Understanding Midlife Male-Female Relationships (or, What the Hell Happened to My Sex Life?)

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

I decided to write this because I know a number of men my age who are genuinely puzzled at the decline of sexual intimacy in their marriages. These are good men and good husbands who sincerely love their wives, but they cannot figure out what has gone wrong in the bedroom. I’m hoping my experiences and perspective can help shed some light on this for them. Of course, no two women are the same, but hopefully this will give you a place to start.

First, it’s important to understand that what has happened isn’t “wrong,” per se. It’s partly biology. So let’s start there. Everyone knows, men in particular, that they are hardwired to want sex. Well, women are, too, particularly in their younger, fecund years. But while men’s wiring may not change all that much over time (unless prostate problems enter the picture), women’s wiring does change, and it’s important to understand this before you can begin to resurrect your sex life.

“She’s changed.”

Yes, your wife has changed. People change over time as they grow and mature. In addition to that, women can enter perimenopause as early as their 30s, but more often in their 40s. By the time they get into their 50s, they are probably experiencing full-blown menopausal symptoms. Perimenopause can last 10 years or longer. What happens?

The hormones that flowed so regularly and evenly in her 20s are now flowing spottily, and she is more likely to experience a serious surge of hormones—an overdose, really—once or twice a month. These surges are “above and beyond,” you could say, and yes, they can change her personality temporarily. Never underestimate the power of hormones.

During a hormone surge, she is likely to feel more touchy, more nervous, more easily stressed, and generally as though she is about to crawl out of her skin. Guys, you would, too. Trust me on this. During these times, she is going to be more testy than normal, or full-on bitch, from your perspective. From her perspective, her mood is not something she can control; it’s just how she feels. She does not want to be bothered. Ideally, she’d like to sip red wine in a spa somewhere until this thing blows over, but she probably doesn’t get that option.

Men, I’m guessing that when your wife appears to react as though you were the creature from the black lagoon, you take it personally. That’s normal, but stop and consider that sometimes it’s just her body chemistry talking, not her. If you need to give her some space and drink a beer in your man cave for awhile, then do it. But before you consign yourself to the mood swings, know that your wife can get some relief for them if she is motivated to do so. I was tired of being a bitch once or twice a month, so I went to an herbalist, who gave me something for it. And it really does help. Now, I don’t need to tell you that you will need to find a loving and supportive way of encouraging her to help herself, right? (Maybe you could even show her this blog. It could be the start of a healthy discussion.)

“Why won’t she sleep with me any more?”

This is probably the number one thing that bothers men in their relationships. Part of the reason is because they genuinely crave sexual relations with their wives. There’s nothing wrong with that. And the other part is that the wife’s seeming lack of desire feels like rejection, and that is dispiriting.

The female sex drive can decrease with her hormones. While she may get surges that make her cranky, the rest of the time, she may be experiencing a trickle. Again, some herbs may help. It’s also a good idea to consult a western doctor, too, to make sure that there are no other problems that may be interfering with her sex drive. But it’s also important to understand that the desire for sex is not just about hormones, and this is where you have some homework, guys.

Intimacy does not equal sex

Most of the men I know equate sex with intimacy. It isn’t, not to a woman. Yes, it is surely an intimate act, but intimacy is what occurs the rest of the time. Let me repeat:  True intimacy is what occurs when you are not having sex.

If you have buried yourself in your job (because “bringing home the bacon” and taking out the trash fulfills your marital duties), then you are not being intimate with your wife. If you spend more time talking about how you feel with your buddies than with your wife, then you are not being intimate with your wife. If the bulk of your conversations with your wife concern the dinner menu, the children, your taxes, or tiling the bathroom, then you are not being intimate with your wife.

Men, you have deep feelings and insecurities, but you may feel uncomfortable expressing these things to your wife. But if you want to create a truly intimate space—one that will enhance your sex life, too—then you need to start getting real with your spouse. This also means listening to her deep feelings and insecurities, and supporting her. Women are more outwardly expressive of their emotions, while men tend to keep them inside. Learn to let some out occasionally, and you will find that you are creating fertile ground for a deeper relationship. Talk to your wife—and not just about sports.

When you create an emotionally intimate environment in your relationship, sex will more easily and naturally spring from that place of trust. On the other hand, if the only time you approach her for “intimacy” is when you would like to ejaculate, she’s not going to feel very loved or valued for herself.

Foreplay does not begin at 10 p.m.

When your wife was 21, before children and a career, sex could happen any time, any where, at the drop of a hat. But you are no longer living a 21-year-old lifestyle, and it’s time to acknowledge that. If you begin to initiate sex the moment she drops into bed at night, exhausted from her day and with the alarm set for the next one, then you have waited too long. At that point, she is tired and just wants to sleep. She might throw you a bone occasionally, but she probably won’t enjoy it (fake it), and she’ll resent it. That’s not good.

It’s culturally popular to think that sex isn’t “romantic” unless it’s “spontaneous,” but that’s a load of malarkey. In nearly every Hollywood sex scene, the couple run at each other, embrace hotly, and they’ve both tumbled into bed and come within 5 minutes. In a scenario like that in the real world, the guy might come, but the woman definitely did not. And she’s keeping score.

If you really want to have an intimate moment with your wife, you need to think ahead. This will show that you are aware of what’s going on for her and what her stresses are. Does she have a big event or obligation the next day? Or is her schedule fairly relaxed? Think about it. And then start your foreplay before dinner. Seriously.

