6 Ways To Have Better Sex In Your 40s, 50s & Beyond
As a practicing gynecologist for over 20 years, I'm all too familiar with the struggles that women face in midlife, especially when it comes to decreased (or nonexistent) libidos and disconnected, unsatisfying relationships. In fact, this issue is one of the core focuses of my medical practice, which is dedicated to women in midlife.
When you look at the perfect storm that we face beginning in our 40s and 50s—disappearing fertility, hormonal changes, children leaving the nest, aging or dying parents—it's no wonder that our relationships and our sex drive get put on the back burner and begin to wilt. After a while, we feel as if we have completely lost our sexual being, which is a depressing conclusion to come to, and one that I sought to challenge.
I've been there personally, and I'm here to tell you with confidence that your life does have the potential to grow richer over the years, and that includes having the best sex of your life after 40, 50, 60, and beyond! No matter how you might feel right now, know that your sexual being has not died. It is just "taking a nap," as I say to my patients.
I know this to be true from my own personal transformation as well as through the extensive research study I conducted for my book Sexually Woke. I studied a group of over 1,000 women between the ages of 45 and 65 and discovered that 7% of women in midlife have fulfilling sex lives and relationships. (Other studies have found up to 1 in 5 women saying the same!) While this percentage might seem small, the fact that this is true for some women—whom I call the "sexually woke"—means that it is possible for all of us.
Here are six ways you can begin to reawaken your sexual being and enjoy pleasure in your 50s and beyond:
Shift your mindset about what "sex" means.
We typically think of sex as vaginal intercourse. However, we should shift our mindset to define it as "intimate physical contact." Physical intimacy is key in healthy relationships, and vaginal intercourse is not always a pleasurable way to express this. In fact, only 4 out of 10 women regularly have an orgasm through vaginal intercourse.
As we experience hormonal and physical changes in midlife, vaginal intercourse becomes increasingly difficult, if not agonizingly impossible. There are countless other ways to express intimate physical contact—the only criteria is that it creates pleasure for both parties. This could include cuddling, touching, and rubbing the genitalia together. Focus on whatever expression of sexual intimacy conveys a feeling of connection equally to you both.
As we age, orgasm becomes increasingly difficult to achieve, and when it is our final goal, this can cause stress and disconnection that prevents physical intimacy. Instead of fixating on the climax itself, focus on connecting with your partner. The process of connection can be as enjoyable as orgasm itself as you and your partner grow closer together in your physical intimacy.
Research shows that the most reliable way for a woman to achieve orgasm after 50 is with a vibrator or toy, so it's time to try this out if you haven't already—partner or not!
Not only do we require more stimulation as we age, but we also can benefit from new types of stimulation. This can be a fun new experience and way to reawaken your sexual being—with or without a partner—as you explore your body in a different and exciting way.
Love yourself as you are.
One of my key findings about women in midlife with vibrant sex lives is that they are comfortable in their own skin and familiar with their bodies and what they like and don't like when it comes to sex. Changes to our bodies and to our sexual anatomy are inevitable as we age, especially if we have children. It's important that we accept these changes and feel content and deeply connected to ourselves; otherwise, a deep connection with our partner is impossible.
While I believe in loving yourself as you are, I also believe in the power of taking the initiative to address the changes in our sexual bodies that happen due to aging—like vaginal dryness and decreased sensitivity. There are a number of products available to improve sexual desire and functioning, both topically in the form of lubes and creams as well as more in-depth surgical and nonsurgical treatments. Talk to your doctor about what the procedures, products, or other options might be helpful for you.
Tune in to your spirituality.
My research affirmed a connection between spiritual wellness and sexual satisfaction. Spirituality looks different for everyone—it can be God, yoga, meditation, nature, or conscious generosity practices. The essential common thread is a deep understanding of connection to something bigger than yourself based in love, connection, and compassion.
While our 30s and 40s are often devoted to work, raising kids, or both, giving us little time for self-reflection, our midlife years offer an opportunity to start relieving ourselves of those burdens, hardships, and resentments. Journaling and meditation can help with this process. Resentment is the No. 1 libido crusher for women, so forgiveness and restoring our relationships are key for healthy, satisfying sex lives in our 50s and beyond.
Communicate and be intentional.
Being intentional with your partner is sexy. Small, daily moments of presence, attention, and recognition keep the fire of love alive. Something as small as how you greet each other and say goodbye can make a huge difference in your passion levels. Giving your partner your full attention, even if for a minute, acknowledges that you care about their happiness, and this communication will increase desire in your physical relationship as well.
Susan Hardwick-Smith, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified obstetrics and gynecology physician dedicated to empowering women to feel fully alive – sexually, relationally, and spiritually. She is the founder of Complete Midlife Wellness Center and author of Sexually Woke. She received her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and completed her residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.