Assisted Loving: Communication key to better love life

By Ginger Manley | Posted: Thursday May 10, 2012

Dear Ginger,

I'm in my seventies, and for the first time in my life, I have a partner with whom I am truly in love. I'm open to anything with her, but she's a little shy, so we haven't talked about how to expand our sexual routine from what we've been doing during our first three years. Do you have any ideas?

Sid


Dear Sid,

How wonderful that you and she have found one another. I am amazed and gratified by the numbers of men and women in later life who are exploring new relationships, and sometimes, as in your case, discovering joy they never before imagined. But as with all relationships, the greatest risk to your sexual well-being is silence, so let’s look at where some changes might be made.

First of all, you mention she is shy. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I’m guessing it means she doesn’t openly mention her sexual preferences or wishes. This seems to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for couples of all ages, and especially if a person has come from a sheltered sexual background that favored modesty or restraint.

Sexual activity in later life is for recreation, and we cannot recreate – have fun – without making some noise. I call this “joyful noises in the bedroom (JNITB).” While for some couples JNITB might mean some pleasurable moans, for most couples it starts with showing emotions through smiles and laughter, then putting the words to the feelings by talking – this is true oral sex, in my opinion.

In my work as a sex therapist, I often discovered that one or both people in a relationship would hold their breath – literally waiting to exhale – while engaging in lovemaking. When this happens, our bodies react by shutting down everything that is not essential for life, like sexual responses, and almost nobody can have a truly fun sexual experience while holding their breath. At other times, couples would go through the motions without ever telling their mate whether or not they were enjoying a particular activity. On more than one occasion, while inquiring about a couple’s pattern of lovemaking, I was told by one of the partners that the other person “just loved” whatever – a nuzzle to the ear, a kiss on the neck, caressing a part of the anatomy – only to have the other mate respond in a huffy manner that, “I’ve always hated it when you do that thing.” Imagine the surprise registering on the face of the “doer” who’d always thought the action was welcomed.

So, Sid, my first advice for you is to invite your lady to sit and talk with you – fully clothed and with no other agenda. Ask her to tell you a little about her upbringing and the experiences that shaped her view of sexuality. Tell her what those were like for you. Then ask her to go a little farther and tell you what she has learned about her own sexuality that is pleasurable and what is not so fun, and then tell her the same about yourself. Keep the ball bouncing from your court to hers and back, maybe over the course of several days or weeks, and both of you will learn lots about the other’s wishes, dreams, and even heartbreaks. When we love someone, we usually want to nurture and protect them, and this will give both of you more knowledge of where to move and where to be cautious. Once you have begun this process, then you can invite her to help you look at ways you both may want to try to make a few changes.

The second greatest risk is boredom. Many couples find that they initially get caught up in the excitement that comes with a new relationship when almost any activity will be enticing, but then they settle into patterns of doing the same two or three things over and over until repetition completely overcomes any early excitement. If this happens, one or both may actually dread a sexual encounter but out of courtesy may not speak up. In worst cases, a mate may just service the other, building up resentment which will take its toll on the relationship over time.

This is where creativity comes into play. Some folks may enjoy venturing out with adding sexual aids or explicit sexual literature to their repertoire, but many others may find that more mundane changes can spice things up. Maybe the two of you can go shopping for new sheets for the bed or for some candles or music to help set the scene. A change of place can be exciting, like taking a cruise together (assuming getting sea sick is not a problem) or even going for a few nights in a really nice hotel. In a recent seminar I taught, one newly married couple in their eighties said that shortly after they tied the knot she told him that his underwear bored her to tears. She took him to a high-end lingerie store that carried men’s underwear, and together they selected new boxer shorts for him. He winked and told me, “I’m wearing them today,” and I noticed his wife squeezing his hand and beaming.

Last year, after forty-four years of sleeping in the same bed and looking at the same bedroom set, which I had not really loved when we’d bought it nor since then had grown more fond of, I told my husband I needed to either get a new man or a new bedroom set, and by far the latter was my choice. Within a couple of weeks, the old bedroom set had been donated to a young couple who until then had only a mattress and box springs on the floor of their bedroom, and we old-marrieds had a twenty-first century modified sleigh bed and accompanying dressers and night stands. The young couple was thrilled to be in an actual bed, and our choice was definitely better than a new man!

So, Sid, break the silence and make some changes, even if only tiny. Recreational sex involves creating new ways to be playful and to make JNITB. Don’t put this off another day – start making some noise! And stay tuned – next month, I will review some more specific changes you and she may want to try.

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