Chapter One
Love for a Long, Long Lifetime

        Many people as they grow older--notice I didn't say old--poke fun at their diminishing ability to perform sexually. For instance, one of my favorite jokes goes like this:
        The following are the three stages of a couple's love life--
        1. Couples in their twenties have sex triweekly.
        2. Couples in their thirties try weekly to have sex.
        3. Couples in their forties, fifties, and sixties try weakly to have sexual relations.
         Those of you crossing the threshold into the middle-age years may hear that there's "a lot of will but no way." But don't you believe it. Sex begins upstairs in the mind God gave you, so if you think you're too old for sex, you'll act accordingly. This would be a shame because we believe couples can--and should--enjoy a vibrant sex life until they are well into their seventies, even their eighties. Psalm 90:10 reminds us, "The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength." To "have the strength," we must take care of our bodies by exercising moderately, eating the right foods, and taking nutritional supplements. (I'll have more to say about this later.)
         One of our major themes in this book is that you can continue to love your spouse in physical and amorous ways that will be even better than during those first few sexually adventurous years of marriage. It is possible to enjoy an active, satisfying sex life well into your seventies and eighties. Affection, warmth, and sensuality do not have to deteriorate with age and can actually increase in the midlife years.
         Sex in later life is sex for its own sake since our childbearing years are in our rearview mirrors. We make love for pleasure, release, communication, and intimacy. Since the midlife years are marked with fewer responsibilities on the home front (the kids are grown and gone or about to leave the nest), many find this era a time of exhilaration. We lose a step physically, but we more than gain that back with experience. Playwright George Bernard Shaw had it right when he correctly stated, "Youth is wasted on the young."
         Sex can remain interesting, fulfilling, and exciting in the forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond. Older women rarely lose their physical ability to reach an orgasm, and many older men exhibit a capability for erections and ejaculations. We can expect the body to slow down gradually in sexual response, however, and for sexual desire to lessen, especially for women.
         The fact that you have chosen to read about this topic suggests that your sexual relationship is important to you and your spouse. Based on that interest, we will attempt to answer several fundamental questions in The Act of Marriage After 40:
         What are satisfying love relationships like in the midlife years?
         In what ways does the act of marriage change as spouses grow older together?
         How can the sexual relationship improve in the second half of marriage?
        To begin our discussion, let's debunk these common myths about sex in the midlife years.
       

Myth #1: Couples should expect to lose their ability to make love after they reach a certain age
         We all know that males reach their sexual peak in late adolescence--between the ages of eighteen and twenty. A young male can ejaculate three to six times a day. We also know that after this sexual peak, males show a steady decline in their sexual ability to climax throughout the rest of their lives.1 A male's ability to make love will not drop off a cliff when he hits forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy; instead, it's a steady descent. Picture a Boeing 757 following a "glide path" into Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and you get the idea.
         On the flip side, women reach their sexual peak ten, twenty years after men when they are in their late thirties and remain on that plateau through their sixties, after which they may show a slight decline in sexual response capability.2 Fred Stoeker, coauthor of Every Man's Battle: Winning the War of Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, once looked forward to the time in his marriage when he and his wife, Brenda, would experience a "sexual nirvana" when his wife's peaking line of desire crossed his descending path. If only physical relationships were that simple, Fred says. "In the end, it wasn't the match of ability or desire that mattered so much, but accepting the fact that there would likely be no match. Men and women are different, and understanding those differences was the key to sensitivity and tenderness for us," he said.
        One of those differences is that, biologically speaking, women experience little sexual impairment as they age. Many women feel that sex is more enjoyable after menopause since there is no risk of becoming pregnant. Others feel their sexual assertiveness increase because they feel comfortable in a stable marriage. Since men and women achieve emotional maturity in the midlife years, they can pave the way toward a superior intimate relationship.
      
 Myth #2: The quality of sex declines for men and women in the midlife years.
         Your body certainly changes with age. A twenty-year-old man can be erect in five seconds, while it takes a fifty-year-old male half a minute. Maybe a septuagenarian needs several minutes of manual stimulation to become aroused. While an older man may take longer to achieve an erection, he often gains more control over ejaculation because he can sustain his erection longer. With more control, he can take his time to bring his wife to orgasm before intercourse.
        The biggest difference is the "rebound," or the refractory time, before sex is again possible. At a male's sexual peak (in his late teens or early twenties), he could orgasm as many as three to six times in one night. Older men need twelve to twenty-four hours before they are capable of ejaculation--sometimes several days. We need to keep our eyes focused on how good the sexual experience can be, not how many sexual experiences one can have.

The Act of Marriage After 40 by Tim and Beverly LaHaye with Mike Yorkey. Zondervan Publishers, 2000.

 

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