My Dad tells the story of being on a ship in WWII. The first mate woke the sailors every morning by yelling that when they got old like him, a good bowel movement would feel better than coitus (he used more vivid words, but that’s the gist).
When I was in my mid-30s, a friend in his mid-40s told me that by 40 I wouldn’t care about sex any more. He said that part of life just sort of goes away. I remember thinking, “Man, I hope not!”
Fortunately, I’m in my 60s now and neither of those predictions has come true. Sex remains an important aspect of my life and is in many ways better than it ever was.
As I think back, I remember working as a roadie on rock and roll tours to pay my way through college. We were unloading a truck in Milwaukee and an old stagehand said, “You young guys just lather them up. It takes an old guy to finish them off.” This mildly crude comment makes me happier as each year passes.
Your sex life will change throughout different stages of life. Let’s look at some of the sex stages. We can look back with the ghost of coitus past or look ahead with the ghost of “getting-laid-future.” Wise people try to understand the continuum.
Maybe you had a big, fancy wedding, or perhaps you just went to the courthouse and picked up your marriage license. One way or the other, you’ve gotten yourself married to a whole other person...a person you thought you knew and adored.
Then the reality of married life strikes. This spouse you’ve promised yourself to until death lives like a slob. In fact, he or she is a slob. Or wants sex all the time, constantly, like three times a week. Or never wants to have sex, is always tired, and it only happens like two times a week. Or your spouse perpetrates various other offences that annoy you.
There is little that can prepare us for marriage. Humans seem to put their best behavior forward during courtship (even if it involves living together) but drop the charade after marriage. We all do it, so don’t be surprised if your spouse did it to you. Don’t focus on how your spouse changed and the resulting disappointment. The only effective action is to strive to forgive. It will be the best thing you can do with your early marriage years.
The other best thing you can do in your early years of marriage is to work toward agape love. Strive to love your spouse regardless of his or her behavior. To love with agape love is an act of will—a demonstration of character—but it’s not just a sappy, “taking whatever comes” type of love.
M. Scott Peck defined love as “to judicially give and judicially withhold.” This thoughtful and faithful agape love doesn’t allow abuse. It loves deeply. It sees someone as God intended them to be seen.
Learning to love and forgive your spouse will be a lifelong challenge, but it is never more challenging than in the early marriage years. Let’s consider how this may work in your sex life. One of you likely wants sex more often than the other. One will be pushing and one will be resisting. If you both strive to put aside your own strong desires and accommodate your partner, you’ll grow as a couple. You’ll build character.
During this time, the “How often do we have sex?” struggle can be combined with “No kids, minimal worries, lots of energy, our sex life will never be better than this, right?” And that can morph to, “You mean this is as good as sex will be...forever?”
That thinking puts unnecessary stress on sex levels. Think of the lie so many teenagers hear, that “these are the best years of your life.” That simple lie creates so much depression among young people. Were your teenage years the best of your life? I hope not.
You likely recall some fond memories and perhaps long for less responsibility in your life, but think of all the wisdom you’ve gained since then. Think about how much more you know about love and about God. If we strive to grow more Christ-like each year, we understand the lie that the best years are the early ones.
Another thing to consider during the early marriage years is the likelihood that your sex is enthusiastic but perhaps not satisfying for your partner. It takes lots of trust, communication, and practice to figure out what curls your spouse’s toes.
Many couples don’t get to this level of sexual satisfaction until their 40s or 50s. Some never get there. Do what you can to connect earlier and better. If you’re going to be spending all that time having sex with each other, why not seek to understand your partner and what they like and don’t like?
If things really aren’t going well in your sex life, please go to your doctor together. Write down your questions. Write down your problems, struggles, or concerns. If you’re too embarrassed to talk, just hand the doctor your lists and respond to his or her questions.
Learn to look at your early marriage struggles through the lens of growing more Christ-like—your lifelong project. Your early marriage years give you a great opportunity to try, fail, forgive, ask for forgiveness, and try again.
The Baby Wars
Then God may show his sense of humor by throwing a baby into the mix. If you’re fortunate enough to have babies, you will have a major upheaval in your sex life. God repurposes the woman’s recreational and waste disposal area to grow another human. Soon after you conceive the little nipper, the changes start, bringing about wonderful and dreadful consequences.
