EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT SEX
Everybody talks about sex, but few people are really honest about it. Great sex, even just plain sex, doesn’t happen half as often as we wish it would. Your neighbors spend just as many Saturday nights at home watching TV, and eating too much ice cream as you do. Really, TV, movies and advertising may make you think good sex is everywhere but looks can be deceiving. Don’t be fooled by bravado, very tight clothes, and a certain facial expression with parted lips and glazed eyes. As for those ads for prescription drugs, they make it look so easy, you may wonder if those pills also cure stress, lack of time, mental exhaustion, and loneliness.
Ebbs & Flows
Don’t reduce your expectations and don’t pretend you don’t care or that sex doesn’t matter. Sex drive drops as we age, but it’s not a steady downhill race. Desire ebbs and flows, it shows up in different forms as we grow older. Sexuality doesn’t disappear with age or illness. Even if your partner is not able to be sexually active, the desire for intimacy, fondness, affection, and connection remain. Paying attention to desire and recognizing it with a simple touch can be fabulously fulfilling for both of you.
Sometimes you have to find a different way to look at your situation. Even after all these years, I sometimes look at my husband and wonder where he came from. No, I don’t mean what planet. I think about the experiences we’ve had separately and together that have changed us from kids to man and woman. Even when I am moody, full of rage because he didn’t take out the garbage or feeling lonely, misunderstood or uncared for, the very fact of his existence can fill my heart with affection. These private moments keep us together, and an unexpected knowing look or little kiss can rekindle the flame.
Desire Is Human
I would be foolish if I said sexuality is immune from circumstances beyond our control. My recently widowed aunt brought the house down when her friends were talking about backrubs. “Heck,” she said, “I want a front rub.” My aunt was relieved to find she felt desire, it was her first clue that she was ready to move on and start her new life as a single woman. Grief and caregiving often take a toll on our bonds, no matter how strong our relationship may be. Those connections need to be nurtured and having sex may be the right way to do it.
Some people claim that familiarity and access decrease sexual pleasure. Age, familiarity, your job, or the kids can be used as excuses to relieve yourself of any responsibility for this discouraging state of affairs. You and your partner are both responsible for your sex life; if you are unhappy your partner probably is too. In addition, research points toward "use it or lose it." In other words: The more sex you have, the more you’ll want to have sex.
Communication Is Key
Sex doesn’t have to be silent. An awkward moment is nothing compared to what you can gain by taking the risk to open the discussion. Talk with your partner, ask what sensations are most pleasurable, and be prepared to experiment. This is the time for you to tell each other what you do and don’t like. Allow your partner to explore your body. Spots that were ticklish when you were 20 may be open to touch now. Feet and toes can be lots of fun. If your sex life really has been on hold, it may take a little time to get your body going again. Stress reduces libido so be patient and have fun and allow yourself to take your time. If the conversation doesn’t lead to sex, it should lead to an intimate conversation. It’s useful to remember that most of us needed a lot of practice to learn to have great sex. It can be relaxing to limit things to heavy petting and see what happens
Express your desires, ask questions, find out if your partner is satisfied, and what your partner wants. You never know, the conversation may dissolve an unknown tension between you. Be careful not to let the conversation turn toward identifying reasons that sex doesn’t happen. "You’re always with your mother,” and “There's never enough time” are excuses. Finger-pointing and laying blame may be easier than trying to identify the real barriers to your sexual relationship, but it will not lead to intimacy. These demands can complicate your love life, but they are not the cause of reduced desire. Your reason for seeking this conversation is to learn more about your partner restore your relationship and get your sex life back on track.
Those Undies Can Light a Fire
A candlelit dinner, new undies, and a weekend away are often recommended to jump-start a romantic adventure. Realistically, there isn’t always time or money for a get-away. As caregivers, we sometimes believe our responsibilities require us to be there for our family members. If you let it, that sense of responsibility can become an excuse for not doing what you want.
Wherever you are, at home or in a hotel, sometimes you can’t turn off the part of your brain that is concerned about your loved one. Your parents or your children are the last people you want in your bed, so talk to your partner and discuss both of your feelings. Your partner may miss your companionship and attention. These are not easy things to talk about. Allow your partner to talk. You can’t afford to brush off your partner’s feelings, so listen.
Sex can be a real catch-22. People avoid sex because they are tired, or busy, or stressed, or afraid to talk about it. Like many secrets, talking about sex is not going to turn off your partner. It may be just the opening your partner has been searching for. It’s possible your partner has been avoiding sex out of consideration for your feelings. Talking about your needs will bring you closer reduce the stress. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, you won’t get your groove back just by wishing. So do it, take a deep breath, relax, and start the conversation.