Sex in your 50s, 60s and beyond can be fabulous – but it can also be complicated in all sorts of ways. Maybe when the kids were young, your sex life faltered, and you and your partner are now looking for ways to revive it. Perhaps you’re in a relationship where side effects of ageing have taken a toll on your confidence. Or you could even be embarking on a sexual relationship with a new partner – which is nerve-wracking at the best of times.
If any of the above sounds like you, now may be exactly the right time to give your sex life – and your partner – a little TLC. We spoke to Relate sex therapist Denise Knowles to get her expert advice on maintaining a wonderful sex life, long after the honeymoon years have passed.
1. Be prepared for change
“Think about your sexual relationship as a sensual, pleasurable experience rather than the procreative process it might have been a few years ago – and begin to recognize that as your body changes, your likes and dislikes may change,” advises Denise. “The first thing to remember is that it’s not all about penetrative intercourse.” Now’s a great time to rediscover other forms of sexual pleasure – so try taking penetration off the menu occasionally.
2. Don’t give up
“A lot comes down to attitude and expectations,” says Denise. “If your attitude is that it’s normal not to have sex much as you get older, and you don’t expect sex often, then that can turn into quite an unsatisfying relationship.” Leave the door open to good sex at any age – even if it doesn’t look exactly the same as it did 20 years ago.
3. Start experimenting
It’s important to be able to try new things as the years go by. Denise advises that you start slowly: “Start by just talking to your partner about your sex life, and put time aside to enjoy the pleasures of one another. Switch off your phone and your computer and make the time for a sensual experience – which might just be giving your partner a massage.”
4. Don’t see erectile dysfunction as a disaster
“Men’s erections may not be as firm as they get older, or their recovery time may get longer – and this can be exacerbated by diabetes or high blood pressure,” says Denise. Your partner may feel pressured to perform, and frustrated if his body won’t cooperate.
“A lot of men think that women are only interested in penetration, but what couples are often craving is actually closeness,” she explains. “Start thinking about how you come to orgasm. For most women it’s clitoral stimulation – so if you are still orgasming, is it really a problem if there’s no erection?”
5. Get back into snogging
We tend to associate kissing with the early days of relationships – and as the years go by, it’s often limited to a peck on the lips. “When was the last time you had a real snog?” asks Denise. “How about putting that into your daily routine? It can help you feel closer to each other, and more inclined to have sex.”
6. Be flexible
As we get older, our skin might react differently to touch. It’s important for both partners to recognize that this is a natural part of getting older. “Communicate, and ask for what you’d like,” says Denise. “That’s not a criticism of their lovemaking – it’s just saying ‘My needs have changed, so please tell me about yours too. How have things changed for us?'”
7. Keep talking
We’ve seen our partners in the most intimate of situations, yet sometimes talking honestly about our feelings can feel very difficult. “There’s often a mutual protection of each other’s feelings going on, where neither party talks about the problem, and this can do more harm than good,” says Denise. Tell the truth about what’s going on, and you can start looking for a solution together.
8. Don’t think of Viagra as a magic potion
In some cases, medication can help to keep a sex life going as time goes by – but make sure your expectations are realistic. “Understand that Viagra doesn’t guarantee great erections,” says Denise. “It only works if there’s desire there too, which can be compromised if your partner feels stressed.” Encourage your partner to talk through any concerns and take this journey together.
9. Tackle perimenopause head on
Going through perimenopause can make you feel exhausted, and it can also cause dryness – but these challenges are not impossible to overcome. “A lot of women don’t like the idea of HRT, but it’s worth researching properly,” says Denise. “And if menopause is causing dryness, look at lubricants. Introducing something like this doesn’t have to be negative or detrimental to your relationship – make it fun to incorporate something new.”
10. Start as you mean to go on
“Many individuals find themselves newly single in their 40s, 50s or 60s, and they’re often concerned about starting a sexual relationship with someone new,” says Denise. “The initial sex can be fuelled by excitement and curiosity about each other. Don’t go in with expectations – just enjoy it and take it slowly.” Tell your new partner what you enjoy, and if there are things that don’t work so well any more, it’s OK to say so. This is your chance to start a new connection on an honest note.
To speak to a Relate therapist, visit relate.org.uk or call 0300 100 1234