Nearly one-fourth of baby boomers aren’t satisfied in the bedroom. But sleeping better and embracing your best features can change that, says sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. In this exclusive interview, she reveals how to spice up your love life after 45…
No one gives sex tips like Dr. Ruth Westheimer, ED.D. The 82-year-old Jewish grandmother comes armed with blunt advice, a sharp sense of humor and more than three decades of experience helping couples increase intimacy.
Her latest target: baby boomers, fueled in part by a recent poll showing that Americans aged 45-65 are unhappier with their sex lives than any other age group.
In the survey, from Associated Press and LifeGoesStrong.com, 24% of boomers said they were sexually dissatisfied, compared with 20% of respondents age 30-44 and 17% of those 66 or older.
So what’s the boomers’ problem?
“Boring sex,” says Westheimer, author of 32 books and former star of numerous TV and radio shows about sexual matters.
“If it’s the same position, the same day of the week, it’s just not interesting.”
In this Lifescript exclusive, Westheimer reveals the secrets to reigniting your sex life.
Aside from boredom, why aren’t baby boomers happy with their sex lives?
One problem is that the media has always told us we must have a beautiful body to have good sex.
So our expectations are too high?
Yes. We have to be more realistic. When people get older, they don’t look the way they did at 20.
You should concentrate on your good features. Look in the mirror and focus on something you like.
Are there other issues you see boomer couples struggling with?
They bring problems into the bedroom. For example, a meddling mother-in-law, or money problems.
These days, everybody is worried about something. You have to keep those issues out of your sex life.
What else can hurt baby boomers’ relationships?
Having an empty nest. Now that children are out of the house, don’t be sad. Make it into something wonderful.
You don’t have to worry if the children see you. Now you can concentrate on having good sex.
How do you suggest couples do that?
Get busy with sexual activity in the morning. Instead of listening to morning radio or watching TV, once a week get back into bed together.
Why is morning the best time for baby boomers to be sexually active?
Everybody should have sex in the morning.
Testosterone level for men is highest at that time of day. That’s why it’s easier for them to be sexually aroused.
And we know from research that after a good night’s sleep, women are more interested in sex.
Is something as simple as sleep really the key to a better sex life?
We used to think women only wanted sex when stars are twinkling. Not so.
But the most important thing is the relationship. I’m not talking about [a movie-style romance]; I mean a good, working relationship.
That’s something a lot of couples struggle to maintain. How can we strengthen that bond?
Tell yourselves that this year, you’ll make sure your partner knows how important he is.
Do you have tips to get us started?
Tell your partner how pleased you are that you have somebody. Engage in foreplay and massages more because older people need more caressing.
And try some extra things of a sexual nature to keep excitement alive.
What do you suggest?
Watch sexually explicit movies right before engaging in sexual activity. Read sexually explicit material. Use fantasies – but sometimes it’s not good to share them.
If you think about having sex with a whole football team, you shouldn’t tell your partner. Just think about it to be aroused when you have sex.
As we age, some women have physical issues that prevent us from enjoying intercourse as much as we used to. What can we do about that?
There’s less lubrication in the vagina [after 45], so women need to use a lubricant to prevent painful intercourse. You also have to teach your partner what you need.
Across this country, more women have orgasms now than before because they’ve learned that they have to tell their partners what works and what doesn’t.
What if you aren’t comfortable talking about your sexual needs?
You don’t have to say it in words. You can do it by showing how you need to be stimulated to have an orgasm.
What’s the biggest obstacle baby boomers face in having a healthy sex life?
The main thing is really in the brain – accepting being dissatisfied and saying to yourself, “OK, I’m getting older.” Just because you’re in that age range, don’t give up.
Try to make sex as interesting as possible. And if there’s a problem, see a sex therapist.
How do you know if your issues are severe enough to require therapy?
If there is an avoidance pattern: one of you has a headache, is too tired, angry, or picks a fight right after or just before bed.
You know deep down in your soul if something isn’t working right. Don’t let it develop into a big problem. Do something about it.
What does sex therapy entail?
Most of the time, when people come to me, I use a behavior therapy that’s short-term, but it often helps.
When I’m treating a couple, I meet with each alone for 20 minutes and learn a great deal.
Seeing a sex therapist isn’t something to be ashamed of. If there’s a problem with sexual activity, it’s better to go for help than let it lead to divorce.
Are there other resources couples can turn to for advice?
There are plenty of books. As you know, sex sells.
I’m not the only one talking and writing about sex. [Westheimer has written several books on the subject, including Sex for Dummies, Dr. Ruth’s Sex After 50 and Dr. Ruth’s Top Ten Secrets for Great Sex.]
Then tell your partner, “You know, I found something.” Or, “I read something that’s really interesting. Maybe we should take a vacation, go to a motel, change the scenery, and do something different.”
In the Associated Press survey, 52% of baby boomers responded that couples can have a strong relationship without being intimate. Do you think it’s unhealthy to not have a good sex life?
I’m not saying everybody has to be involved in sex. But if someone says to me, “Look, we have a good relationship. We do things together, we do things separately, but we don’t have sex,” I reply, “What a pity.”
Surveys like this draw attention [to sexual issues] by saying, “Hey, let’s make our sex lives the best we can.”
But if a woman is happy with her relationship – even if it’s lacking sexually – what’s the problem?
Somebody who avoids sex could be headed for trouble.
Her partner might find somebody else who is sexually arousing. That might be the end of that relationship.
It would be a pity because, often, people really do like each other, have a good working relationship, and should just fix their sex lives.
It sounds like a lot of work. Isn’t sex supposed to be fun?
The work is mainly mental in terms of keeping an emphasis on priorities. You have to make time.
If there’s a problem, do something about it. Don’t just sweep it under the rug, because it doesn’t resolve.
You must know how important it is to keep that sex life alive.
Should You See a Sex Therapist?
Never in the mood? Unsatisfied in the bedroom? Got intimacy issues? Constantly fighting with your partner about sex? Your sex life may benefit from some professional help. Take our sex quiz and find out.