Does Sex Change at Midlife?

“We need to let go of this myth that everybody is having more sex, and more perfect sex, than we are.”

She has a knack for getting people to reveal their darkest secrets. In The Secret Lives of Wives, Iris Krasnow unveiled how long-wed women manage their marriages. Now she explores romantic relationships across the ages in Sex After…Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes. Krasnow, 59, who’s been married for 26 years and has four sons, chats with Life Reimagined. What are our biggest sexual misconceptions? Iris Krasnow: We need to let go of this myth that everyone is having more sex, and more perfect sex, than we are—no matter what your friends might say. When you’re experiencing midlife malaise and the honeymoon hots are over, don’t compare yourself. Many people lie about sex to overcompensate for what they wish was going on at home. Dry spells are normal. 
What about those showy, lovey-dovey couples? We all know them. Krasnow: The people who sit at a restaurant dangling anchovies into each other’s mouths as they split a Caesar salad, legs looped together under the table, well, they could go home and throw stuff at each other.

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What sexual issues do you see in couples at midlife?  Krasnow: Many husbands have erectile dysfunction. Women have menopausal dryness. But many of these couples are thrilled not to be having sex. Instead, they have a cuddly, cozy, non-intercourse-based love affair. Some say their bond is deeper than ever. 
You often hear about marriages derailing after the kids grow up. Which couples last? Krasnow: Couples that go the distance, even if they aren’t having sex in the kitchen three times per week, still feel a sexual crackle. Maybe it’s not 50 Shades of Grey sex, but there’s a glimmer. I’m a college professor, and I tell my young students this: Do not marry your “best friend” if there’s no sexual attraction. It’s a recipe for divorce. You can’t invent sexual chemistry.

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Is it a red flag to wake up one day and wonder: “Is this all there is?” 
Krasnow: It’s normal! There’s more gray hair, more flab, more wrinkles—but you’re still married to the same old person, and your sex life might have turned tepid. Sure, you could ditch your perfectly good, imperfect marriage and get a bunch of plastic surgery (which doesn’t fix your soul), or you could be inventive in your sex life. Do things you haven’t tried before. The more sex you have, the more sex you’ll want to have. 
Any tips you’ve learned from your own marriage?  Krasnow: We have a rule that we don't talk about the kids or logistics at dinner. It’s been fun rediscovering each other. A lot of people say this in my book: Finally, at midlife, you can be more uninhibited. Many couples are more relaxed; they’re not speeding up sex to run to carpool.

Photo credits: Feet: Danielle D. Hughson/Flickr/Getty Hands: F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH/Alamy