People who enjoy rewarding sexual relationships live happier, longer and healthier lives than those who lack intimacy. But many relationships lose their spark after just one year, according to a study, and 40 per cent of couples who have been together for four years have sex just twice a month.
A quarter of people are dissatisfied with their sex life
A 2014 study commissioned by Relate and Relationships Scotland, The Way We are Now, found that a quarter of people are dissatisfied with their sex life.
Denise Knowles, sex therapist with Relate, agrees that intimacy, including sexual intimacy is crucial to happy partnerships, but that couples do seem to be making less and less time for sex. ‘If you look back over the last decade, studies do indicate that sex is being pushed lower down the priority list. I think the recession has had a lot to do with. People are holding down two jobs to make ends meet, working shift patterns and worrying about money. Anxiety and stress are well-known passion killers.’
Couples with young children may also find it almost impossible to maintain their own romantic relationship while the children are the focus of attention. ‘Sex may be the last thing on their minds when the baby is screaming, the children need a bath and someone has to remember to sort out clean clothes for the next day,’ agrees Denise Knowles.
Strategies to start regaining the spark
There are simple strategies to start regaining the spark, even when time constraints are severe. ‘Start by making time for each other and showing that you care about them and how they feel. Even a simple back rub, or saying hello and goodbye as you go off for different shifts,’ advises Denise Knowles.
If you haven’t been having sex regularly for ages, you aren’t going to start having hot nights of passion straight away.
If you haven’t been having sex regularly for ages, you aren’t going to start having hot nights of passion straight away. ‘If your sexual relationship has gone off the boil, a night of passion is not going to turn the situation around. Women, and men, really want their partner to pay them more attention. Start with date nights, even if that simply means buying a takeaway and eating it together while you chat about your day. Turn the TV off so you can concentrate on each other and really listen.’
It can help to agree that one night each week is reserved for your ‘date’ whether that means getting a baby sitter and going out, or staying in and eating a meal together.
Going to bed at the same time can also be a good strategy – so you are at least in the same place at the same time. ‘It’s amazing how many people let one partner go up to bed and joins them hours later when they are fast asleep and the moment has well and truly passed.’
And while a glass of champagne can be romantic, trying to inflame passion by plying someone with alcohol can have the exact opposite effect. Alcohol can remove inhibitions, but it also slows down reaction times, dulls the senses and makes it harder for a man to get and maintain an erection.
Feeling better about yourself and your body can also make you more comfortable in an intimate relationship. ‘Watch your diet and eat healthily so you feel good. If you can’t make time to go to the gym, or its simply beyond your budget, try walking up the stairs at work instead of taking the lift. Or do the school run on foot instead of by car.’
For some people, intimacy does not have to mean sex at all. ‘You can have a cuddle and hold hands and feel really loved. As long as both partners are satisfied, then intimacy can be short of full sex and still be incredibly rewarding,’ explains Denise Knowles.
Libido does decline naturally with age but older people can have extremely rewarding sexual relationships, right into their seventies and eighties.Contrary to myth, the menopause doesn’t usually cause loss of libido, and indeed many women feel a lot sexier and have more orgasms in the postmenopausal part of their life.
Erectile dysfunction affects about half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 and 7 in 10 men aged 70 and above.
But there can be mechanical problems which make it harder for men and women to enjoy sex later in life. Erectile dysfunction affects about half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 and 7 in 10 men aged 70 and above. Viagra is a drug which can improve blood flow and make it easier for men to get and maintain erections.
Loss of the female hormone oestrogen cause also lead to vaginal dryness and soreness after sex. This problem may be eased with hormone replacement therapy or simple lubricants.
‘When it comes to sex, there is no ‘game over’ when you get to a certain age says Denise Knowles. ‘Sex in later life can be the best ever.’