You schedule doctor’s appointments, workouts at the gym and after-work drinks with friends. But would you pencil in sex around your office presentation or root canal? When it comes to your marriage and sex life, it may be the best way for today’s busy couples to maintain intimacy, said Janice Epp, Ph.D., dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.
“I frequently see a lot of very young couples who are working 14- and 15-hour days and they're wondering why they're not having sex,” Epp told Huff/Post50. “And the couples in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are not used to looking at sex as valuable. They've had all these years of putting sex behind everything else. You have to be willing to make it a priority.”
It may not sound terribly romantic, but scheduling sex could be the best way for couples who are still interested in having intercourse to save their marriage and sex lives. According to a 2010 Kinsey Institute report, 22 percent of married women between the ages of 50 and 59 had not had sex at all in the previous year and 20.6 percent of married men in the same age group reported being in a sexless marriage. (Yes we're wondering about that data mis-match too.)
Epp likens scheduling sex to being excited for reservations at a hot, new restaurant -- you're building anticipation for the event, which can be sexy in and of itself. “Some people say, ‘Sex should be spontaneous!’ to which I say 'B*llshit,'” Epp laughed. “You plan other things in your life and you don’t complain about it. You can do the same with sex.”
You should plan your sex date around a time when both you and your partner will have the most energy: it may be an early morning romp before the workday begins and the kids are up, or an afternoon delight session on the weekend.
Epp also advises couples to have “connecting dates” to begin keep the flame alive. “It’s important that you have intimate time together,” Epp said. “Whether it involves sex or not, it involves connecting on some intimate level.
“What I want [couples] to do is to have some alone time together without any interruptions,” Epp continued. “They're not to talk about work, or children or how the stock market is doing. It can be cuddling, it can be touching, it could be massaging. It could just be holding each other.”
This time together allows couples to reestablish the intimacy that day-to-day rigors and domestic chores may sap from a marriage and sex. “Once it becomes fun and wonderful” again, the next step is scheduling longer intimacy or sex dates, Epp said. “[Now that the couple has] motivation to carve out that time, I send them on weekend dates. Get away for a weekend once a month if you can.”
By scheduling sex and committing to a schedule that works for the both of you, sex can become a valuable and enjoyable part of your relationship again. It may not be easy, but it’s worth it, Epp said.
“Sex is perfectly natural but it's not always naturally perfect,” she said. Like anything worthwhile, sometimes it takes work.
"Medications that are prescribed for stroke issues and heart issues can have devastating effects on sexual functioning," explains Dr. Janice Epp of the Institute of Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. In addition, researchers have found that a family of <a href="http://www.springerlink.com/content/0483x4276q80417q/" target="_hplink">antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) can take the winds right out of your sails</a>. These drugs include brand names such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil.
Fix: Talk To Your Doctor
Don't be shy -- talk to your doctor about how your prescriptions are affecting your sex drive. "There are a whole lot of new drugs that don't necessarily have those side effects, but it takes a lot of experimenting," says Dr. Epp. "Sometimes it takes three to four different tries to find the one that's best for you."
Culprit: Pain Or Discomfort
"People of both sexes can develop pain disorders as they get older, and that can have a big effect on sexuality," notes Patty Brisben, founder and chairwoman of Pure Romance, a company that specializes in selling sex toys and providing information on women's sexual health issues.
Fix: Mix It Up
Brisben suggests re-evaluating your definition of sex. "Being intimate does not necessarily mean having sex in the traditional sense," she says. Some solutions sensual touching and massages and mutual masturbation. Dr. Epp suggests looking into new positions. "Sit on a chair, try being in different positions," she says. "Side by side actually puts the least amount of stress on your joints."
Culprit: Lack Of Sleep
The <a href="http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need" target="_hplink">National Sleep Foundation</a> recommends getting seven to eight hours of shut eye a night. But with the stress of work, kids, bills and, oh yeah, your marriage, who can think about fitting in time to have sex, much less sleep?
Fix: Plan Sex Dates
For some couples the days of random romps may be behind them, and that's alright, says Dr. Epp. "Plan some sex dates around times that you know you feel more energetic -- it lets you look forward to it," she says. "Some people say, 'Sex should be spontaneous!' to which I say bullsh*t," she says, laughing. "You plan other things in your life and you don't complain about it. You can do the same with sex."
Waning libido and vaginal dryness are two unpleasant side effects of menopause. With increased longevity, "women can now expect to spend a third of their lives in post-menopausal years," Brisben said. "So understanding how you're being affected by those changing hormones is essential."
Fix: Creams And Lubricants
A dip in estrogen may lead to thinning vaginal walls and itchiness in the area. According to the Mayo Clinic, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaginal-dryness/DS00550/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs" target="_hplink">treatments can include </a>vaginal estrogen creams such as Estrace and Premarin; a flexible estrogen ring that is inserted; or estrogen pills, patches or gels.
Culprit: Avoiding Frank Conversations About Sex
"I think if you're just now embracing this subject at or around age 50, you've got some catching up to do!" Brisben tells <em>Huff/Post50</em>. But it's never too late to start having a frank and honest conversation with your partner about what you want in bed.
Fixes: Accessories, Letters, Books, Therapy
"I recommend having these conversations out of the bedroom and when you have some alone time," Brisben says. "Be open, be receptive and be ready to listen." Don't be afraid to bring some playfulness to the discussion. "Shop online for intimacy products together," Brisben suggests. Or write your partner a letter: "Tell them what you'd like to introduce into your intimate relationship." Another tact: Read sexy books together and share what interests you and what doesn't. "If you find these conversations are still hard to have ... a sex therapist or counselor is trained to help," Brisben adds.
Culprit: Not Addressing Problems Down There
It's the one part of aging and sexuality that gets the most attention: erectile dysfunction, which is <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/erectile-dysfunction/DS00162/DSECTION=causes" target="_hplink">often rooted in some larger physical problem, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic. Medications and drug and alcohol use can also play a role.
Fix: Prescriptions, Pumps And More
Ubiquitous ads promote the popular little blue pill to cure impotence, but there are <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/erectile-dysfunction/DS00162/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs" target="_hplink">other treatments as well, including vacuum pumps, implants and surgery</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Culprit: Thinking You Have To Be 'In The Mood'
According to the movies or steamy prime time television shows, passion goes from 0 to 69 with a mere glance, a bitten lip or a bad pun. But "as we age, our bodies slow down and we have less energy," Dr. Epp tells <em>Huff/Post50</em>. "That's naturally occurring, but it can have an affect on our sexuality."
Fix: Learn The Difference Between Arousal And Desire
Rethink the connection between arousal and desire. Tell your partner if you need more than the <a href="http://www.womansday.com/sex-relationships/sex-tips/sex-by-the-numbers-103274" target="_hplink">average 20 minutes spent on foreplay</a>.