Sex at midlife is often portrayed as boring, routine, and something that most people would trade for more sleep in a heartbeat. But Robin Milhausen, associate professor in the Department of Family Relations at the University of Guelph, says research paints a different picture: One of a cohort that feels comfortable in their own skin, and is interested in trying new things. There are, of course, obstacles of time and energy that need to be overcome — but being realistic about how your sex life might change after 40 might be half the battle. Here, some tips:
Accept that ‘Netflix and chill’ isn’t a euphemism
If life is busy and your biggest desire is to curl up, fully clothed, with your partner and The Crown, cut yourself some slack. It doesn’t mean your sex life is over — in fact, some quiet time can help foster intimacy, says Milhausen. Just keep your partner in the loop with how you’re feeling.
RIP, rose petals on the bed
Chances are grand romantic gestures are a thing of the past — and that’s okay. Shake things up by “making out in the laundry room,” says Milhausen. And if you’re short on time, don’t short-change manual stimulation. “Touching your partner, and having your partner touch you, is very pleasurable— and often climax comes quickly!”
Condoms are different now!
Off the pill and facing a return to condoms? Fear not: They’ve come a long way since our high school days, says Kristen Gilbert, director of education at B.C.’s Options for Sexual Health. Look for non-latex products made from polyisoprene and polyurethane, says Gilbert — they are warm to the touch, thin and stretchy, allowing for more sensation. All condom companies make a shape of condom called a “flared” style — it has a roomy tip, that moves around a bit more, making it more pleasurable for some. Lelo’s Hex has been called the “condom of the future”; the company claims its honeycomb structure makes for a more flexible product that is less likely to tear.
Learn to love lube
Drop any notion that using lube constitutes a failure. “Lube makes for better sex,” Gilbert says. “People in midlife generally are experiencing a drop — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot — in hormone levels. The drop in natural lubrication is a normal event. And it’s an opportunity to increase your arsenal of fun stuff that you can use during sex.” Give a few a try, she says — options include oil-based, silicone-based, and water-based products — to see what you like. “There are so many good lubes out there right now.”
There may be some hiccups
The change in hormones that comes with perimenopause and menopause has an effect on vaginal pH. “People might notice that, because of that change, they’re more susceptible to things like urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis,” Gilbert says. It’s completely normal, she adds. “It’s important that people know that, so they don’t think ‘Everything’s going wrong with my body! I give up!’ ”
It’s not even close to being all downhill from here
Some women find that desire increases as they age, Milhausen says. Feeling comfortable in your own body and knowing what you like means you can leave the insecurities of your youth behind. “You’ve either had years to work things out with your partner, or maybe you’re back on the dating scene, experiencing things for the first time again. . . . your desire may in fact be greater than you were younger.”