Recall the time you had sex regularly and really enjoyed it? Now, in your 30s, 40s, 50s or even 60s, sex no longer comes so naturally. And so you think age is killing the passion – no it’s not, but your attitude is. Read on to find out more…
There was a time you didn’t think much about sex because you had it pretty regularly, it always happened, and always worked in ways that simply didn’t require much thought. The mood would strike, there would be the look between you, a little kiss here and there, a little caressing here and there, and you would be off to the races. And, you always enjoyed it, and it was never long before the mood would strike again.
Well, those days are long gone. Today you feel a bit confused about your sexual feelings, not knowing exactly where the problem lies. It’s hard for you to sort out whether you don’t have much sexual desire or if you just mute out those impulses because you associate them with uncomfortable encounters in the past. Or when you look in the mirror you just see ‘old’, which already feels like the opposite of sexy. Many women, for example, feel as if they are so old they are drying up. In fact, their whole body seems to lack ‘juice’ and all that is left is dry skin, dry hair, dry nails, dry eyes and yes, you guessed it right, dry vagina.
They conclude all this is to be expected with old age and onset of menopause and find it difficult to get aroused when there is so little vaginal moisture. And when they do have sex, it is often painful due to lack of lubrication and so they try to avoid it. And when they go off sex, they also turn their backs on a lot of non-sexual touching and loving in the process. It is not only their sex life that suffers, but also the entire relationship.
Sex never gets old…
Sexual desire is not something anyone ages out of – and certainly not in your thirties or forties. Menopause tends to make things more complicated, but it does not kill sex drive. But almost every woman dealing with low libido struggles with how to think about sex and her body as she gets older. As that happens, receptivity to sex in all sorts of ways changes. That doesn’t mean it goes away. But it does mean you may have to make some changes yourself to maintain a healthy sex life. Some of those changes address the physical realities of an aging body, but the bigger shifts have to occur in your attitudes.
As we age, our bodies don’t look, or work, like they used to. Those are facts, and the sooner we learn not to fight them, the better. We can even do with some philosophy from the Chinese medicine, which holds that when women stop having menstrual periods as they age, the blood goes instead to nourish the heart, building wisdom and compassion. We should recognise and honour that wisdom and compassion in ourselves, the kind you gain only through the experience of years, rather than dwell on wrinkles and others signs of age. In other words, look to what you gain over time, rather than bemoan what falls away or fades.
That’s easier said than done in a society that reveres young toned bodies, so we tend to worry about the sagging here and there, and fret because we don’t have the same stamina we did in our twenties. Those young bodies, however, are decades away from reaching their full sexual potential. True sexual intimacy and deep connection require experience and maturity. This potential is what we gain as we grow older. The price may be a little less energy and a little more wrinkly skin, but that’s not a big deal. Many people report having the best sex of their lives in their fifties and sixties.
When we are young, pure physical attraction gets our motors running. We can decide to have sex only on the basis of liking what we see. We can decide if we feel sexual based on how we think we look. But if you stay dependent on this most basic drive to get you going, then sex will tend to drop off as you age and sometimes take the relationship along with it. You can’t go just with what feels good or what directly stimulates you the most either – as we age, both men and women need more genital stimulation to experience arousal and orgasm.
If we are going to keep having sex with the same person over the long term, we have to replace physical attraction and stimulation as our main motivator for having sex. That’s not to say those things are gone or no longer matter at all, but they inevitably dim. And it’s a good thing, too, because something richer is waiting to take their place.
In a long-term relationship, we have to shift more toward the substantive connections we have with a partner, our thoughts and emotions, to keep the flame lit. It’s easy to shut down sexually when we start to feel less responsive in the old, familiar ways but the most sexually successful couples set aside expectations about those biologically based desires and embrace deep emotional and energetic connection instead. They tap their maturity and experience to let themselves open to, and be vulnerable with each other. That reinforces a bond like nothing else. Couples that navigate this transition together often report the most meaningful sex and the most powerful orgasms, even long after they have gone gray.
Many people, particularly women, simply don’t feel good naked as they age. They tend to look more at the things they think are wrong with their bodies, and the list can be long – too wrinkly, too dry, too fat, sagging breasts, lack of muscle tone, cellulite, flabby stomach, that jiggly bit under the arm…the list goes on and on.
Body image is one major reason women complain about their sex lives as they age. If you work on your attitude about age, you will soften your own view of yourself and your body, which will go a long way to reconnecting you to your sexual desire. Most important of all, you can’t be fully present if you are worrying about your body when you have sex, and you can’t create an intense sexual connection without being fully present.
Women also tend to judge their bodies negatively if they feel they are overweight. The best sex advice remains self acceptance because if you can’t accept your body, then you will not enjoy sex. Not accepting your body as it is means you have a negative attitude about yourself and this should change. Yes, you can go ahead and lose weight if you are truly overweight, but feeling sexy should have nothing to do with a number on a weighing scale.
While it is true that being excessively overweight can cause problems to your sex life and is also a health risk, and you will reap some benefits in the bedroom if you shed some weight, don’t put your sex life on hold for some future day when you will achieve your ideal weight. Continue to manage your weight in sensible ways while you continue engaging in sex and making the most of it.
There is another way sex and weight are interconnected. For many people, food becomes a kind of substitute for sex. People feeling sexually frustrated (whether from lack of sex or lack of sexual desire) may turn to food or alcohol for another kind of physical gratification. People eat for all kinds of emotional reasons, and that often means unhealthy choices about what or how much you eat. So weight problems are often mixed up with other issues including sexuality. When you crave for food, ask yourself: what are you hungry for? The true answer may be a little alone time with your partner or any other pursuit of sexual satisfaction.
Feeling good about ourselves and believing others see us in a positive light can improve our sexual experience and boost libido. But women who are plagued by self-doubt and worries about how they are perceived, physically or otherwise, will be self-conscious and tentative lovers. That’s already passion killing. If you go far enough down this path, you are likely to come to inability to orgasm. This will be followed by a nose-diving sex drive.
In all forms, low-self esteem indicates that we are not centered enough. And when we are not centered enough, we cannot have an honest and energetic connection with a partner. Good sex involves not only vulnerability, but also the willingness to be open about who we are at a very deep level, which we can’t do if we don’t value ourselves as we are.
Healthy self-esteem changes the equation dramatically. With positive view on oneself, sex becomes something to enjoy personally, and to share willingly with a partner for their enjoyment as well. We no longer feel we need to play roles to gain acceptance of our partner. Sex is no longer transactional – undertaken in the hopes of getting something from the other person.
Solid self-esteem also allows you to value your own body and your own sexuality, which can encourage you, for example, to choose compatible partners and practice safer sex – and to do so for yourself as well as for the benefit of the relationship. With a positive sense of self, sex adds to the intimacy of a relationship but isn’t the only source of closeness.
Having a positive body image is important to supporting solid self-esteem. It allows self-love and self-nurturing. It is also needed to receive love – to open up to someone else. Addressing your body image can redress low self-esteem and help you enjoy sex irrespective of your age.
Published in September 2015.