You haven’t had sex with your partner in months. The passion in your marriage is gone, leaving you feeling more like roommates than spouses. But since your partner doesn’t say anything about your lack of intimacy and connection, you don’t either. Or worse, maybe you have tried to initiate sex only to be rejected- again.
Maybe I should just accept that after decades of marriage and raising children together, it’s inevitable that we’re more like best friends than passionate lovers, you think.
No, it’s not inevitable! But it may happen if you’re not putting in a consistent effort to maintain your emotional and sexual intimacy,” says Maegan Megginson, MA, LMFT, LPC, a couples and sex therapist at The Center for Couples and Sex Therapy in Portland, Oregon.
Many older couples struggle with challenges in the bedroom, including erectile dysfunction, sexual pain, vaginal dryness, recovery from illness, and low desire. Even emotional issues like resentment, anger, and fighting can cause a couple to feel sexually disconnected from each other, affecting intimacy in the marriage.
But how can a sex therapist help improve these issues with your spouse?
- Sex therapy helps you two communicate better. Sex therapists have experience in talking with their clients about specific sexual health concerns. “If these struggles are never discussed, couples may find they become the biggest issues in the relationship,” says Megginson. “This isn’t because they are incapable of having sex, it’s because they aren’t communicating!”
- Sex therapy offers solutions. A sex therapist can help you uncover the root of your struggles by asking informed questions and giving you information you can take with you into the bedroom. “Sex therapy is talk-only,” explains Megginson. “The therapist will likely recommend exercises for you to do in the privacy of your home to help alleviate the sexual struggle you’re experiencing.”
- Sex therapy can help you explore new ideas. “If you come to sex therapy with an open mind and a willingness to explore, you will find joy and success in sex again, says Megginson. “Having great sex after 50 is all about adaptation! Your body isn’t the same as it was when you were 30, so don’t expect sex to be the same as it was when you were 30.”
- You’ll learn that you’re not alone. Most sex therapists have heard it all, and the sexual health issues you face in your marriage are likely challenges that many older couples face. If you’ve experienced chronic illness or cancer treatments, or issues related to menopause and manopause (yes, men experience age-related hormonal changes too), a sex therapist can help you grieve the loss of your younger body and give you new options and ideas.
- Most marriages can benefit from sex therapy. “Feeling connected and enjoying pleasure with your partner is so important,” says Megginson. “If you’re not feeling much sexual desire, why? What is missing from your life? Are you too stressed? In pain? Is there not enough excitement or foreplay happening between you? Then communicate your needs! If you feel stuck, seek the assistance of a sex therapist.”
But what if your partner is resistant to sex therapy?
“First, ask them why. Are they nervous and uncomfortable talking to a stranger about sex? Do they have fears about what the therapist might say? The more fully you understand your partner’s experience, the more able you’ll be to meet with them validation and understanding,” says Megginson. “Hopefully, with understanding, compassion, and a shared desire to improve the relationship, the most resistant partner will be willing to take the terrifying leap into couples and sex therapy!”
Megginson stresses the importance of finding a qualified sex therapist to work with: “Find a sex therapist who has specific training in sexual health, rather than a general therapist who is open to talking about sex but doesn’t have any training in sex therapy.”
The American Association of Sexuality Therapists, Educators, and Counselors is a great place to start. You can use their “locate a therapist” tool here.
The bottom line? Physical intimacy is important in marriage. If you’re not feeling sexually fulfilled in your marriage, talk to your partner about seeing a sex therapist. They can help you communicate and solve the problem- and improve your marriage.