Is it fact or fiction that when you reach a certain age, or if you’ve been married or with a partner for a long period of time, your love life has to decline? If you believe what you see or read in the media, then you would certainly agree that a decline in your love life is almost expected. Images in TV programmes and films would have us believe that sex is a young person’s game, and that us older folk will experience a midlife crisis and go to bed in our pyjamas every night, but in many cases this runs counter to actual true life experiences.
Research has shown that in the USA, most men and women over the age of 60 are still sexually active at least two to three times per month which can actually be more frequent than their children and grandchildren! It is notable that these respondents also rate sex as an important part of life too, and the emphasis in the research was on the quality of the experience rather than the quantity.
However, it is a fact that older people experience health issues and this can be a major factor in why sex life declines as we get older. Some health disorders make sex impossible, or there is a loss of desire. Alternatively, relationship conflicts can douse the smouldering embers of desire. This may be entirely natural - it is thought that a sexual shutdown occurred as part of our evolutionary past, in what is now early middle age, when the perimenopause kicks in for women.
Indeed, this basic lack of desire may have saved women’s lives in the past. Until relatively recently pregnancy was a dangerous business. The older a woman was, the more chance she had of developing complications. Today, contraception means sex is largely worry-free, but unfortunately our evolutionary nature can’t adapt that quickly.
In addition to this, we’re all living far longer than we did years ago.
And of course, there are other factors that can sap your passion. Many people work incredibly long hours, or bring their work (and stress) home with them. There’s maternity and breastfeeding. Families with children, homework, punishing after school schedules and keeping-up-with-the-Jones’s can cite exhaustion. Then there’s increased access to porn, medication that douses the sex-drive and plain and simple indifference.
As we age, we become ever more proficient at certain things. We find ourselves promoted at work because of our enhanced skill sets and experience. We have learned how to manage our finances, we become more proficient at driving, cooking, gardening, maintaining relationships etc. It stands to reason, that after many years of practise, we get better at sex too. We know more about our own sexual preferences, and we have studied our partners’ likes and dislikes. We are more likely to take time to explore sexuality, and focus on the pleasure of our partners, rather than our own.
Studies of people who have been married for a long period of time do suggest that frequency of marital relations tends to wear off. Newly married couple start off all guns blazing, but after a few years, there is a notable decline in frequency. Apparently, one-third of people aged 18 to 59 have sex less than once a month (or not at all because they lack a partner), while another third manage it once a week. The rest? They perhaps have sex twice a week or a bit more.
It is useless to compare your own situation with anyone else’s, all that matters is what works for you. In fact, even if you never engage in coitus, if that works for you as a couple, that’s all that matters. Research suggests one in six American marriages are sexless, but as long as the marriages are comfortable and happy, who should worry?
There has been some research that suggests that key brain chemicals are at play when it comes to the decline of your libido. The intense, romantic stage of love drives up the dopamine, the feel good hormone in the brain, and this increases testosterone and the libido. Unfortunately, over time, this will fade.
Some new research suggests that there is a decline in sex among the young simply because they have too much choice. Our ancestors would have had a limited pool from which to draw their partners, and may even have had a matchmaker. These days, with social media, dating apps, our ability to meet people, we can simply be overwhelmed by potential partners, and in the end, because we fear making a mistake, we choose no-one. Once in a relationship, there are those who experience the fear of missing out and this erodes sexual satisfaction with their long-term partner.
There’s no point in making a comparison. Researchers at the University of Colorado asked more than 15,000 people about their sex lives, and yes, they found a link between sexual frequency and happiness. But that link is not what you might imagine. The happiness reported was entirely relative. If people knew their peers were having more sex than they were, their happiness dipped. The point is, if both partners in a relationship are happy with the quality and quantity, then there really is no problem.
Dry spells without sex will happen, and it is perfectly normal for there to be peaks and troughs in your sex life. Putting pressure on your partner to increase the amount of sex you have will not make your relationship happier, and can actually lead to a decline in overall happiness. Couples who hug, kiss, cuddle and share pleasurable experiences tend to be good at conflict resolution.
It’s a fact that many couples can have some kind of sex well into old age. Medical experts suggest that a satisfying sex life is important for health and well-being, regardless of age. Older adults who are sexually active tend to live a longer and healthier life. As humans our brains are optimized for love, not just passion, and sexual relations with someone we love are always the most satisfying. If you want a dynamic sex life it is perfectly feasible to have one, but it takes work, and you will need to explore the reasons for the decline in your love life in the first place, and then take steps to boost your libido.
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