In my practice, I see Baby Boomer couples who are having great sex, attempting to have sex, experiencing conflict about sex, worrying about getting back in the saddle after a divorce and negotiating sex with someone new, and all manner of other situations.
Sexuality is not just for the young, although it does change as you age. Often, couples haven’t engaged in any sex for a long time because, at some point, there was a failure to get an erection, vaginal pain or dryness, emotional distance, or poor self-esteem about body image or performance. This happened and the couple just gave up. Along with the forfeiture of sex is often a loss of affection – certainly a loss of connection. A couple that has lost their sex life together can start by re-establishing physical touch – hand holding, hugging, kissing, cuddling in bed.
Boomers! Do not give up your sex life! We invented sex, remember?
Put some creative effort into getting sex back into your relationship. Make yourself and your environment sensual – you used to do this – wear silk, light candles, listen to the right music. Remember what used to appeal to you and bring it back. Surprise your partner again. Remember romance?
This is not to say that Boomer sex is not without challenges. In a long relationship, there may be unresolved conflicts and lingering resentments. Resolution of these would make the path back to a sexual relationship more possible and the recovered sexual relationship will help to heal old hurts. Performance anxiety on both sides may be a hurdle if it’s been awhile. For men, this may manifest as Erectile Dysfunction. This man may need more direct stimulation to achieve an erection. Medication, illness, depression and just being older contribute to ED. Men worry more than ever before about performance which creates more anxiety. If there is less than rocket exploding, mind expanding sex, he gives up. Then, she feels rejected, responsible and unattractive. Women also experience performance anxiety and worry about painful sex, lack of lubrication, and inability to achieve orgasm. Women, more than men, suffer from poor body image. Gravity is our enemy, childbirth didn’t help, and where did those hormones go that we once complained about?
Remember what you used to like about your partner and what was most sexy about them. Remember what was most sexy about yourself. Recall memories of great sex you had – at the beach, at your parent’s house with them sleeping in the next room, on a night train headed from one exotic place to the next. Sex that shakes your foundation is the byproduct of a deep emotional connection and not dependent on a 20 year old body.
Having said this, there can be health problems to work with. The emotional effects of an illness can weigh as heavily as the physical. Many people are afraid to resume their sex life after an event like a heart attack, but most people can. If your medical provider says that you are fit for service, you can gradually return to the activities you enjoyed before. Diabetics can protect their sexual function by carefully managing their blood sugar. More mundane, yet vexing illnesses like arthritis make sex challenging. Arthritis makes some positions painful or even impossible. Now is the time to try those Kama Sutra positions from college!
Women may experience diminished sexual arousal. This can be the result of many things that are not necessarily “physical” – depression, conflict in the relationship. For physical causes such as reduced blood flow, there may be solutions. Estrogen creams, other lubricants, vibrators – all can increase blood flow.
Viagra did a lot to get male Boomers back in the game. Of course, he must be aroused for the little blue pill to work. Viagra isn’t always the answer and it isn’t always successful. Viagra and other drugs like Viagra tend to put the entire focus on the penis and the suspense of how erect or if erect at all it will become. This adds stress to an activity that you were hoping would reduce stress.
Consider sex without penetration. There is a whole world of sexual activities to explore. If you and your partner haven’t been sexual in awhile, start with non-sexual touching. Make good eye contact. Cuddle while watching TV. If you stopped sleeping in the same bed at some point – go back! C-Pap machine be damned! Dance. Remember a certain religion forbade dancing because it could lead to sex?
If you have Couple Sexual Problems that you have been struggling with, consider Sex Therapy. Most couples feel extreme anxiety when I propose Sex Therapy. Hollywood has made Sex Therapy a comedy routine or sexy in the extreme – two things it isn’t. You will not be having sex while the therapist coaches. The therapist will help you to talk about the problem. Sex Therapy uses Sensate Focus which was first used by Masters and Johnson. Sensate Focus helps the couple to focus on their sensory perceptions and sensuality and not so much on genitals and penetration. These are behavioral and mindfulness exercises to help you discover what gives you and your partner pleasure. To find a Sex Therapist, go to the website for The American Associates of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.
Many Boomers find themselves single again and want to get back into the dating world. Don’t be afraid, there are a lot of you out there and there are dating sites for Boomers. In starting a new relationship, there may be a need for conversations to be had about sex before the actual sex can be had. Bring this up early – maybe even first date – you’re a Boomer! You will want to be clear that even if there may be physical limitations, you are very intentional about sex.
Remember when The Joy of Sex first came out in 1972? I know you do. It was revolutionary – the first sex guide that was easily accessible. I first saw it on sale at Walden Books in the San Francisco airport! Well, it is new and revised.
Also, check out:
The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty: How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life – by Joan Price
Better Than I Ever Expected – by Joan Price
She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide – by Ian Kerner