This morning, as my wife of 35 years showered, I pulled open the curtain.
She watched as my eyes held hers, and then drifted down her body. I lingered upon the shapes of her beauty, noted the bubbles and soap on her skin, and imagined my touch upon her.
I smiled, told her something that could have waited until later, and then leaned in to kiss her. She wasn’t surprised; I think of a lot of things to tell her when she is in the shower.
Sometimes, I join her.
One Christmas, we went out for dinner. The restaurant was surprisingly crowded, so we squeezed into a table at the bar closely set next to other tables. We tried to ignore the people around us, and we held hands and smiled a lot as we waited for our food.
At one point, a woman next to us interrupted and asked, “How long have you two been married?”
I answered, “32 years.”
“No way,” she said. “I would have thought you were just married.”
We talked with her some more, and she asked, “What do you do for work?”
I couldn’t resist. I said, “I’m a sex therapist.”
I would have gotten away with it, but my wife laughed.
“You are not,” our new friend said.
“I am,” I said, “and I have one very satisfied client.”
I love sex. Sex is the most amazing human experience imaginable. It is personal, relational, and deeply spiritual. Sex is how my wife knows the most vulnerable and honest side of me; it is how I get inside of her—in more ways than one.
If your sex life doesn’t keep improving until you die, your relationship itself is dying. That’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it?
Here’s the thing: Couples weren’t meant to grow old together just to become best friends.
I see it all the time. Is it surprising to you that more often than not the woman is the one telling me her man has lost interest? How do you keep the fire burning?
I’m not a sex god (well, there are times…), but my wife and I have learned some stuff, enough so that when we see young, affectionate couples, we think “rookies.” And when we see older, touchless couples, we are saddened for their loss.
The following assumes that every couple’s situation is different, that health issues arise, and that sex isn’t just intercourse. That stated, here are a few things we have learned along the way:
1. Understand the stages of sex.
For the novice, sex is novel. Excitement is found in the new.
For those in their sexual peak, sex can become about performance. Porn-star standards become bedroom expectations. The thrill is in the physical variety or the person’s vanity.
For the sage, sex is sexual: Two people move deeply into becoming one in body, soul, and spirit. The power is in fullness of the shared self.
No one stage is wrong in itself, but the first two have its dangers. If sex must always be novel, the sex, and the partners you seek, become objectified. If sex remains all about performance, connection with the other is soon lost.
The sage seeks the deepest experience of the other, not just with the other.
2. Open your eyes.
Eyes are the constant connection of every relationship (and for our sight-challenged friends, the touch that sees).
Look in not just at.
I know, not all couples stare at each other as they kiss. My wife and I don’t. Often, orgasm is an eye-closed, holy transport moment in which the only things seen are stars. But somewhere in there, more often than not, stop and gaze. Sometimes, I just pause our moment, whisper “Hey,” and let my wife know I’m with her by the way I look into her. (It’s pretty much a race to the finish after that).
3. Use physical expressions best for that period in life.
It turns out that young mothers who are constantly being touched and tugged on may just want their body to be untouched for a bit. Who knew? I didn’t then. I do now.
Confession here: Okay, yes, I pretty much always want to climax. But sometimes, I am so sore I would really find a massage sexy (preferably with both of us naked, but I will take what I can get).
The best question you can ask: In this moment, what is the best way I can connect with you at the deepest level?
The sage understands that a lifetime achievement award in sex isn’t about the number of times they did it. It is about the depth experienced in an ocean of possibility, not the accumulation of shallow pools in which they swam. It is about the memories made together, the vintage clips of intimacy that never age.
4. There is a difference between desire and drive.
Sex drives speed up and slow down. Desire grows.
I went through a season where I couldn’t finish what I started. It turns out I had some low testosterone. I’m all better now, but in that time I expressed to my wife that though my drive was low, my desire for her was high. She has expressed the same to me in her menopausal journey. I have the open invitation to initiate at any time, knowing that she wants me, even if her drive is shifting gears.
I believe in public displays of affection. It helps me imagine that there are private displays of affirmation and acceptance—the veiled intimacy of unveiled hearts.
Sadly, maybe, a couple is just out for a joy ride. I hope not. I pray that the vehicle of their sexual love becomes a classic.