Overcoming the Mental Obstacles to Great Sex

The obstacles to great sex are not age-related factors. Anyone at any age can suffer from boredom, be too busy for sex, or let duties get in the way of pleasures. But some people use age as an excuse for failing to surmount the following obstacles to sexual pleasure:

THE THREE SEX BANDITS

*Simple boredom. If we don’t seek out new challenges and experiences at midlife, we can fall into a state of ennui, an emotional comma induced by familiar, safe, and repetitive patterns. Boredom is not conducive to passion.

*Assigning low priority to romance and lovemaking. Members of the sandwich generation, those of us caught between the needs of growing children and of aging parents, not to mention jobs, can feel guilty about planning a romantic evening together instead of taking care of others.

*Allowing daily life stresses and time demands to stifle desire. Many of us feel too tired, too tense, too busy, too wound up for sex.

IS IT A GENDER THING?

Men are as apt to find their libido trapped under one of these three big rocks as women are, and they may have more trouble acknowledging the real problem. It is a myth that Women lose interest in sex before men do.

For her 49th birthday, Martha gave herself a career change, turning from a corporate job to running her own decorative-arts business. Rather than being inspired by her energy and enthusiasm for life, her husband was alternately baffled and annoyed by those qualities in her. He was comfortable in blaming external circumstances for his own lack of energy, enthusiasm, and sexual desire.

“Jeff turned fifty six months after I turned forty-nine; and he gave himself a case of the blues instead of a celebratory gift,” she says. “He felt trapped in a job that hadn’t challenged him in years, yet he was certain he was too old to do anything else. Whenever I suggested any kind of change, from professional to personal, he had excuses for not trying anything new. Our sex life suffered too. He teased me about being a ‘horny old broad’ when I tried to initiate lovemaking, but he was insistent about pushing me away.”

Another woman might have allowed rejection and criticism to dampen her own ardor. When one spouse loses interest in sex, he or she typically brings—or attempts to bring—the other down to the same level. Apathy loves company. A change in attitude is the first step toward surmounting the mental obstacles to great sex. If changing your own negative attitudes can be difficult, how is it possible to help change your partner’s thinking?

FIVE SOLUTIONS FOR OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES

1) OPEN A DISCUSSION

Get your partner to talk about why he or she believes there is no time for romance, no room for change, no reason to feel like a sexual being at this point in life. Saying the reasons out loud forces us to examine them for validity. Martha insisted that Jeff both talk and listen to her. At first she didn’t challenge his opinions and attitudes. “I knew he would mull over what each of us had said in his own time,” she says. “If I’d forced him to respond to my thinking, he would have rejected it.”

2) AGREE TO REMOVE CRITICAL LANGUAGE FROM THE DISCUSSION

Neither partner can accuse the other of being horny or sex obsessed, hinting that such a state is inappropriate to one of a certain age, or of being frigid, impotent, or over the hill. Each partner should be able to express a desire, or lack of desire, for sex without fear of being judged or ridiculed.

3) BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR MOTIVES

Do you want more sex? A better, closer relationship? Are you concerned about helping your partner pull out of a funk? “I wanted more for both of us,” Martha says. “At first he thought I was being selfish, wanting more sex at a time when he didn’t think he could meet my needs. I was able to convince him I wanted more than sex for us. I wanted him to be alive again and for the two of us to enjoy the rest of our years together in every way.”

4) TEST THE VALIDITY OF YOUR ATTITUDES

Is it a fact or an opinion that one can be too old for sex? A fact or an opinion that duties and obligations must always come before pleasures? Present your partner with some facts about life long sexuality and ask him or her to consider them. Examine your own attitudes and prejudices too.

5) BE OPEN TO CHANGE, NOT MERELY SEXUAL CHANGE

Trying a new intercourse position, renting an erotic video, making love in the morning instead of at night or introducing some other change into your lovemaking routine may not be the place to start. You wouldn’t begin an exercise program with a half hour of aerobic activity if you hadn’t been physically active in months or years. Start with easy changes, such as trying a new restaurant, having mango and kiwi instead of a banana in the morning, or buying a brightly colored shirt or blouse.

“I got Jeff to agree to sign up for some continuing education classes with me,” Martha says. “Our first course was on wine. Jeff became something of a wine aficionado in no time at all. Just having a new interest made him livelier in bed. The night he suggested we take our wine into the bedroom, I was hoping we wouldn’t drain our glasses before making love; and we didn’t.”

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