Here are some tips and advice from Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Helene Van Sant-Klein:
The 40s are the new 30s!
This point in an individual's life can be exciting and fulfilling. They know more about what they want and don't want, they are more secure in their sexuality, they have a greater sense of self, more life experience can bring maturity, insight, and understanding, they may be more financially and emotionally secure, children may be grown or almost grown so may have more time for themselves and they are looking younger and living longer than ever before.
There are different challenges that individuals face in their forties depending on if they are in a long term relationship or are single and dating.
Couples in long term relationships:
Parenting teens is quite challenging and it is important that both parents are on the same page with their parenting styles and can support each other through the process.
Children leaving home
When children leave home, it can create a challenge for the couple as they negotiate their relationship as a couple once again. This is a common time for divorce especially with those couples who have spent much of their focus on child rearing and /or career. They may also find themselves grieving the loss when children leave home.
Focus on children and or career along with other stressors can lead to little time to focus on the couple relationship. When the emotional and physical intimacy fades the couple can drift apart.
Normal physiological changes can create sexual issues.
Women begin to enter per-menopause and menopause.
"Feed" and nurture the relationship -
Pay attention to the loving things you do for each other. Make "deposits" in your relationship bank. To keep a healthy ratio, make 5 loving relationship deposits for every "withdrawal"[deposits can include positive affirmations, loving gestures, physical affection, spending quality (undivided attention) time together]. Make sure you work through any conflict and do repair work.
Go out on a "date" once per week.
Keep the romance alive and give both partners something to look forward to. It can help keep stress down in your busy lives as well. Find new and fun things to do on your dates.
Make sure to include some time to make eye contact. Novelty and eye contact causes the release of oxytocin and dopamine in the brain which helps with attachment, bonding and encourages us to "do it again".
Get on the same page parenting wise -
At this time you could be raising teenagers together. Working together as a team helps the adults feel secure as well as the adolescents.
Make healthy communication a priority. Use "I" messages. I feel ________when you ___________ and I wish that _____________. Avoid shaming, blaming, and/or name calling in your communication.
Have sex at least once per week.
Negotiate times that work for both partners so they can both be active participants. If one partner is a "night person" and the other a "day person", compromise and find times that work for both of you. You may need to schedule times together so you both can plan on it and look forward to it. Make sex a priority.
Seek outside help
Be willing to seek outside help if your relationship is growing apart, you need help with parenting, or if you are feeling like you are in a rut.
Singles in relationship:
Singles may come as a "package deal".
Singles in their forties may have gone through a divorce or find themselves in relationship with someone who is divorced. This means they may bring any or all of the following into the relationship.
- Children - including custody shared with the ex spouse.
- Spousal support issues.
- Children who may not be over the grieving process regarding the divorce and therefore not be open to any new relationships for mom or dad. They may also be acting out during the grieving process making parenting as a single parent more difficult.
- Emotional issues that the partner may be dealing with- unresolved grief over the divorce, or possible death of spouse, hurt and pain if it was an unwanted divorce or if the ex cheated.
- Depending on when the divorce occurred, they may have gone through the challenges of a long term relationship as well as the added issues of being single
- Financial issues unsettled
Children leaving home
Singles may find themselves grieving the loss of their children when they leave home.
The dating pool narrows. Many singles have difficulty knowing where to meet eligible partners. Online dating has become popular but also brings it's own issues.
Juggling career, parenting, dealing with exes, maintaining a social life, and dating creates much stress for the single trying to do it all.
Take care of yourself
Remember to do self-nurturing things to help de stress. Surround yourself with supportive positive people. Watch your diet, sleep and exercise. Physical exercise is a natural antidepressant.
Be open to new relationship possibilities
Try to be open to a new relationship without "contamination" from the old one. Be open to try new things. Add fun novelty to your dates.
Be yourself and be honest
Stay true to yourself. Be honest about your likes and dislikes. If you lie about your age, accomplishments, or weight in your dating, you will eventually be found out. Your date may then wonder about what other things you are lying about. It may destroy trust.
Set healthy boundaries
Know what feels right for you and what things were problems for you before. Watch for those red flags. It's not uncommon to find similar issues in different individuals.
Online dating can be a resource for meeting people
Online dating has become a very popular resource for meeting people. Be cautious when meeting your date for the first time. Take your time getting to know each other and becoming sexually intimate. You don't have to rush into sex. Use your intuition or gut feelings. Watch for red flags. Use safe sex.