Bring home some flowers or a bottle of wine. Help her with dinner and dishes. Talk to her about her day. Start the cuddling on the couch. Whatever you do, do not wait until she is so exhausted that the last thing she wants to do is have sex.

Relationships change over time, so you have to change with them

The main thing to recognize is that you cannot compare your current relationship with the way it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago. It has changed; it will change. If you’re committed to it, you will work with your wife to figure out how to respond to each other’s changing needs. Yes, your wife should want to meet you half-way in the bedroom. She may not know how. Be helpful and loving, not judgmental or hurt. It isn’t really all about you, even though it feels that way. Talk to her so that you can understand where she is today. Tell her where you are today. Let her know how much you still value the relationship—and her. Just showing this level of commitment is an aphrodisiac.

Good luck, men! We need you. Don’t give up.

Intersections

children_holding_hands_iStock_000004544472Small“Why can’t we all just get along?”
—Rodney King

Although this quote has been bandied about so much that it has largely lost its meaning, it’s a valid question. What on earth is preventing us from coming together in a spirit of compromise to solve our problems? Are we really planets apart? Is there a “great divide” that is insurmountable? Are we really so intolerant of one another?

The media and our politicians would have us believe that there is a chasm between two “sides,” and that “their” side will save us, and the “other” side will doom us. It’s a ridiculous idea, but even ridiculous ideas can take root and color our perception if we allow them.

I know many people from all walks of life. Some are liberal; some are conservative. Some are wealthy; some are very poor. Some are religious; some are atheists; some are somewhere in between. I have come to know their opinions and beliefs, some of which are strongly held and often expressed. But the most important thing I have come to understand from all of them is that there are places where we all agree, even in the midst of profound disagreement. These intersections of agreement are where we must begin.

It may seem that there can be no intersection, no agreement with someone whose beliefs are on the opposite end of the spectrum from you. And it’s true that you may disagree about much, but it is also true that you can find the places where you do agree by simply shifting your perspective slightly. Reframe the question. Place yourself in their shoes. You may find that you are both seeking happiness, security, liberty, peace of mind, etc., but you have different ideas about how to get there. You may also find, with a little self-reflection, that the fears, control issues, worries, and the like that you see reflected in that person’s beliefs are also living in you—they just express themselves as different beliefs.

Of course, there is one place where we always intersect. It is the only place that matters. It is the place that Christ talked about. It is the place that Gandhi talked about. Martin Luther King, Jr. Countless masters, known and unknown, all understood the one place where we always intersect:  Love. No matter how far apart we think we are, we intersect in unconditional, unchanging Love. Everything else is an illusion. In this Love, our opinions, our beliefs—no matter how firmly held and important we think they are—turn to dust. They do not matter.

As always, we have a choice. We can choose to stand on opposite street corners and hate and berate. Or we can meet in the middle of the intersection and work together in Love. As the angels said to us, “It takes a right wing and a left wing to fly.”

Namaste.

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One Tree, Many Branches

"Yggdrasil," by Jeroen van Valkenburg Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“Yggdrasil,” by Jeroen van Valkenburg
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

How do you feel about 2012? One cycle is ending; a new one is beginning. Everyone will experience this change differently, in their own way. We are meant to. The Great I AM does not need to experience something the same way twice. Your experience is unique. Your experience matters.

The truth is, we have been here before. At the end of another great cycle, a portion of humanity lost its connection with Spirit, with the sacred. They made a god of technology. They believed they could control the sacred. They experimented with destruction instead of cherishing and nurturing creation. Their society became corrupt, and they turned on themselves. It sounds like I am describing the modern era, but this is also an accurate description of Atlantis in the years before it ended.

We do not have to suffer the destruction that Atlantis suffered. We have a choice. We are here again because those souls are still here. The souls who chose to play the darker side of separation are still here, and the souls who chose to carry the torch of Light even in separation are still here. We are not really at war. But we are playing at the game of Remembering Who We Are from a place of intensely felt separation.

People say that we are One and that there is only the Oneness, but saying it doesn’t necessarily make you understand it or feel it. It’s a little like explaining color to a blind man. He’s never seen color, so how do you describe it? But of course, you have known this, and you do know it, and you will remember it, because you cannot change who and what you are:  a divine cell living in the body of God. A fractal iteration of God. One tree with many branches. Whatever analogy works for you. Nothing exists aside from the Great I AM, so by definition, you and everything you see ARE the Great I AM.

When Atlantis fell, the vibration of our planet was lowered. The great teachers, known and unknown, could not remain on this plane and in this density, yet they are still here. The elves, the dragons, the djinn, the great magicians of Light are all still here, waiting. And now is the time they have been waiting for. Now is the time we all have been waiting for.

The new cycle has already begun, in truth. You can hold expectation for the winter solstice of this year, and we may indeed experience something around that time. But the changes are already here. The earth is healing. Everyone is being asked to heal. Anything that is out of integrity is crumbling. Changes may be difficult and challenging, but embrace them. They are our opportunity to create a better world. A healthier world. A world grounded in Love and the understanding that everything we see is utterly and completely sacred.

The Norse believed that the Universe consisted of Yggdrasil, or the world tree, which held the nine worlds. A tree is a good symbol of our Oneness. They are anchored in the earth, and their branches scrape the sky. They provide homes and nourishment, and they actually affect the climate and the air we breathe. We are intricately bound up with everything there is, and we have denied this for far too long. Let us forgive ourselves for this ignorance. Let us ask forgiveness of the earth. Let us open the doors within to great changes and a new awareness of Who We Are.

It is time to remember. It is time to wake up.

I’ll leave you with this lovely meditation on the trees: