come first. Unlike him, the kids don’t have an option of earning their own living. They depend on their mother for that, for now.

  18. 18
    Ruby

    Chance #15
     
    <<However, a lot of women have trouble letting go of this part of inequality between the sexes by refusing to support men who are great partners.>>
     
    More and more men are becoming house-husbands. But there is a difference between a committed partner who stays home to take care of the house and kids while his spouse works and a guy who’s looking for a free ride. There’s even a difference with an older wife who has done the child-rearing, etc. for many years and isn’t currently working, if it’s okay with the husband. But a 54 year old man who depletes his savings, his 401k, maxes out his credit cards, refuses to work at any other job, is on the verge of losing his home and filing for bankruptcy, and calls it “suffering for his art” is either a bit deluded or lazy, and not the best prospect. 

  19. 19
    marymary

    Are you sure you don’t want to get married or have you lowered your expectations so that you can be with someone you don’t see as marriageable?  People with children get married.  Seen it myself a few times and, yes, they were mothers with children at home. I confess I was surprised but it changed my thinking.

  20. 20
    Karmic Equation

    Well said, Ruby. I agree with you 100%.

    Chance,

    That inequality about supporting a man 100%, in the same way a man might a woman and why most women resist that, I think I know why. I had this discussion with my bff, who’s a hetero male…and I’ve also asked myself this question.

    Men are used to paying for sex, so to speak — buy drinks, dinners, baubles, support stay-at-home wives, etc., to have access to sex.

    Women don’t want to feel like they’re paying for sex. We don’t have to. So whenever we support a man fully in that fashion, who is indigent by his own choices — of course, we’ll support our husbands/lovers if they’re laid off, hospitalized, etc., that’s part of loving someone — but when the guy is jobless by his own choice, then it just doesn’t feel right. It feels like we’re paying for something, if not sex per se, then for companionship.

    No woman want to feel like they have a gigolo in their lives.

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