Stereotypes tied to women's sexuality and age abound. If you're younger, you're in the sack all the time. More mature? Your intimate days are all but over. Obviously, we're so not down with these outdated and inaccurate ideas! To find out what women should really know about intimacy at any age, we sat down with expert Dr. Barb DePree, MD, NCMP, MMM, Holland Hospital Women's Specialty Care.
Dr. DePree, author of Fearless Menopause: A Body-Positive Guide to Navigating Midlife Changes, is adamant that maintaining sexual intimacy is essential in a relationship and provides a notable "added value," no matter your age.
"When sex is present and good, it adds about a 15 to 20% added value to the relationship, but when sex is absent or there's discord in that area, it has a 50 to 70% negative impact on the relationship," Dr. DePree explained. "There is a deeper connection that happens with sex that doesn't happen with sharing a long walk or a cup of coffee together."
But it's important to note that intimacy doesn't always equal intercourse, and that everyone's definition of intimacy is different and can change with age—whether you're in a relationship or not.
"Our need for physical affection, playfulness and emotional intimacy never leaves us. If you hold intimacy as your goal, the options for sexual acts and sexual play multiply beyond intercourse very quickly," Dr. DePree said. "For those not in a coupled relationship, sex may be self-stimulation. As they age, men commonly experience sexual function issues as well, which may change the 'typical' sexual narrative formerly present in the relationship. What ultimately matters most is mutual pleasure and satisfaction."
To center both pleasure and health, setting expectations for sexual activity in a relationship or otherwise should be avoided. The greatest aphrodisiac? Connectedness with your partner, according to Dr. DePree.
"When there's a lack of feeling loved and/or respected by your partner, there isn't much you can do to 'get in the mood,'" she advised. "Remember, foreplay starts in the morning with little non-sexual things like emptying the dishwasher, running an errand for your partner and so on."
If you're concerned there are bigger issues at play with your libido, Dr. DePree suggests having a conversation with your healthcare provider, as many women encounter a loss in ability to become aroused and orgasm, as well as experience pain and discomfort while being intimate as they age.
"It's difficult to expect a woman to desire sex when it leads to pain. Treating the underlying pain or pain disorder is possible and nothing to be embarrassed about," she said. "Women's Specialty Care has very effective therapies designed to address pain during sex, and we can prescribe medications to improve libido, too. Sex therapy can also be very beneficial for couples."
Well, go on! Get busy.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar '22 issue of West Michigan Woman.