Reprinted from HuffPost50.
Why, you may ask yourself, are you not having wild, spontaneous sex now that you and your partner have been together for five, ten, fifteen, maybe twenty or more years? The honest answer is this: it was never spontaneous in the first place, and good sex never is.
Think back to when you were first dating. 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, decided what to wear, where to eat and many other details. Now the planning seems more deliberate. But that in itself can be sexy.
According to Esther Perel, relationship therapist and a key expert I interviewed for my chapter on sex in “The Best of Everything After 50,” it’s all about the willingness to engage, which can lead to desire, which often leads to arousal, which brings you to the experience. Couples who have a good sex thing going — even after many years of being together or if they’ve just started dating — take time to figure out what they need to do to make it happen. Whatever it is, they know what it takes to make the transition from the work or domestic life to the erotic life, and they make planning a huge part of the erotic journey.
Admittedly, this can be especially challenging for couples who have been together for a while, causing things to get a bit stale in the bedroom. Add to the mix the negative sexual impact many common drugs (for cholesterol, hypertension, and so on) can have on the libido of both men and women, the physical complaints women often have during and after menopause (dryness) which can make sex less comfortable, and the constant stream of externals such as jobs, children, parents and so on. It’s not exactly conducive to swinging from chandeliers.
Perel also points out that a woman, especially, could fall into the trap of realizing that her experience of sex is changing and decide that she is done with it. She could shut down that part of herself, lock the door, and throw away the key … forever. She could decide to focus on the dryness, the discomfort and the slowing down of her sex drive. Or she could solve the physical problems and embrace this new life with a sense of freedom — no more periods, no more worries about getting pregnant, no more doing it because there has to be a result (children). Instead, she can view sex as a form of play, fun and pleasure. It’s a choice.
Life can present stressful situations — illness, death, job loss, aging parents — that can wreak havoc on your erotic life. There will be periods in your life — at any age — when you are dealing with external distractions (including children) and you could become less active sexually. But that doesn’t mean you should stop thinking of yourself as a sexual being, deserving of good sex. There’s something that Perel calls the “erotic space” that allows you and your partner to shed the other aspects of your life. Planning how and when to enter that space can be just as sexy and satisfying as the experience itself.
How do you make an erotic space? Whether you have kids or not, parents to deal with or job-related stress, an erotic space is essential to having an erotic life with your partner. It’s not a physical place, necessarily, but an emotional spot where the two of you go to get physical, if that’s what you want. The erotic space is where you come together — not as responsible and productive citizens, adults, parents or caregivers — but as lovers. It’s a space where sex can happen, and often does. It’s a space where neither one of you is busy taking care of anyone else.
The list of excuses for not having sex is endless, and saying “no” can become habit-forming. But, the most important way to start the planning, and create the erotic space, is to have the willingness to be engaged in desire. If you’ve been ignoring, neglecting or denying your sexual self for a while, then you must consciously decide that you want sex in order to even let yourself feel desire. Willingness should never be confused with pity sex or sex you feel you must do. It’s a simple acknowledgement that you are ready, able and willing.
You or your partner may need to nudge yourself into a state of willingness sometimes, and that’s okay. We talk ourselves into doing things all the time — going out, attending an event, cooking dinner — even when we don’t feel like doing it. But people think we shouldn’t have to talk ourselves into having sex, just as they often believe — erroneously — that sex should be spontaneous. That’s wrong. Talking yourself into having sex can actually be a turn on.
Our sex lives can be as hot as we want, for as long as we want. It’s up to us. Engaging in sex can be wonderful, but it doesn’t always have to be the end result. Keeping in touch with yourself as a sexual being and being willing to enter the erotic space with your partner will sustain your erotic life and keep it fresh and fun.
Once you’ve built — or rebuilt — a solid sexual foundation with your partner, then the real fun can begin. Because, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?