Sex during pregnancy can go from little change (other than morning sickness) to some logistical challenges (i.e., how to work around a beach ball-sized protrusion under her shirt). Mood swings for a pregnant woman vary from minor to scary. Sexual desire can go from none to greatly increased.
You’ll both be running that gauntlet without an instruction manual. Pay attention to the “I feel fat” vs “I feel beautiful” matrix. It varies from woman to woman and from day to day. Husbands should show some extra love and kindness here. This is only one of many things going on during pregnancy. Here are a few others:
1. Female genitals swell around the fourth month, which often produces constant lubrication and sometimes more desire for sex.
2. You can’t get pregnant...you already are.
3. Female orgasms can be more intense (and multiple).
4. Male orgasms may also be more intense due to swelling female genitals (and the increased level of love that’s developing in you).
5. Breast tenderness may occur. Men should “Wax On, Wax Off” with coconut oil.
6. When the man wants sex and the woman doesn’t, the man should consider “Waxing Off” in a different way.
7. Get a zippered mattress encasement to ease concerns about leaking urine and other fluids. It protects against bed bugs as well, so just do it.
8. Don’t worry about hurting or annoying the baby, he or she will have plenty of years to get back at you.
9. If your doctor does tell you to refrain from sex, ask why, for how long, and what’s included in prohibited sex. You get the health care you accept.
10. Pay attention if the soon-to-be Mom wants more touch or less touch during pregnancy (and what kind of touch). Perhaps she will want less intercourse but more romantic touching. Or she may desire to masturbate more. Or it could be something completely different. Just pay attention to touch needs and wants.
Then the baby arrives. Wow! You really didn’t believe it actually worked like that, did you? Try to bond during this amazing experience, as plenty of stress to your bond will hit you soon. For example, consider having sex after the baby. Generally, a woman’s libido drops to record lows right after giving birth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually happen to men. Lack of sleep may also play a major role in sexual negotiations.
This time in life, which can last years, often becomes sexually stressful for both spouses. You’re tired and you often don’t like each other...and sometimes you’re not so sure about the baby. Don’t freak out about it. Most folks have gone through it without ending up in jail, and you can too. One tip that will help you succeed in the baby wars is to talk about sex before the little tax deduction arrives. Here are some questions you could ask each other:
1. What do you think our sex life will be like right after the baby is born?
2. How about a few months in?
3. What do you think our new normal will become?
4. What do you want it to become?
5. What if the baby is colicky or I get postpartum depression?
6. Her: What if you see me as a mother instead of a lover and aren’t interested in me? What if I look different?
7. Him: What if I’m ready for action and I feel guilty asking you because I don’t want to put you on the spot?
By the way, a good answer to this last one may be that we agree for this special time that it’s always ok for the more sexed-up partner to ask and ok for the less sexed-up partner to say no. Learn to think of a trip to the shower as part of the Fruits of the Spirit.
Finally, make a plan to get out on a date on a regular schedule. If you don’t plan, it won’t happen. Keeping your friendship and romantic love alive will bless your baby more than anything else you do.
The Teen Wars
The early school years aren’t simple, but they tend to be a breathing break between the baby years and the teen years. As your children struggle to become adults—or independent at the least—you will encounter conflict. The more that conflict bothers you, the more it will affect your sex life. Hopefully you and your spouse learned to work together as a team when the kids were young. Kids are masters of the “divide and conquer” strategy. Parents need to hang tough as a team, even when one spouse says something that drives the other crazy.
Debby and I found parenting in the teen years a tremendous challenge, but God used this time to help us draw closer. This “us against them” time made us stronger as a couple. We loved raising our kids and thought we’d hate when they left home. The teen wars helped with that. By the time they were ready to leave, we were ready for them to be someplace other than home. We actually looked forward to having an empty nest.
When the Chicks Fly the Coop
When our last child left home, we found energy to reconnect in a much less stressful manner. We took the time to learn to enjoy each other again without the constant stress of teenagers. We started building the foundation for the rest of our lives together.
