As you move through life, changes occur in every direction. Your physical features change, your outlook on life shifts, and you may even become a bit wiser. Have you thought about how sex changes too? It really does! To some, these changes are disappointing reminders of what’s lost. To others, it’s a celebration of what’s to come. As the aging process happens, sexual health is still important-whether you choose to have sex or not. If you choose not to have sex, that’s okay as long as it’s your choice, and you don’t feel that going without is your only option. I want to talk a bit today about those changes and how to enjoy your new chapter of exploration.
When you think about sex and getting older, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Some comments that I’ve heard are, “My time has come and gone”. Another one is, “Things don’t work the way they used to”. My response to both is, “Says who?”. There are several avenues to explore to have a very fulfilling sex life as you age!
Before we tap into the ways to have a fulfilling sex life, let’s look at all the reason things don’t quite work the same as you get older.
Physical Changes This is pretty much the indicator to others that we’re getting older, right? We wrinkle, we lose muscle, and we get a little softer. If that isn’t enough, external sex parts don’t look the same. It’s so easy to get self-conscious about these changes to the point where it’s hard to even imagine being naked in front of another person. Doubting your desire to your partner is very common as you start seeing these changes. On top of doubting yourself with these changes, your body may not feel the same. What used to feel great doesn’t quite do it anymore. Also, the sensations that used to feel great now make your skin crawl.
Part of these physical changes includes sex organs not following directions. For most of your life, your brain probably gave a signal to your sex organ that it’s time to perform, and it performed. Simple as that! Not anymore. As the aging process happens for men, erections don’t come as quickly, and they may not stay with the same ease as before. For women, menopause and post-menopause could bring on vaginal dryness. This could make sex less desirable and flat out painful. These changes can be frustrating for both parties.
Perceived Expectations Remember the days of doing your thing in the bedroom (or whatever room), and twisting in some ungodly positions with pride and ease? Now you’re listening to your knees pop as you get off the couch. Now, here I am telling you to go do what?? “Absolutely not!”, you say. Well, sex doesn’t have to be fancy or acrobatic to be great. It’s easy to focus on what we can’t do as we get older instead of appreciating what our bodies still can do.
Medication and Substance Abuse Another fact of age is that the list of medications tends to increase. These medications can impact sexual desire, penile erection, and vaginal lubrication. Blood pressure medication, for example can impact a male’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Some antidepressants can cause vaginal dryness for females. Substance abuse is also still a reality for some older adults. As the aging process happens, the body can’t break down and absorb substances as it once did. So the substances you were able to take 20 or 30 years ago may come with unexpected side effects now.
Depression I wouldn’t be a mental health therapist if I didn’t address this topic. As you get older, you see and experience things that may be hard to handle. Some realities of life are painful to accept. Health declines. You lose loved ones. Life may not have gone as planned. The rate of undiagnosed depression in older adults is extremely high. One reason is that some older adults don’t realize depression is real. You may think you’re just in a funk or you may feel that things just aren’t quite the same. It not only impacts your thoughts and your mood, but it impacts how your body functions. It’s no surprise sex takes a hit with depression.
Now, we’ve discussed some of the big blows aging can give your sex life. Now let’s talk about what can be done about them.
Communication Again, I wouldn’t be a therapist if I didn’t talk about communication. Did you know that some of those concerns about the way your body looks can go away with a little communication? Talk about what feels good and what doesn’t. If you don’t quite know yet, take it as a challenge with your partner to figure out what feels good for you. You could also do this on your own.
Be Patient If it takes longer to achieve an erection or get lubed, that’s okay. Be patient with yourself and with your partner. Did you know, rushing your body to do what it’s not ready for can cause it to ignore you completely? Give yourself and your partner some grace. While you’re waiting for your body to accept the “Let’s get it on” signal from your brain, engage in some outercourse with your partner. This can include kissing, massaging, oral sex, and manual stimulation. There may be times that outercourse turns into the main course instead of the appetizer. That’s okay too! Especially if medications are the cause of your sexual issues, outercourse may be a great way to go.
Focus on the Positives Instead of focusing on what your body can’t do, focus on what it can do. Maybe you can’t twist up like a pretzel or bend for too long without having a muscle spasm. What can your body do? There are some great books that may give you some insight into ways to have sex without muscle pain. While we’re focusing on the positives, it’s also important to focus on the good things about your body as well. What do you like about your body? Accentuate it in a way that feels right for you. That may include a low-cut nightgown or a well-fitting pajama set.
Get Help Don’t be afraid to get help in any category you may need a boost. If you’re struggling with depression or substance abuse, contact a therapist. If you choose to speak with a psychiatrist about antidepressants, make sure to let he or she know that sex is still important to you, and you’d like this to be considered when providing treatment.
There are also things to assist you during the act of sex, such as toys, rings, and lube. If you’re in the Huntsville area, I happen to know that they have an amazing sex coach, Toni Kennedy, who is extremely knowledgeable about all things sex. If you’re not comfortable going to a store to purchase these, they can also be purchased on www.amazon.com, www.adamandeve.com, and www.enchantasys.com.
Aging can be so loaded with good and not so good. It’s a chapter in your life, just like the others. It’s up to you to navigate through it. Yes, there are many areas beyond your control as you get older, but with help, you can find ways to regain some control. Embrace this new chapter and enjoy your sexuality, whichever direction it leads!