man and woman 88.
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Dear Dr. Batya, Our sex life has deteriorated. When I talk to my husband, he comments on our age and acts like I'm the only one with a problem. I'd be interested in your thoughts.- G.L., Jerusalem
You raise lots of interesting questions. As a couple, I don't know how old or young you are and how long you've been together. All will impact your sex life. Clearly things change with time but it should be for the better. One is never too old for sex in a warm, loving and intimate relationship. Remember though, you are only as old as you feel!
Does one of you feel too old to be sexually active? Perhaps things seemed better when you had more time and energy to devote to your relationship. Passion, interest and excitement are all important and may fall by the way side after the honeymoon ends. If things seemed more exciting back then, maybe you've both become lazy or take the relationship for granted. In times of stress, such as with financial concerns, difficult schedules, a new baby or a medical issue, sex may be the first thing a couple gives up. The problem is that it should be the last.
How is your health? Are you both feeling good or do you lack energy, have aches and pains and physically or mentally is one of you just not up to it? Are you taking medication that may impact on your desire? Are you depressed? If being intimate is at a "cost" or has become work, neither of you may have the emotional or physical energy to invest. Intimacy can also mean kissing, holding hands or cuddling. It does not have to and should not always be "all or nothing."
Sometimes one just does not feel like more. One should not miss out on opportunities to lie quietly in each other's arms and tune out the world for a moment. These are moments that build goodwill. Sadly, the longer one goes without touching or kissing, the easier it becomes to avoid that and anything else. I see couples in my office who have gone weeks, months and years with little or no intimacy. A cycle of avoidance can lead to a ton of anger and resentment and can ultimately destroy a relationship.
So the question as I see it becomes: how do you get it to be like it was "back then"? It's time for a makeover. As you get started, the first step is to reflect individually and as a couple on what "back then" means for both of you? In the process, you may want to spend some time on these areas. These are just a few to get you started.
1. Check out how well you communicate. Sometimes it does not just happen naturally. Couples need to learn how to be close to those they care about. They need to fine tune how they communicate with each other. This is essential because communication in the living room, the kitchen and just about anywhere else will ultimately impact on communication in the bedroom. So good communication and intimacy are essential for a good marriage. People need to be able to talk about what they like and don't, what they would like more of and how they feel. This is especially true for women. How do you rate?
2. Take note that men and women are different and have different needs. In general women need to feel loved to be intimate and men need to be intimate to feel loved. Women need their world "in order" to be interested in intimacy. Men can compartmentalize and tune out the world. Women tend to multi-task while men think sequentially. A woman may be thinking of the laundry, the kids in the next room and her to do list. She needs to be connected emotionally to be physically intimate. Listening, being there and helping out is part of emotional foreplay. Women like to talk, discuss and analyze. Sometimes this can be detrimental. Not tuning in to gender differences may lead to feeling left out, unfulfilled or unloved within a relationship. Are any of these issues for you?
3. Take a look at your stressors. What can you both do to change them? Are there things that have you worried that are getting in the way of intimacy? Is time, for example, an issue? To stay connected, you must spend time on your relationship. Putting your relationship on the back burner means you won't have one. It is easy to do this, especially in the beginning of your marriage when you get bogged down with "other" important issues. Can you lower your stressors and could this make a difference for you?
4. Are you bored? All relationships need attention and a little spicing up. Perhaps you two need a get-away vacation? Even an overnight trip can help you reconnect. When was the last time you did something special for your partner? Write a poem, a letter, put a little note in his pocket so he'll find it the next day, give her a massage or read a book together. There are endless possibilities.
How are you each working to improve things? Women and men have very different sexual needs and this aspect of a relationship changes with time, age and comfort with each other. Like a fine wine, a relationship should improve with age. If yours isn't and the distance between you seems greater, please get help from a qualified clinician. These should be the best times of your life.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. firstname.lastname@example.org