Like many other people, a lot of my patients want to change their sex life in 2020. They variously want better erections, more (or some) orgasms, wetter vaginas. They want less conflict with their partners, and less shame, guilt, anxiety, or embarrassment. Some also wish they and their partner had more compatible levels of sexual desire.
Here are some New Year’s resolutions that will help many of my patients enjoy sex more. You may find one or more of these helpful, too.
~ Accept that aging influences sex.
As we get older, our reflexes slow down—and that includes erection, lubrication, and orgasm. As we get older, we take more pills—which can affect desire, arousal, and orgasm.
Aging almost always brings physical pain, too (see below).
So it’s wise to accept that once we’re no longer young adults, sex is not going to be like it used to be. That does NOT mean it won’t be as enjoyable—it just means we need to explore new ways of being sexual. And so as we age, communication and the ability to try new things become increasingly important sexual skills.
~ Talk more about physical pain, and design your sex life to minimize it.
By age 35, most of us develop a few aches and pains. For many people, it starts in our 20s. By 50, chronic pain or limited range of motion in some body part or other is usually a fact of life. And eventually, everyone’s stamina declines, whether at 35, 55, or 75.
This means that sooner or later, we may have to give up a favorite sex position or activity. We may need to rest during sex. We may have to find new ways to feel sexy, free, and playful. And all of that starts with talking to our partner about whatever pain my be inhibiting our sexual expression.
If you have a vagina, and if it hurts to put something in there during sex, talk to your partner about that, too. Presumably, s/he doesn’t want sex to be painful for you, and will value the information. If that isn’t true, you have a much bigger problem than sex or pain.
~ If you have penis-vagina intercourse and you’re both fertile, pick a form of contraception, and use it every time you have intercourse.
There’s only one kind of contraceptive that’s perfect. Every other kind involves tradeoffs. And risk. Some methods involve way more risk than others.
If you want to conceive the next time you have intercourse, go ahead. But this “we’re not trying to get pregnant, but if it happens, it happens”—huh? Is this how you make the single most important decision of your life? When people say this, they’re usually wrestling with other issues—like aging, career issues, an uncertain relationship, or the meaning of life. These all deserve attention. If you haven’t figured these things out yet, don’t use an unintended pregnancy to avoid them.
Oh, the perfect contraception? Sterilization. Vasectomy and tubal ligation have some of the highest satisfaction rates of any elective procedures. They’re both safe and straightforward, especially vasectomy.
~ Stop hiding your body during sex.
Your partner knows how much you weigh, how big your belly is, where you’re hairy (and wish you weren’t), and where all those skin tags are. Hiding your body by having sex with clothes on or the lights off doesn’t fool anyone—it just makes it harder to feel close during sex.
If you’re hiding your body tonight, are you planning to hide it for the rest of your life? That sounds like a soul-deadening project. Sex is the one place where you can choose to accept your body exactly as it is, inviting pleasure and closeness into your life. Sounds like a good trade-off—work toward self-acceptance, get rewarded with pleasure, closeness, and all the sexual options you think only beautiful and glamorous people have.
~ Decide if porn is really the issue.
Instead of arguing about porn (“It’s infidelity!” “No, it’s not”; “It’s crap!” “Leave me alone!”), talk about what you really need to talk about—“I’m unhappy about our sex life.”
Yes, that conversation will be uncomfortable, but at least there’s a chance it will actually accomplish something. Arguing about whether it’s OK to watch porn is almost never productive, and it rarely solves the actual behavioral or emotional issues that people are upset about.
~ If you’re a woman over 40, have your obgyn evaluate you for perimenopause; if you’re a woman over 50, have him/her evaluate you for menopause.
If hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is appropriate (and for many, many women, it is), starting it earlier rather than later can give you years more protection from osteoporosis, stroke, and dementia, in addition to relieving symptoms like insomnia and difficulty concentrating.
If your doctor thinks that HRT is dangerous or not necessary or not “natural,” get another doctor.
~ Don’t take a missing erection or orgasm personally.
No one can produce an erection or orgasm on demand. There are almost a jillion reasons that erection or orgasm might be elusive on a given occasion—or most of the time. If your partner struggles with either one, ask if it’s about you. If s/he says no, ask what the two of you are going to do to try to make sex more reliable and enjoyable.
Not taking it personally—being disappointed without being offended—is the single biggest influence you can have over your partner’s body’s frustrating sexual response.
~ Don’t try to prevent infidelity.
You can’t. No one can.
Keeping your partner away from temptation, snooping through their stuff, continually making accusations waiting for a self-incriminating response—none of these work. In fact, each of these strategies helps create the alienated environment in which infidelity looks increasingly attractive.
If you have reason to be suspicious, discuss it in a straightforward way, and come to an understanding. If you’re feeling insecure, discuss that in a straightforward way—and come to an understanding about what you can expect, and in what ways you’ll have to grow.
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If you liked this piece, I bet you’ll enjoy my article at www.martyklein.com/the-7-most-common-questions-about-sex-still/