y wife and I recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of our first date. We have a solid marriage, but like everyone, we've struggled with the changes that aging brings -- including those that affect our love life. The good news: With simple adjustments, sex after 40, 50, 60 and beyond can be as satisfying as ever, strengthening your relationship rather than becoming a source of conflict and stress.
Sex and the Older Body
Age-related changes in sexuality usually start between the ages of 40 and 50. Many women begin to experience vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse uncomfortable. Men start to find that sexy thoughts are no longer enough and need hands-on help to become aroused. Even then, erections may not be as enthusiastic or reliable as they once were.
Since the biological purpose of sex is to reproduce life, these changes make evolutionary sense. As women and men leave their reproductive years, there's no longer an evolutionary imperative to continue reproductive sex (i.e., intercourse). So there's no biological reason for older bodies to produce natural lubrication or erections.
The trouble is that many people believe that intercourse is sex -- and when intercourse becomes problematic, they think sex must be over. That's a shame. Retiring from being lovers makes a relationship less intimate and ignores the deep human need to experience gentle touch.
Personal lubricants and erection drugs can help … for a while. And yet, two studies of thousands of men over 50 show that fewer than 10 percent have even tried erection drugs, let alone become regular users. Does this mean all these people have given up on sex? No!
The Evolution of Sex
Here's their secret: Couples who continue to enjoy sexual intimacy in the second half of life succeed by evolving their lovemaking away from intercourse and replacing it with kissing, cuddling, whole-body massage, erotic toys and oral sex -- resulting in wonderful, orgasmic pleasure without intercourse.
What's more, men don't need erections to have orgasms. Yes, you read that right. Even with an older, balky or flaccid penis, men can experience climaxes that feel as enjoyable as ever given vivid erotic fantasies and a woman's loving -- and vigorous -- caresses.
Change is challenging -- especially sexual changes. But when older couples help each other through the transition away from intercourse, they can discover a whole new realm of pleasure that brings a new, richer intimacy to their relationship and deepens the love they share.
Michael Castleman has been called "one of the nation's leading health writers" (Library Journal). He is the author of 11 consumer health books and more than 1,500 health articles for magazines and the Web.
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