TABLE OF CONTENTS
How to Navigate
Changes at Midlife
Sexual Problems at Midlife
Causes of Sexual Problems
Reminders & Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Give Us YourFeedback
Among Americans age 65 or above, there are only 7 men for every
Lack of a partner. Not having a sexual partner may be the most basic of sexual challenges, but it’s one that’s pretty common for women at midlife and beyond. For instance, among Americans age 65 or above, there are only 7 men for every 10 women. This is largely because of the 5-year difference in the average life span of women (80 years) and men (75 years) in the United States. Throw in the fact that US women marry men who are, on average, 3 years their senior, and a woman’s risk of eventually becoming a widow increases further. High divorce rates in recent decades have also raised the chances that women (and men, for that matter) will be unattached at midlife and beyond. The lack of a partner is also more likely with advancing age even for women whose sexual partners are other women, since the death or disability of a partner becomes an ever greater possibility as we age regardless of the partner’s gender.
Even if a woman dates or meets a potential mate after losing a partner, turning that new relationship into a sexual one is not always easy. Some women who haven’t had a sexual partner for a long time may fear that they’ve “forgotten how to have sex” or won’t be able to become aroused or have an orgasm with a new partner. Others may feel self-conscious about being naked with someone new. Still others may be plagued by guilt about “betraying” the memory of a longtime partner by being sexual with a new partner.
Relationship challenges. Of course, just having a partner is no guarantee of a fulfilling—or even an active—sex life. Couples’ sexual problems may stem from tensions or distance in the nonsexual spheres of their relationship, or a sexual issue may be at the root of broader relationship difficulties. Many sexual challenges that couples face are linked to one or more of the following:
Communication is particularly critical as
the physical changes
of middle age emerge.
It’s important to recognize when relationship issues are at the base of sexual problems and to focus on the underlying relationship when that’s what’s really needed.
No matter what steps you might take to address sexual problems in your relationship, if you are no longer close to your partner emotionally or if there is anger or mistrust in the relationship, you’re not likely to have a satisfying sex life. It’s important to recognize when relationship issues are at the base of sexual problems and to focus on the underlying relationship—through counseling, if necessary—when that’s what’s really needed. Sex therapy can be an important part of counseling for couples, as discussed later in this program.