We have all heard the phrase, “the honeymoon is over,” but what does this really mean? How does sex change as we age? What is it really like when the honeymoon is over? What is it like 15, 30, 50 years after the honeymoon? How is our relationship altered as we spend more and more time with our partner? Sex, like most other aspects of marriage cycles during different periods of life. Dr. Needle a renowned sex therapist said in an article for Prevention Magazine, ‘“There are a number of factors that contribute to our sexual response.” She mentions physical health, stress and anxiety, and relationship quality. For these and lots of other reasons, it’s common for sex to shift from sizzling to tepid . . . and back again.’ Throughout this article we will explore the aging of physical intimacy.
The beginning of many marriages is characterized by a lot of intimacy. Appropriately named the honeymoon stage this is characterized by feelings of ecstasy, adoration and high feelings of attraction. Often, it is a new side of the relationship that has not been explored yet. Feelings are running high, and there is little to distract us from our partner. We are in a clear obsession stage of our marriage and sex life. Sex can even occur multiple times a day. This is a normal and natural part of marriage, one that is full of enjoyment and helps build a foundation for marriage in the latter years.
Functional MRI brain scans show that people who are experiencing this stage of their romantic relationship are experiencing high levels of dopamine, which gives us the loving feeling. Women who were tested during this stage also showed signs of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Meaning that while the beginning of a relationship is high in happiness, but stress is also present. Research does show though that these happy feelings can continue if the couple decides to do new things together. Creating new experiences and new memories helps keep these dopamine hormones flowing.
After some time when pregnancies and children have come along in a marriage it is easy for things to feel out of balance. Often parents feel overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities. The first three to five years of parenting are often the hardest and take a toll on the couple’s relationship including their sex life. This is especially true for women who do the bulk of childcare in most families. This can be an exhausting time, and sex often gets put on the backburner. Sex during this period of life is important and many couples have to be intentional about it, or it simply will not happen.
As the children grow up and begin having more social and extracurricular activities, where exhaustion may still be present often it is a lack of time that keep couples from the sack. Many women who did not work while their children are little choose this time to go back to work or school, and this makes life busier for many families. Also not being able to have as much privacy with more mobile kids who have later bedtimes can also make this period a struggle. While scheduling sex may not seem romantic, many families find that this is an effective way to keep their relationship strong while in this period of marriage.
As children start leaving the nest couples find that they have more alone time. “If you’ve worked on your relationship for the past 20 years, this newfound freedom and empty house can set the stage for a fun second honeymoon,” Needle says. The key element in this quote is whether or not you have worked on your marriage the whole time. The most important factor in not only sexuality in marriage, but also the relationship in general, is being intentional. Make each other a priority. This time can be exciting and enjoyable for many couples. This can be something to look forward to if you are in one of the earlier stages of marriage.
With time, aging and hormone changes like menopause can wreck havoc with your sex life. Making sure that you are taking care of your body will help make this process easier and make sex more enjoyable during your 50s and on. Healthy diet, exercise, and regular checkups may seem unrelated to sex, but they are a key component in having a healthy sex life after 50. Menopause is often accompanied with a decrease in libido, so patience and going to the doctor if you feel you need to will only help your sex life.
Once retirement happens, a couple has even more time on their hands and many find that there is an upswing in their sex life in the 70s if both partners are healthy. Traveling together and accomplishing lifelong dreams during retirement not only helps your relationship, but also helps your sex life as well. Again trying new things can help your relationship have those feel good feelings. Having fun together can help make retirement fun and enjoyable in your marriage.
Sexuality goes through cycles throughout marriage. It has times when you can’t keep your hands off each other, to exhausting days where you’re up all night with a baby. However, what makes the biggest difference in overall satisfaction in your sexual relationship is intention. If you make your sex life a priority, then as time goes on you will find intensity again. As with all other aspects of marriage like communication, friendship, love etc. what matters most is whether or not it matters to us. Satisfaction is within the reach of every couple who is willing to work for it.