If you’re in a committed relationship, the sexual aspect deserves to be tended to. Sex is a mood booster. It gives you energy. It releases tension and happy chemicals, such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, which give you a sense of well-being.
The fact is that after decades in a relationship, someone is bound to get bored with the sex. Broaching the subject, however, can be embarrassing and intimidating for fear of hurting your partner’s feelings. But it’s important to be able to identify what it is that would make things more exciting for you. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind and just know what you need — communicate what you’re feeling.
I suggest reading a book like The Joy of Sex or something about sexual techniques with erotic photography. Sit down with your partner and say, “This is something that I would like to try.” Then your partner will have a better idea of what will satisfy you. Or say very specifically, “I need a more aggressive or gentle approach.”
The other thing is that to be a good sexual partner, you need to focus your energy on the rewarding aspects of sex. And you need to take care of yourself. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep, that you’re exercising, and that you’re eating good, fresh food is important because it’ll make you feel healthy.
— Stephanie Buehler, PsyD, The Buehler Institute, Irvine, California
Both women and men can experience a drop in libido starting in their midforties or fifties as hormones decline. Exercise is important because it helps relieve stress hormones, which can interfere with a good libido. You don’t want to do too much or not enough — about an hour-long workout four or five times a week is best.
Or you can tap into the mental component of your sex drive by using foods that you think are sexy. Common aphrodisiacs, such as oysters, persimmons, ambrosia, lobster, cinnamon, saffron, and nutmeg, historically have been used to boost libido or to get someone interested in having sex. It’s also very important to limit alcohol intake because, as a sedative, alcohol can interfere with erections or libido. Though many variables come into play with alcohol, I would say that more than one drink in an hour could decrease libido.
In terms of herbs that help, some people use ginseng, Spanish fly, yohimbine, or maca. But you may have to take the botanical for up to six weeks before you see an effect.
In general, if both partners have declining libidos and it’s not an issue between them, then there’s no reason to try to change what’s simply a natural part of maturing. The real issue arises when one person wants sex and the other doesn’t, which can lead to frustration between partners.
— Nancy Aton Robins, ND, Swan Clinic, Tucson, Arizona
I’m friends with Dr. Ruth, who always says, “The most important sex organ is above the shoulders, not between the knees.” If the relationship is terrible and there’s no communication between partners, you can take every hormone known to mankind and it’s not going to make a difference. So start with yourself and your relationship. You’re not going to fix a lousy relationship with Viagra.
If you say, “Gee, we have a fantastic relationship, we communicate, and I have good self-esteem,” then there may be something going on physiologically.
Many postmenopausal women experience vaginal dryness and discomfort — strictly as a result of less estrogen. There are over-the-counter lubricants that help, such as Recleanse, Lubren, or Astroglide. Women can also try vaginal estrogen.
Medications and conditions also can decrease libido. For example, depression, underactive thyroid, and hypertension medications can lead to significant decreases in libido.
If there’s no medication or disease, then you may ask if it is a lack of estrogen or testosterone. People have hypothesized that an adrenal-gland hormone called DHEA can affect libido for both sexes. DHEA is available over the counter, but talk with your health care provider before using it. Also, communicate with your physician or nurse practitioner — there’s no need to be embarrassed.
— Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut