Let’s talk about midlife sexual desire

In our late teens and twenties we’re at it like rabbits and rarely think of anything else. Come midlife years and things are not quite the same anymore. Nor they have to be. It’s time to talk about midlife sexual desire. 

“A healthy sex life” in public discussion often translates to an active sex life and an active sex life translates to having sex two or three times a week. Ok, one time a week might also be classed as healthy enough.

That stereotype, of course, is true to few, whatever the age. Not all have life partners or sexual partners. There are emotional and health reasons why people don’t have sex. Some opt-out simply because sex doesn’t interest them.

If you feel good about your sex life then your sex life is good

Besides, what is normal anyway? Sexual health is, according to the World Health Organization a “state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” 

So, all that really matters is that you feel good about your sex life, or the lack thereof. No one else can or should define your normal—even though many do try from pop psychology and entertainment media to churches and even states. 

In sum, if you’re happy with your sex life (and whatever you do doesn’t violate other people and their rights), all is good. The end.

Suggested reading: Midlife crisis – causes, symptoms and coping

During the midlife transition, however, you might find yourself and your sex life a little out of whack, at least temporarily. There can be several things that could be affecting your sexual desire:

Hormones and libido

During your peak reproductive years, your sex hormones are through the roof. 

In women, all hormones levels—estrogen, progesterone and testosterone—start declining perimenopause onwards, so that by menopause the hormone levels are just a fraction of their peak. 

In men, testosterone production usually reaches its maximum at about age 17, and the levels remain high for the next twenty or thirty years. Men are fortunate to not have to go through a menopause-like dramatic shift: At about age 40, their testosterone levels start declining very gradually, by about 1% per year. By the time of their 70th birthday, their testosterone levels will have dropped by about 30%.  

Emotional and mental wellbeing as individuals and as couples

Us humans are complex creatures, however. It’s not only the sex hormones that run our sex lives, far from it. If we’re stressed out, tired, sad, depressed, anxious etc., sex rarely is the first thing on our list. 

If there are unresolved issues between us and our partners due to misunderstandings or lack of communication, they easily create a wall between us, making intimacy impossible.

Physical changes

The fact is that only films stars—or, actually, not even them—look the same as they did in their younger days.

Witnessing our own bodies change can really shake our confidence—and if I don’t like myself, how could possibly someone else? Would it help if we knew that we’re all on the same boat? That time knows no mercy for anyone?

Lack of knowledge of age-related changes

Ageing, indeed, is still a taboo in western society. I’m not saying that men are unaffected, but I do claim that the ageing of women is viewed particularly negatively. Also, if even the society thinks that we’re irrelevant, how can we possibly convince ourselves otherwise?

We don’t want to talk about getting old—it’s scary to think that we’re that many years closer to dying—and that’s why it’s so easy to not know what happens to us as the years pile on. 

But talk we should. An interesting study about middle-aged women’s sexual needs and expectations revealed, that if women knew more about the physiological and psychological changes during the midlife transition—that many of the changes that they are experiencing are natural—would make them feel more relaxed about sex.

What is your take on midlife desire? 

As we’re all different, so are our journeys as sexual beings. What have you learned about sex by the time you hit the midlife mark? How has your sex life changed, or our feeling about sex? You can write to us using the story form or by sending us an email mystory@midlifespace.com. We would very happy to share your story with the D:M community!