Here’s the way to avoid the nearly inevitable sexless marriage experienced by so many long-term couples and in fact have your sex life get stronger as you get older.
Guys, I have bad news for you. You know the joke “If you want to have sex, don’t get married!”? Well, it’s largely true. And it gets worse. According to an analysis of U.S. Census data, 36% of women living with a same-sex romantic partner in their 40s had been married to a man at some point; among women in their 50s living with another woman, over 50% had left straight married life behind; this percentage jumps to 75% for those age 60 or older. My take? As women age their needs for intimacy shift so dramatically that some actually switch teams just to find it.
Now the good news is (yes, there is actually good news here) that you and your partner don’t have to suffer this fate. In fact, it is very possible to have your intimate life become better as you mature and grow older together. And the purpose of this post is to share how that can be and to avoid the eventuality of an essentially sexless relationship.
I Can Take it or Leave It
“To be honest, I can take or leave sex, and mostly I’d rather leave it.” That’s a quote from the CBS News Correspondent Lee Woodruff in her Ladies Home Journal article “Let’s Talk About Sex (and Why I’d Rather Just Go to Sleep)”. In a video interview with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook she also shares how her husband of 25 years Bob Woodruff (also a media journalist), like most men, is ready for action nearly all the time. And sometimes she gives in to perform her “wifely duty”. I hope my partner and I never start seeing intimacy as a chore or duty (and yes, men can feel that way too.)
There’s an old expression about couples who get married: The woman hopes her man will change over time and the man hopes his wife never changes and they both end up disappointed. This was certainly the case with my first marriage and based upon conversations I’ve had with others, this is a very common theme.
It’s All in How We Are Wired
The way men and women are in the bedroom is greatly impacted by both biological and cultural “wiring” or imprinting as it were –primarily for procreation purposes. In terms of making babies, our wiring is perfect. However, it seems to me that most of us have evolved beyond the imperative to use sex as an exclusively procreative process to an attempt to connect deeply with another human being. It is the conflict between seeking deep connection and the hard-wired imperative for procreation that causes many of the problems that occur for committed couples, especially as they mature together over time. In my discussions with many couples I’ve made some observations as to why this is.
How Women’s Preferences for Intimacy Changes Over Time
In the early years of a relationship, that most efficient of procreative acts, intercourse, is very exciting and pleasurable to both the man and woman. Most women during their child-bearing years are deeply impacted by the “urge” for traditional coupling (i.e. intercourse) whether or not they want to have children. And in fact, during this phase may actually prefer intercourse over most other forms of physical intimacy. As women mature beyond this period however, their intimate preferences begin to change. Emotional and non-sexual forms of physical intimacy become far more important. Intercourse becomes less attractive to them (or even painful) and many begin to prefer other forms of physical intimacy and often require a much longer time to “warm up” before being ready to climax. The “quickie” appeals less to them. Many at this stage are also at some level concerned that their man will find them less attractive and have fears of being replaced by a “newer model”.
Meanwhile, most men prefer to have the penetrative sex they always enjoyed, no matter how old he and his partner become. And this is where the breakdown starts happening. Women too often are afraid to share with their mate what *really* works and doesn’t work for them out of fear they may hurt their partner’s feelings or he may become so angry he will leave her. So her guy remains absolutely clueless, disappointed and frustrated as to why his Honey just doesn’t seem interested any more (are you listening Bob?)
You can see where this is going; a very sad direction that is taken by too many mature relationships. Once the divide reaches a certain size, both partners are typically unsatisfied with their intimate life. Yet ironically, they both crave deep, abiding intimacy (i.e. connection) more than ever but have no idea how to rekindle it. Here are the likely outcomes in this situation:
- They both just settle because they are comfortable with each other, often leading to a sexless relationship. Effectively going from soul mates to roommates.
- They split. The woman either resigns herself to a single, sexless existence or she is brave enough to risk seeking the quality of intimacy her heart craves either in another man or woman. The man might look for another partner (often younger) with whom he can enjoy sex just like he always did.
The Way Back to the Best Intimacy/Sex Ever
These potential not-so-great outcomes are not fait accompli. It is very possible for long-term couples to have the very best, most exciting and fulfilling physical intimacy of their relationship in their later years together. But it requires a change of behavior and attitudes from both. For this to happen, it is incumbent upon women to authentically and vulnerably communicate with their partner what they really want in terms of intimacy, especially as it changes over time. For men, it is crucial to listen and follow what their mate is telling them. And also to realize that as women age they take much longer to “warm up” to physical intimacy than they use to during the “rip our clothes off” stage of the relationship.
For example, I spend a good hour of our lovemaking warming up my (post-menopausal) partner by first showering with her (scrubbing her whole body down with a luffa –something she absolutely loves) and giving her a head-to-toe deep, non-sexual massage. Once she is warmed up this way and I create of space where both of us can be fully present, she is ready –and boy, is she ready! At this stage of her life she really doesn’t care for pounding intercourse (which is a good thing because I’m fully impotent) and much prefers gentle oral sex (but NOT before the warm up). By my slowing down as a man to match her emotional and sexual needs and response profile and being fully present without goals or agenda as I give to her, she responds by climaxing explosively many times.
This makes me wonder how different things would be for Lee and Bob Woodruff (and countless middle-age couples like them) if they approached their intimate needs in this way. I suspect that she would be reporting on an entirely different experience –excitedly sharing how their current intimate life is far better than it ever was. All because of her willingness to communicate authentically and his willingness to adapt to her changing needs and desires.
We guys have the power to unlock the truly unlimited sexual potential of our women at any age and reap the mind-blowing benefits of that. It just requires that we listen and transform our procreative urge from pounding sex, to incredibly fulfilling emotional and physical intimacy in the manner our partner prefers. And when this happens, “wifely duty” will forever be banished from her vernacular.
Image: Rod Knox