Seek outside help
Be open to seek outside help with grieving, working through old wounds, co parenting, and/or learning to blend families.
Sex in Your Forties
Sex in your forties can be wonderful. At the stage in an individual's life, there can be more confidence, more self-awareness, less body consciousness, more security in their own sexuality, and life experiences and maturity that may allow for less anxiety and fewer financial concerns. The three significant predictors of sexual satisfaction are: positive relationship adjustment, psychological well-being and menopausal symptoms.
It is important to note that women have a tendency to need to feel emotionally close before they want to have sex and men have a tendency to use sex as the vehicle to feel emotionally close.
Physiological and hormonal changes in women and men can make sexuality a challenge.
Women enter into peri menopause and menopause in their forties. Estrogen decreases which leads to the following:
Vagina loses its elasticity
Vaginal mucosa thins ( As the vaginal mucosa thins and shrinks the vestibule in the area of the opening to the vagina also shrinks. The vestibule area is the cause of 90% of the pain women may experience. The thinning mucosa can be susceptible to trauma, tears, and inflammation)
- Vagina loses its natural lubrication
- Pelvic floor weakens
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats can cause sleep disturbance
- There is also a decrease in testosterone which leads to:
- A decrease in libido
- Arousal takes longer
- Quality of orgasms decrease
What women can do:
See your Doctor and have hormone levels taken. Ask about options. Bio identical hormone replacement has become a popular option. They must be patient if this option chosen. It may take time to get levels adjusted. Every body is different.
- Exercise- yoga and pilates have been shown to assist with orgasm
- Use lubricants
- Spend more time on foreplay
- Experiment with different positions.
- Have sex on a regular basis.
- Be open in your communication with your partner about your needs
A decrease in testosterone can cause difficulty achieving and maintaining erections, may lose erections quicker following orgasm, and may not get spontaneous erections the way they used to.
What men can do:
Go to your Doctor and have testosterone levels taken. Replacement therapy may be an appropriate option.
Your Doctor may prescribe Viagra (Cialis or one of the similar medications) to help with achieving and maintaining an erection. Be advised of the side effects and contraindications of the medication.
- Have sex on a regular basis
- Be open in your communication with your partner
SEX in a Long Term Relationship
Finding time for intimacy can be a problem.
Families with children are busy. Life is busy. Focus on career and children take time away from physical and emotional closeness. It can be a challenge to find a time when both partners are emotionally and physically available. Parents may feel self conscious that the children may hear them during sex.
Stress can lead to a decreased libido
Partners get complacent.
It's easy to take each other and the relationship for granted. Without spending quality time together as a couple, couples can drift apart. It may take extra energy to get together for sexual intimacy.
Sex may become routine
Lack of novelty can find couples in a rut.
Hormonal and physiological changes can be a concern.
Make sex a priority. Have sex a minimum of once per week.
Make appointments and set aside time for sex. Have fun and play.
Bring novelty into your life
Novelty stimulates dopamine production which encourages us to want to "do it again".
Plan a date night once per week
Spend time alone together as a couple. Turn off cell phones and computers. Make sure time is undivided. Do some of the fun things you did together when you were dating.
Plan getaways and vacations without the children
Sexual activity is known to increase away from daily stressors and amidst new and exciting locales.
See your doctor for hormonal levels and advice if needed.
Seek outside help if needed
SEX and Single Forties
STD's are a major concern.
STD's are on the increase in the over 45 population. It has doubled in the last decade.
Past relationships may "haunt' the current relationship
It may be difficult to trust or feel safe in the new relationship if there are unresolved wounds from a past relationship or if there was trauma. Unresolved grief can also get in the way.
Pressure to have sex before feeling ready or comfortable with a new partner
Negotiating time for sex may be a challenge
Both partner's stressors, career, parenting/custody issues may all come into play. It takes creative planning to find time for sex.
Use safe sex.
STD's are on the increase in the over age 45 population. It has doubled in the last decade.
Have sex when you feel ready. Hold healthy boundaries.
Take time to know your new partner before becoming sexually intimate.
Take time to lay the foundation of your relationship.
After you are sexually intimate:
Play and have fun. Bring novelty in to your relationship.
Novelty stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine which encourages us to" do it again".
Communicate openly about what you need and want.
See your Doctor for hormone levels and advice if needed.
Seek outside help if needed