Today we launch our new advice column that addresses the challenges of sustaining relationships and sustaining sanity while navigating the shifts in the life cycle after 50. Iris Krasnow is a veteran Huff/Post50 blogger, relationship expert and bestselling author whose specialty, as she calls it, is "finding answers to soothe female generational angst".
Her six books that range from I Am My Mother's Daughter to The Secret Lives of Wives explode with raw stories about real issues affecting real women. This is also the goal of this column -- to create a safe space to air what's rousing you about intimacy, parents, grown children, work-life balance and anything else on your mind.
This column will run every other Monday, and writers of questions selected will remain anonymous. So ask away -- your secrets are safe with us at:
Ask Iris at: iriskrasnow.com
Q: I am a healthy 58-year-old woman married for 32 years. Up until the age of 48 or so, my husband and I enjoyed an active sex life, two or three times a week. Then things tapered off to where we can go a couple of months without really touching beyond hugging and giving each other a little peck on the lips. We sleep in the same bed, on opposite sides of the California King.
Lately after we say "Good night" and give each other the obligatory kiss I feel like we are like an old couple in our 80s who have moved beyond sexual cravings or can't perform anymore. Here's the catch -- we have both been fine with this arrangement. We talk about how we seem to have settled into a lazy phase that is very comfortable but not romantic. And this is not a man having an affair nor could I be one conducting a secret dalliance. We both work from home and are together every night. Neither of us are interested in drugs to rev things up.
Are we normal? My closest girlfriend who just turned 60 tells me she and her spouse are still doing it all the time. I listen, smile and say things like "Wow, how great!" and never share anything about our own sexless situation.
What if I never get the urge back? I still find my husband immensely attractive and I want to want to get it back.
Photo: Iris Krasnow
A: I get this question a lot. There is no normal or a gold standard when it comes to frequency of sex in intimate relationships. Some couples have a lot of sex, some couples have a little sex, some couples don't have sex for years, and many people lie about sex.
There is no normal or a gold standard when it comes to frequency of sex in marriage. Some couples have a lot of sex, some couples have a little sex, some couples don't have sex for years, and many people lie about sex. Several studies on sexual behavior over the age of 50 find that some 20 percent of women report having sex perhaps once a month or only several times a year. Yet that figure could actually be higher. Even in the most reputable sexuality studies the subjects aren't given lie detector tests. So no one really knows the whole truth about what's going on behind closed doors except the two people in that room.
Sexperts and marriage therapists I've interviewed over more than three decades of reporting on relationships estimate that up to 20 percent of their married clients reveal that they aren't having any sex at all. At least you're not in the total drought category. You're also lucky that you and your partner share similar libidos at this juncture of your marriage. Many committed partnerships going through sexless stages are poisoned by anger because one person is craving more intimacy than the other. That scenario is ripe for infidelity.
As for your best friend, I'm sure if you're that tight she's an honest gal. Yet there's a chance she, too, could be acting out a charade to compensate for something missing. Recently I observed a long married couple at a party that were all over each other. You know the type; limbs locked, calling each other "sweetie", dangling olives on toothpicks from martinis into each other's mouths, lots of slurpy kissing.
As a nosey relationship writer, I cornered the wife to find out how her relationship stayed so hot. Sucking down her second martini she revealed that she and her husband of 22 years hadn't had sex for five months. "We are our most romantic when we are in front of other people," she explained.
So don't compare yourself to others -- the only people who know the truth about what's going on behind closed doors are the people behind those doors. Our hormones are all hard-wired differently, as I discovered while researching my latest book Sex After...Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes. The clear takeaways from my interviews with mature women in long relationships is that sexual desire and activity varies sharply, person to person, as we age.
But do keep up some type of touching: A landmark study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concluded that even hugging twice a day is directly related to lowering blood pressure and the reduction of heart disease. When you really start fondling, the oxytocin starts pumping wildly, cutting risk for other stress-related illnesses such as stroke and depression.
Aside from all the heavy stuff I've laid out I'll leave you with something light and alluring: Remember that intimacy with a loving partner can be a whole lot of fun. Keep working on it. Try new toys and techniques. Be encouraged by this fact of science --the more sex you have the more sex you will want. And you just may find, like many partners discover, that sex after 50 is the best of all because it isn't focused on slam and bam. It can be more about creativity and exploration.