Where did sex go?
Been married a long time and wondering where your sex life went? After years of marriage it’s not unusual for sex to happen less often and feel less satisfying than it used to, says certified sex therapist Laurie Watson, author of "Wanting Sex Again: How to Rediscover Your Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage." But sex is worth nurturing. It helps you stay bonded and strengthens your love and closeness. Here’s how to bring it back into your relationship:
1. Understand where it went.
Falling in love is so exciting and erotically charged that any difficulties, current or past, are easily overcome -- at first. “When a relationship becomes real, with conflicts and genuine needs, some of the high wears off and we have to work through physical or psychological stumbling blocks,” Watson explains. Add to that the hormonal deficits as we age, and the challenges compound. “Our bodies still need touch and sexual release to deeply connect us as partners, but we don’t always have the same biological prompt -- a sexual urge, an instinctual nudge, or an outright horny feeling,” says Watson. “A woman with low desire is like a Porsche with a tank full of gas and a broken starter.”
If you’re in the habit of not talking about sex, opening up the conversation may be daunting, but your pleasure is worth it! Try bringing it up when you’re not in bed -- maybe at the dinner table or while taking a walk together. Ask for permission to bring up a difficult topic so your partner will be serious and receptive.
Talk honestly, and be careful to be gentle and loving to avoid putting the other person on the defensive. “State your desire for your partner in a positive way,” Watson advises. “For example, you can say, ‘I love being with you physically and sexually. Making love is so reassuring to me. What are your feelings about that right now?’” Don’t give up if the conversation isn’t easy -- let it be a start.
“The good news is that in a reasonable, healthy marriage, even one person making the committed effort to change can force the whole dynamic to shift,” Watson says.
3. Check your meds.
The culprit may be the pills that you or your partner takes for other medical conditions that may have the unwanted side effect of interfering with interest and arousal. Be assertive in asking your doctor about sexual side effects and what you can do about them. Blood pressure medications and SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants are known to lower libido.
Watson recommends the use of a vibrator to counter the deadening effects of these medications. “Vibrators can build arousal quickly and help a woman reach climax without worrying that she’s ‘taking forever,’” says Watson. “They aren’t just sex toys but necessary tools so she doesn’t get too discouraged.” Orgasms themselves are terrific antidepressants, in fact.
4. Let a therapist help.
Often the issue isn’t physical. Any stress in the relationship quickly finds its way into the bedroom.
A good therapist can help you see whether a non-sexual problem in the relationship -- such as resentment, lack of trust, or body image issues -- may be manifesting itself in sexual avoidance, and give you the communication tools to solve it. To locate a therapist who is particularly knowledgeable about sexual issues, check the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.
If your spouse won’t talk about the elephant in the room, it’s worthwhile to go to counseling on your own. “I often see one spouse without the other if the partner is reluctant,” Watson says. “A sex therapist can systematically sift through what you have tried and what is left to try.”
5. Be open to change.
Sexual shut-down isn’t inevitable as we age, but change is. Maybe we thought we knew everything about sex and pleasure in the past, but we’re living in changing bodies, and there’s more to learn. The key is staying open and flexible. You may need to try new techniques, different stimuli, different timing. Learn to seduce your partner anew. Try pleasuring yourself on your own to see whether a different pace, touch, or fantasy arouses you more than what you’re used to. You may be surprised!
Let the changes be an incentive to seek pleasure with commitment and a sense of adventure! “Perhaps the frequency changes, but the intensity of connection during love-making can actually increase,” says Watson.
About the Author
Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of "Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex" and "Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty." Visit Joan’s zesty, award-winning blog about sex and aging, where she continues to talk out loud about Boomer/senior sex, partnered or solo. "Naked at Our Age" won Outstanding Self-Help Book 2012 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Best Book 2012 from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.