But some folks divorce soon after their kids leave home. What drives one couple one way or the other? Look at your relationship trend through the baby and teen wars. Have you been getting closer as you worked as a team through the struggles, or have you split the tasks and drifted apart?
When the last kid leaves, are you waking up the next day with someone you don’t like very much or with your best friend? If you’re waking next to your best friend, you’re going to love the empty nest, and more adventuresome sex can follow more available time and energy.
On the other hand, if you wake up with someone you don’t like, you need to take up a realistic view. There has probably been a process of withdrawal on the one side and ignoring the withdrawal on the other. Many couples now divorce after 50, often around the time the kids leave. Unfortunately, it often takes one spouse by almost complete surprise.
Planning can help prevent this ugly surprise. A few years before you’ll reach the empty nest, initiate conversations about what you want your “no kids at home” life to be. Just like business planning, make a strategic plan for your marriage future. Discuss your marriage strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Dream about what you’d like to have and do with each other. Make an action plan that moves you in the right direction.
Make sure that action plan includes spending time together as a couple. Even if you find you talk about the kids most of the time, get in the habit of spending regular and special time together. Consider the emotional and financial costs of divorce; work to avoid it if both parties are willing to try. As my accountant says, “Divorce is too difficult and costly; it’s better one of you should die.”
Moving Toward the Sunset
Unlike a real sunset, no one knows when our light will extinguish. We can decide, however, to live vigorously until that time comes. We can keep having great sex in our 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. I don’t know much about post-centenarian sex. Send me a note if you do (you’ll be one of my heroes).
Here are a few “Sex for old-folks” tips:
1. Let go of expectations. Don’t focus on how things were years ago. Enjoy what you are and can do right in this moment.
2. Strive to be honest. It’s sexy, and at your age you’re not going to be so good at remembering lies.
3. Protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. Pregnancy scares may be in the past, but STDs are ever present. Take the time to learn how to have safe sex.
4. Focus on physical touch and intimacy. You have time. Use it to enjoy each other deeply. Don’t make it all about intercourse. Include baths, massage, talking, playing, maybe even wrestling. Just avoid Ultimate Fighting.
5. Lube, lube, lube (and yoga, yoga, yoga for flexibility)
6. Watch your back (and knees). Aging reduces the utility of joints. Try spooning instead of doggie style to put less stress on your back and knees. The lap dance position (man sitting on a chair and woman sitting on his lap facing him) also yields fun sex with little body stress.
7. Think beyond intercourse. Try mutual masturbation with some oral sex thrown in. Or try 69. Or maybe try 68 (you do me and I’ll owe you one). Whatever it takes.
8. If you just aren’t getting that “off to the races” feeling about sex anymore, revisit chapter 5, “Aphrodisiacs: Who-aaaah!” You may find something there that stokes your fire. I don’t want to be the pusher man, but cannabis can have an amazing and immediate effect on your libido.
9. Give each other foot massages regularly. Geriatricians stress the importance of proper foot function. Falls are one of the main risks of aging, and functional feet help prevent falls. If you have some kind of foot phobia, get over it. You don’t have that much time left.
10. Finally, if you are having a physical problem with sex (e.g., erectile dysfunction for men or painful sex for women), don’t ignore it. Many medications have side effects that muck up sex; work to find medications that don’t. Don’t be embarrassed to talk with your doctor. He or she has recently had a finger inside you, so assume you are on intimate enough terms to ask questions about sex.
I hope the tips above encourage you to keep at sex as long as you live. Orgasms are good for you. Don’t give them up.
 Paul Joannides, Guide to Getting It On: A Book About the Wonders of Sex (Oregon: Goofy Foot Press, 2014), 805-822.
 I recently bought some at Amazon for about $40. Search “zippered mattress encasement.”
 Paul Joannides, Guide to Getting It On: A Book About the Wonders of Sex (Oregon: Goofy Foot Press, 2014), p. 819
 Here are two excellent books to help you with those challenges: Love in the Time of Colic by Ian Kerner and Heidi Raykeil, and After the Stork: The Couples Guide to Preventing and Over-Coming PostPartum Depression by Sara Rosenquist.