Monday, March 24, 2014
Sex and Coping in Older Age
Excerpt from the Washington Post:
A GOOD SEX LIFE CAN HELP OLDER COUPLES COPE WITH ILLNESS AND OTHER DIFFICULTIES, by Kathleen Raven
"Among older couples, physical illnesses can strain a marriage, but maintaining a healthy sex life could make a difference in how happily both partners cope, a new study suggests.
Researchers have long known that the illnesses that come with age are linked to poorer marriage quality, but exactly why has not been clear. According to the new analysis, sexual intimacy is the link that keeps partners positive about their marriages in the face of difficult times, and a lack of sex makes matters worse."
What if illness interferes with your physical ability to have sex? And the medications you take flatten your libido into non-existence? And let's not forget that the well partner's sexual-ness may be very different than the ill partner's sexual-readiness.
So what can a couple already coping with illness do to heighten their sexual connection?
Before touching, talk. Tell each other what you want and don't want. And if you've started touching, continue to tell each other what feels good and what doesn't. The power of the sexual connection won't work if one partner is enjoying it while the other is faking it.
Don't assume that sex = intercourse. It may; and it may not. Closeness and arousal can happen without penetration. Sometimes touching and talking can be powerful sexual connectors.
Start with small steps. Try stroking the back or legs or arms or face before moving onto the more traditional erogenous zones.
Here's a giant dilemma. What if nothing is possible and the well partner is still interested in being sexually active? Once again, keep talking. Perhaps the well partner can find contentment in a life without sex. Perhaps the ill partner can touch the well partner, even if he/she isn't interested in receiving any form of sexual contact. And, perhaps the couple can make peace with the well partner having just sex with someone else.
There is no one size-fits all solution for how to maintain a sexual connection with each other.
But no matter what, keep talking.
How have you managed (or not) to have a sexual connection in your relationship?