It’s human nature to always be ready to jump on the next “new thing” . . . whether it’s a diet that everyone is raving about, an exercise program that promises to get rid of cellulite or (finally!) the skin cream that will erase wrinkles as soon as you spot them. If something seems too good to be true, it’s usually not. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘sex after 50’
Recently, I posted an article on The Huffington Post that generated many comments, and lots of shares. “The Seven Biggest Mistakes We Make in Midlife (and How to Avoid Them)” delved into some of the areas that seem to cause the most angst for us as we age, holding us back. I offered thoughts on how to address them head on. Based on the input I got from readers, one of the biggest issues for a lot of us is fear, and specifically the fear of aging. Many people talked about the fear of being alone, of poor health, of being forgotten. Heres a snippet of what I wrote in that article:
Being Afraid of Aging–The best advice I can give you is this: be fearless after 50. Fear will stop you from pursuing your dreams, and could cause you to give up and give in, keeping you a prisoner in your (more…)
My husband and I met in the sweltering summer of 1992 and started rocking and rolling immediately. But from the moment we got married a year later, we were 1) thinking about getting pregnant, 2) in a state of pregnancy, 3) recovering from pregnancy or 4) enjoying (and coping with) the results of pregnancy: babies, toddlers and, now, two teenagers. It wasn’t exactly conducive to swinging from chandeliers.
During those early years, sex was focused more on a result (children), but that’s no longer the case. Like most couples over 50, we are free to have sex pretty much whenever we want. But, do we?
I tried to find some statistics about how many times per week married Americans over 50 made love (with each other), but there were so many different studies saying so many different things, it was hard to suss out the truth. One stated that married couples over 50 had sex once or twice a week, while another claimed it was closer to once or twice a month.
Confused and in need of more information, I met with Dr. Margaret Nachtigall, a reproductive endocrinologist in New York City, who shared some statistics from a study done by The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior:
A study of married couples found age and marital satisfaction to be the two variables most associated with amount of sex. As couples age, they engage in sex less frequently, with half of couples age 65-75 still engaging in sex, but less than one fourth of couples over 75 still sexually active. Across all ages, couples who reported higher levels of marital satisfaction also reported higher frequencies of sex.
This study left me feeling that the older we got, the less we got it. Not good.
I raised this topic with some girlfriends one night over a bottle of wine, hoping to get insights into their concerns, and (yes, I admit it) how often they had sex (with their partners).
We all had the same question: I love my husband and he loves me, so why aren’t we having as much hot sex as we used to? We want to have sex, but sometimes we just aren’t into it. How do we get in the mood? We all hated thinking that things were slowing down, and that they might slow down even more. For sure, menopause can sometimes make sex uncomfortable, and our libido can drop off. But just because a woman is post-menopausal, does she automatically lose interest? Forever? Was that my future? Was I supposed to lock this door and throw away the key?
I was getting worried. And whenever I get worried, I do research. Finally, someone suggested I meet with Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, which explores many of the questions my friends and I were confronting – specifically, why couples who have been together for a very long time often can’t sustain a rich, enjoyable sexual life … together. Esther was particularly eager to find out because in her view, sex after 50 may be the best sex we’ll ever have.
First, she said, we had to address some long-held views about sex after 50 that may not be true.
- Women over 50 are sexually dysfunctional due to menopause. According to Esther’s research, the majority of women over 50 are sexually healthy. Sexual problems that are menopause-related can be addressed with simple solutions like lubricants or estrogen.
- Men think women over 50 are sexually undesirable. Esther has rarely encountered a man who says his low sex drive is related to how his wife looks, or her age. But, he will be turned off if she has stopped being interested in sex. Men want women who want sex.
- If you’re not having spontaneous sex, it must mean your sex life is over. When, Esther asked, was sex ever spontaneous? When you were first together, you had sex on your mind for hours, maybe even days, leading up to the experience. In many cases, you set the date, thought about it, planned the evening — even what to wear. It may have seemed spontaneous, but it wasn’t. Good sex is planned sex.
- If a couple is having less sex, it’s her fault. News flash: If a woman over 50 is having less sex, chances are it’s him, not her. In men, low sex drive is often related to health problems or medications he may be on, many of which are known to create some sexual functioning challenges. Men aren’t used to needing stimulation, and it can be troubling. Sometimes he’ll just avoid it, causing the woman to think he’s no longer attracted to her — which results in a sexual Catch-22.
- If you want to have a better sex life, you need to get closer. On the contrary, Esther says, excess information and over-sharing can put the kibbosh on desire, while a little mystery can fuel sexual attraction. Creating an erotic space between you and your partner is essential for good sex. (I share lots of tips on how to do that in The Best of Everything After 50.)
Then, we explored the three main tools that women can use to get into the mood:
- Arousal – Watch a movie or read a book, have a fantasy, put on some sexy lingerie. Many things can arouse us. Arousal can lead to desire, and desire leads to sex. Figure out what gets you going and use it when you need it.
- Desire – Desire means wanting to be turned on. With this entry point, you want to get aroused, and you want to actively engage in getting turned on with your partner.
- Willingness – This is the most important entry point for women over 50. If you’ve been ignoring, neglecting or denying your sexual self for a while, then you must consciously decide that you want sex in order to even let yourself feel desire. We talk ourselves into doing things all the time – going out to an event, cooking dinner – but people don’t think about talking themselves into having sex (and they often confuse it with “pity sex”). This makes complete and total sense to me … and, even better, it works!
So here’s the big reveal: After 50, we’re at a sexual crossroads, and need to make a choice: We could go through menopause, shut down that part of ourselves, lock the door and throw away the key. Or we could embrace this new life with a sense of freedom and fun – no more periods, no more worries about getting pregnant, no more doing it because there has to be a result. You may very well find yourself having the best sex … ever!
And finally, one little bit of advice: Stop looking for studies about how often other people have sex. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors (no matter what they say to the survey interviewer). And … who cares?
According to Dr. Helen Fischer, the brilliant biological anthropologist, there is an ancient human tendency to marry and remarry, which she calls the “four year itch.” Millions of years ago (and even more recently than that) it was assumed that if a child lived to see age four, she would survive. The “parents” were then free to move on to new sexual adventures, and the child would be passed on to the group, where the “it takes a village” mentality would kick in.
This dates back millions of years to a time when men and women were EQUALS on many different levels–economically, socially and sexually. Some gathered, some hunted. But there’s one thing they all did, rather equally and frequently — they had sex. They had to!! How else could the human race survive and thrive? The only way to secure the future was to have lots and lots of sex, with lots and lots of different partners.
And, boy did they ever! Well, we’re all here, so I guess the system worked.
While all this hanky panky was going on, different hormones kicked in with each new sexual experience, to increase the pleasure . . . creating a feeling of passion and euphoria, causing everyone to want more, more, more. Clearly, the human body was designed to be this highly efficient hunting, gathering, sexual, procreating machine.
Okay, why am I telling you this?
To try to make some sense out of why people have affairs. Why so many men AND women risk everything–families, jobs, lives–for a night or two (or more) of passion. At a lecture I attended recently, Dr. Fischer proclaimed that we have affairs because we are BIOLOGICALLY HARD-WIRED to have them, that we can’t help ourselves. Men need to spread the sperm and women need to procreate. Simple.
BUT, thankfully she also believes in free will. We may be programmed to do this, but it doesn’t mean we have to. And, that’s the crux of it. Isn’t it better to focus our energies and love and bodies on the partner with whom we chose to make a home and a family? I am not being a prude or judgemental . . . but very practical.
Esther Perel, author of “Mating in Captivity” and the expert I consulted for my chapter on sex in THE BEST OF EVEYTHING AFTER 50, explained the psychology behind it all. Very often, people (men and women) have affairs because they have lost something or someone in the last year or two. Perhaps someone close to them died, or left home, or they lost a job. Even more profound, Esther has found that women especially can feel as though they’ve lost a part of themselves, and by having an affair, they can reclaim it. For both men and women, it can be neatly tied up in a big bow and called “midlife crisis.” Interestingly enough, people usually don’t have affairs because they no longer love their partners.
So, we’re presented with a mixed bag of biological and psychological tendencies to cheat. All of us. Seems as though none of us are immune.
What to do?
I spent a great deal of time with Esther when researching and writing my chapter on sex. And it really comes down to this: unless you’re in a relationship that is detrimental to your physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological well being . . . you should fight against these tendencies with every ounce of will power you have.
We’re over 50. Maybe we’re bored with our partners, or annoyed by those same qualities and characteristics that we found so charming twenty years ago. Or, sex has slowed down because you’re both tired, over-worked, too busy. There are zillions of reasons one could give as to why sex is often placed on the back burner, and why you might want to succumb to the urges that are inherent in all of us, and have a fling with someone new.
But, consider this: Why not make that “someone new” . . . the partner you already have?
Ahhhhh. Excellent question. That’s the next blog . . .
Best of Everything,