Barbara Hannah Grufferman


What I Know About Sex Now That I’m In My 50s

My husband and I met in the sweltering summer of 1992 and started rocking and rolling immediately. But from the moment we got married a year later, we were 1) thinking about getting pregnant, 2) in a state of pregnancy, 3) recovering from pregnancy or 4) enjoying (and coping with) the results of pregnancy: babies, toddlers and, now, two teenagers. It wasn’t exactly conducive to swinging from chandeliers.

During those early years, sex was focused more on a result (children), but that’s no longer the case. Like most couples over 50, we are free to have sex pretty much whenever we want. But, do we?

I tried to find some statistics about how many times per week married Americans over 50 made love (with each other), but there were so many different studies saying so many different things, it was hard to suss out the truth. One stated that married couples over 50 had sex once or twice a week, while another claimed it was closer to once or twice a month.

Confused and in need of more information, I met with Dr. Margaret Nachtigall, a reproductive endocrinologist in New York City, who shared some statistics from a study done by the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior:

A study of married couples found age and marital satisfaction to be the two variables most associated with amount of sex. As couples age, they engage in sex less frequently, with half of couples age 65-75 still engaging in sex, but less than one fourth of couples over 75 still sexually active. Across all ages, couples who reported higher levels of marital satisfaction also reported higher frequencies of sex.

This study left me feeling that the older we got, the less we got it. Not good, especially because the more we get it, it seems, the more satisfied we are.

I raised this topic with some girlfriends one night over a bottle of wine, hoping to get insights into their concerns, and (yes, I admit it) how often they had sex (with their partners).

We all had the same question: I love my husband and he loves me, so why aren’t we having as much hot sex as we used to? We want to have sex, but sometimes we just aren’t into it. How do we get in the mood? We all hated thinking that things were slowing down, and that they might slow down even more. For sure, menopause can sometimes make sex uncomfortable, and our libido can drop off. But just because a woman is post-menopausal, does she automatically lose interest? Forever? Was that my future? Was I supposed to lock this door and throw away the key?

I was getting worried. And whenever I get worried, I do research. Finally, someone suggested I meet with Esther Perel, author of the best-selling Mating in Captivity, which explores many of the questions my friends and I were confronting – specifically, why couples who have been together for a very long time often can’t sustain a rich, enjoyable sexual life … together. Esther was particularly eager to find out because in her view, sex after 50 may be the best sex we’ll ever have.

First, she said, we had to address some long-held views about sex after 50 that may not be true.

    • Women over 50 are sexually dysfunctional due to menopause. According to Esther’s research, the majority of women over 50 are sexually healthy. Sexual problems that are menopause-related can be addressed with simple solutions like lubricants or estrogen.
    • Men think women over 50 are sexually undesirable. Esther has rarely encountered a man who says his low sex drive is related to how his wife looks, or her age. But, he will be turned off if she has stopped being interested in sex. Men want women who want sex.
    • If you’re not having spontaneous sex, it must mean your sex life is over. When, Esther asked, was sex ever spontaneous? When you were first together, you had sex on your mind for hours, maybe even days, leading up to the experience. In many cases, you set the date, thought about it, planned the evening — even what to wear. It may have seemed spontaneous, but it wasn’t. Good sex is planned sex.
    • If a couple is having less sex, it’s her fault. News flash: If a woman over 50 is having less sex, chances are it’s him, not her. In men, low sex drive is often related to health problems or medications he may be on, many of which are known to create some sexual functioning challenges. Men aren’t used to needing stimulation, and it can be troubling. Sometimes he’ll just avoid it, causing the woman to think he’s no longer attracted to her — which results in a sexual Catch-22.
    • If you want to have a better sex life, you need to get closer. On the contrary, Esther says, excess information and over-sharing can put the kibbosh on desire, while a little mystery can fuel sexual attraction. Creating an erotic space between you and your partner is essential for good sex. (I share lots of tips on how to do that in The Best of Everything After 50.)

So here’s the big reveal: After 50, we’re at a sexual crossroads, and need to make a choice: We could go through menopause, shut down that part of ourselves, lock the door and throw away the key. Or we could embrace this new life with a sense of freedom and fun – no more periods, no more worries about getting pregnant, no more doing it because there has to be a result. You may very well find yourself having the best sex … ever!

And finally, one little bit of advice: Stop looking for studies about how often other people have sex. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors (no matter what they say to the survey interviewer). And … who cares?

* * *
Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the President of Best of Everything Media, Inc., author of“The Best of Everything After 50″, a guide to positive aging, and is at work on her second book, “Fifty Rules: What Every Woman Needs to Know Before Turning 50″ which will be published in late 2012. Barbara is the Chief Pundit at FOF, one of the largest websites for women over 45. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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8 Responses to “What I Know About Sex Now That I’m In My 50s”

  1. [...] enter for a chance to win your own 90 day supply. Barbara Hannah Grufferman explores the topic of sex after 50 with internationally known expert, Esther Perel. Deb of No-Nonsense Beauty Blog looks at her dark [...]

