13 Things You Need to Know About Sex in Your 40s
Think your sex life is over after 40? Hardly—you’re just getting warmed up. Here’s what to expect when you’re getting it on in your fourth decade.
You may need to put a little more work into it
You can thank declines in hormone levels for the fact that you may not be ready to go at a moment’s notice. “Both men and women deal with hormone changes in their 40s that can cause changes in sexual arousal, desire and general physical comfort during sexual activity,” says Shannon Chavez, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Los Angeles, CA. “Changes in hormones may require an increase in stimulation during sexual activity or increased focus on sensual pleasuring in order to get aroused.” (Psst: Here’s why you should have sex before bed tonight.)
You may be wilder in the sack
Think you’re in for the same old, same old if you’re in a long-term relationship? Think again. “Couples in their 40s are having some of the best sex of their lives—they have more permission and motivation to explore different aspects of sexuality,” Chavez says. “Couples may try kink, role play, watch erotica together, open their relationship or try Tantra in their 40s. Couples are more open to exploring at this age due to sexual confidence, a stronger sense of sexual self, desire to make sex more playful, or feeling deeper emotional bonding for more meaningful and passionate sex.”
You may go through a lull—and that’s OK
Sexual desire may fluctuate—and you might be starting to head into the slow decline that comes for many couples as they age. “A lull in your sex life, no matter what age, is inevitable,” says Chavez. “People in long-term relationships get comfortable and may lose the routines around sex that worked in earlier phases of the relationship like getting ready for sex, taking each other out on dates, flirting, and being playful with one another. Couples are not always talking about sex in healthy ways that enhance desire for connection. The important part is being able to talk about it with your partner or a professional.” (These vitamins and herbs can boost your sex drive.)
You’ll need to start paying attention to your heart health
We’re not talking about the state of your love life. Your cardiovascular system is key to a thriving sex life. “A healthy cardiovascular system is essential to sexual functioning,” says Gracie Landes, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sexual therapist in New York, NY. “Maintaining good physical health is important.” That means keeping up with your cardio, but don’t skimp on the strength training, either. You’ll have more energy for fun in the sack, and the confidence that comes with looking better always helps! It isn’t just good for your overall health, hitting the gym can give your libido a big boost, too.
It may get really boring, if you’re trying to conceive
The quantity and quality of a woman’s eggs decreases as she ages—making conception after 40 more challenging. If you’re still looking to expand your family, you may find yourself engaged in fertility treatments and lots of not-so-successful baby-making sex. And that can make sex feel, well, a little bit like doing dishes. “For those struggling to conceive later in life, sex can become a chore,” Landes says.
Women may be more orgasmic
You may see myths that claim that older women lose their ability to orgasm, but experts say that women over 40 may find more pleasure in sex than they ever did before. “For some women, orgasm becomes easier with experience, self-confidence, and comfort,” Landes says. In fact, many women may find discover a second phase to their sexual experience: They know what it takes to get there and aren’t shy about making it happen. Here’s how to spice up your sex life.
Guys can hold out longer
There’s an upside to the decline in hormone levels over this decade: Men over 40 find themselves lasting longer than they did in the past. “As men age, they are often better able to delay orgasm,” Landes says. “They can slow down and enjoy the experience more fully in a more connected way.” (Here’s how long women want sex to last.)
You may need to break out the lube—or the estrogen cream
Blame hormones for the fact that sex gets a whole lot drier after 40. “Fluctuating estrogen levels and irregular menstrual periods can bring discomfort,” Landes says. “The vaginal walls start to become thinner, more easily irritated, more likely to bleed or tear.” The cure? Invest in lube—and some doctors will recommend estrogen cream applied to the area to help with dryness. (Also, here’s how to use cannabis to improve your sex life.)
You may be at greater risk for STDs
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may seem like a worry for 20-somethings, but research by the Centers for Disease Control show that the numbers of people over 40 who develop STIs continues to rise. Experts say that’s due in part to the prevalence of erectile dysfunction drugs, the reduced need for birth control, and the thinning of the vaginal tissues, which can make women more susceptible to infection. So even if the chances of pregnancy are slim to none, using condoms with a new partner is key for your health. Check out this list of 9 body changes that occur when you stop having sex. See other interesting sex facts you didn’t know.
Men may want to take action to address erectile dysfunction
During the 40s, men may start to have erectile issues. “Men may start to find their erections less firm, or less reliable, and the time between erections may be longer,” Landes says. Before relying on erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Cialis, men should look at lifestyle changes that can improve their sexual health. Research points to exercise or flavonoid-rich diets (featuring blueberries, red wine, cherries, and radishes) to help decrease the risk of erectile dysfunction. Remaining wedded to your gym routine will also do wonders for your equipment, guys. Besides a bad case of erectile dysfunction, don’t miss these 6 other reasons why men say no to sex. (Is anxiety ruining your sex life? Here’s what to do.)
You may start to focus on other forms of intimacy
Intercourse is great, but you may find yourself exploring other routes to pleasure. “Too much focus on intercourse can make sex mundane and unsatisfying if it doesn’t go as planned,” Landes says. “Learn to focus on pleasure and connection with your partner. Learn more about what you like, now that you have less of a sense of urgency. Sex can be like enjoying a gourmet meal in midlife compared to the fast-food version some people have when they are younger.”
You’ll be refocused on your relationship
Many 40-somethings are past the “raising babies” stage and have more time to spend with their partners (which can lead to greater happiness). “They have the emotional energy to focus on their partner as they aren’t zapped from caring for the kids or trying to establish a career,” says Laura Berman, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist in Chicago, IL. “They can take couples trips or meet up for a lunch date during a workday.”
Sex is still really important to you
Even if you aren’t exactly scorching up the sheets on a daily basis, 85 percent of women over 40 are still getting it on—and that the majority of those women still consider sex highly important to them, according to data published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The key to keeping the home fires burning? Tending to them. “Great sex isn’t ‘supposed’ to just happen,” Berman says. “It’s the result of a loving, committed couple tending to their relationship. That means everything from romantic getaways to date nights to daily kisses to making sure that you take ownership of the energy you bring into the relationship. It means that you realize that you are helping to create your relationship and your reality and that if you don’t like something in your marriage, you have the power to change it.”
Next, learn what happens to your brain during sex.