Beginning about ten years ago when Keith and I were in our early sixties, we began to notice a decline in our libido (our drive to engage in sex) and a resulting decline in our being intimate. This was followed by an increase in irritability and impatience with one another, and quickly led to bickering and picking at each other—leading to us feeling distanced, off kilter and basically unhappy.1
Fortunately we realized we needed to talk to each other before things got too far out of hand. We acknowledged that we both felt out of sync and distanced from each other, both emotionally and physically. We remembered in the early years of our marriage, especially when the children were babies, we often were so busy we neglected our need to be physically close. And whenever that happened we started squabbling and bickering, and generally feeling distanced. This time, we acknowledged that the culprit for our distance could be traced to decreased libidos as we had aged.
Having identified the cause, we were able to move forward.
Acknowledging that our libidos had decreased and were no longer ‘driving’ us to be intimate, we now recognized we would have to rely on our minds—our cognitive, conscious, gray matter—to lead us into the act of love.2
What we meant by this is, since we could no longer depend on our bodies to produce the hormones necessary to incite us into the act of coupling, we would now rely on our conscious intention to do so. Thus we began, and continue to this day, to consciously and intentionally set aside time to be intimate. So after a period of abstinence, one of us will take the lead with the suggestion, “It think it is about time…” confident that other partner will agree with an understanding nod.
There are two critical aspects of agreement that enable this to work. One is that Keith and I know without a doubt…that once we start kissing, hugging, touching – OUR BODIES WILL RESPOND. Our passions will return and our lovemaking will be exotic, erotic, and satisfying. We know this to be true because our bodies have never failed us. Even when we enter the act with a lukewarm attitude, even as our bodies may be slow to respond, our bodies still do respond. It is important to recognize I’m not necessarily talking about intercourse here, but I am talking about physical intimacy…to whatever degree is possible and consensual. From soothing, gentle, loving touch, to intimate touch, to orgasm.
Second, we have made a pact not to turn each other down. When one of us is wanting to make love, we have vowed that the other will respect that need. We might suggest a different time, or ask for a day’s delay, but we won’t say “no”—even if we aren’t in the mood ourselves.
While I know this may not sound very romantic, that’s not the point. What is crucial is our motivation. We want to keep our marriage healthy, and being intimate in whatever way we choose is a critical component of our marital well-being. Physical closeness, body on body, pleasuring each other—these intimate acts have the mystical results of moving us to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more caring, tender and loving to each other—even as we age.
1 These signs continue to be a flag for us that we have gone too long without being intimate.
2 This is a lesson we first learned after Keith’s impotence after prostate cancer surgery, which you can read about in our book. This remains our modus operando to this day.