  2. 58yroldguy says:

    Um, no, its her.
    I’m still wanting to chase my wife around, but she’s the one pushing back.
    Sure, things hurt (back, hips, knees) more than they used to.
    I don’t look like I’m 30, surprise, she doesn’t either, but we’re holding up ok.
    The old boy isn’t as spry as he used to be, so yes, no quickies on the kitchen table (um, never did that anyway), but everything still works for both of us, but she’s not really interested.
    So, that comment is becoming correct. She’s not interested, but she doesn’t get it , that’s half the battle, he being interested.
    Cmon ladies, don’t give up.

  3. Patti says:

    I must be the odd over 50 female. I am in a relationship with a male have been for over 5 years. We are both over 50 and I am the one who wants to have sex and affection he doesn’t. I have to admit, I am hurt by this and it definitely adds tension to the relationship. He has gone to the doctor and has been tested. He has low testosterone and has diabetes. He was put on testosterone which did nothing but added weight, so he went off the medication. He is on medication for his diabetes. So, now he is no longer any medication for his testosterone level. We have sex maybe once every 3 months. We get along great, this is the only issue that we have. But, it is an issue, I need affection. What should we do?

  4. Suz says:

    I am 53 and my Husband of 32 years is 59. We have sex less often but when we do it is amazing. Sometimes planned sometimes not . With us it is a toss up as to who isn’t as interested in sex at the time. My husband does seem to overall be occupied with other things and it doesn’t pop in his head as often as it use to. Now in the last year that has started to happen with me. I had a hysterectomy 5 years ago and need no hormone replacement. I think that having a fulfilling sex life has actually helped me with that. We still cuddle, hold hands and have quiet moments. We are not in the best of shape, or look like we did 30+ years ago, but we still find each other extremely attractive and we are in love. Sex is part of that. Men show your women you love them, be a hunk, make them laugh, make them feel protected. Women, show your men how much you desire them, flirt with them, smile- a lot and let them know how much you need them.

  5. Diana L says:

    I am SO sick of hearing about how great sex is after 50.
    Prior to menopause, I loved sex. Practically lived for it. Was ready for it anytime and never had problems achieving orgasm.
    Post menopause, my libido went out the window even though I am healthy, plus still active and slim. I even stil, think my husband is hot, well, theoretically. I have NO sex drive. I still do my best for my husband’s sake, but that part of me is just dead. Lab tests show I have very low estrogen even for a post-menopausal woman, and not even a trace of te s tosterone. But my doc discourages my taking hormones because of family history of breastfeeding cancer.
    I had hopes for natural treatment and positive thinking, but three years later I’ve admitted that none of it has helped a bit. Just once, I’d like to read an article that says menopause may well mean the end of sexulaity de s ire for some women followed by suggestions on how to accept this and move on, and how to manage your partner’s needs if he still wants sex. I would really like to know those thinge.

    • Joan says:

      I believe Diane has some valid points.

      I have been seeing a hormone specialist post menopause and she tells me that most of the women she sees complain of decreased libido and functional problems with arousal and orgasm. Not all of these problems can be cured with lubricant and estrogen. Not all women can take hormones.

      Many of us try all kinds of “tricks” to kick start our bodies and minds again, often to the point of exhaustion, only to be disappointed at our bodies lack of enthusiasm.
      Many of us would love sex to just drop out of the relationship all together but we still have our husbands to think about.

      The problem I have found is that there is NO information available to help us who’s bodies have shut down with how to deal with our reality.
      All I can find are articles telling me that I must be dysfunctional. Sex is wonderful! Relationships without sex are bound to fall apart. None of this is helpful.
      Many women have to deal with the REALITY that their bodies don’t want sex anymore.

      How do we mentally cope with a husband who still needs sex often?
      How do we convince him that what we are going through is real and not in our minds or some kind of excuse to not have sex?
      How do we gear ourselves up mentally to engage in sex that’s no longer pleasurable and sometimes painful?

      This sex positive culture is probably a good thing but for a large portion of us, it just isn’t REALITY.

  6. Still sexu at 55 says:

    I have been married since my mid late 20′s. I had my only child at 40. The life change started right after. We managed the best we could. Since my early 50′s I think about it all the time. My husband is 3 years older than me and we both are in good physical shape for our age. Because I have expressed my interest to him it seems to improved his interest as well. Your not to old if you understand your body and accept your sexuality. I enjoy looking good for myself as well for him. He takes notice and appreciates the effort. If your man is not as interested as you…you ladies know what you need to do. He doesn’t mind doing it for you. We have sex at least 4 times a week. Sometimes more than that if we have sex more than once a day
    Sometimes you really have to think about sex to really want it.

  7. jack says:

    I am a man who is in a relationship with a 50 year old lady. I am in my mid 30s and was kinda worried that age will affect our sexual drive. But reading your comments help me a lot. Thank you so much.

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