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Marriage and Sex

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

As people age, they tend to have sex less, regardless of whether they are in marriages or not. Married couples between ages 18 and 29 have sexual relations an average of nearly 112 times per year. That rate steadily decreases as people age, so that married couples aged 70 and older have sex 16 times a year on average.

But that fact shouldn't be misconstrued as meaning that older people are less satisfied with their sex life. An AARP survey released last year showed that most mid-life and older adults surveyed were either extremely satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their sex life, and felt it was an important quality-of-life factor.

Renowned sex researcher John McKinley, Ph.D., director of the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Mass., says as people age, particularly men, their expectations about sex aren't as high.

"The worst thing that can happen to a relationship is that a sex life becomes routine and boredom sets in," Schoen says. But in today's fast-paced life, filled with dueling responsibilities, a sub-par or absent sex life is a common problem.

When physical problems are not the root cause of a diminished sex life, many remedies exist to rekindle the flame of passion. Much of the fix is grounded in communication and reprioritizing one's life to make time for love and sex, says Jan Sinatra, a Manchester, Conn., psychotherapist and co-author of "Heart Sense for Women."

Sinatra usually asks couples initially coming to her about their love life how they communicate. "It's a barometer of the relationship."

Sometimes couples need to focus on addressing unresolved conflicts between them, while other spouses just need to remember to have fun when the weight of life's responsibilities drags them and their sex life down. Still others may just need to build time into their schedules to be together and let nature takes its course. Simply setting aside date nights can jump-start one's love life.

Through communication—both verbal and non-verbal — and listening, couples come to understand what ignites that spark in the other partner. That might be cuddling, leaving love notes for your partner to find, meeting at a motel for a tryst, trying out new sex techniques, introducing a vibrator or dozens of other potential turn-ons.