It's important to keep on having sex: sex maintains good health, and it can definitely help to maintain your loving feelings towards your partner. But life presents many challenges - the demands of work, family, stress, financial pressure, physical health challenges, and so on. How can we keep ourselves sexually active in the face of so many conflicting pressures? (Later in this article we'll look at how to cope with a natural decrease in your sex drive as you get older.)
The first step is to maintain open and honest communication. For example, if one partner is feeling sexual and the other is not, then good communication can ensure that neither partner takes the situation personally; in other words, you don't need to interpret the fact that your partner's level of desire and arousal is lower than yours as a reflection of how attractive you are. Rather, you can use certain techniques to harmonize the relationship.
First, if your partner feels sexual and you don't, be careful how you respond to their advances. To some extent their self-esteem is bound to be related to how attractive they feel, and that in turn is likely to be related to how you respond to any sexual overtures they may make towards you. If you don't want sex, tell them so in a way which doesn't hurt them. We all take our sexual attractiveness to others as a sign of our self-worth. If you happen to be in bed, don't roll over and go to sleep. Offer them a cuddle, and turn towards them, so you can share feelings of love and affection, and touch and kiss them.
Second, consider whether you could have sex with them or not even if you think you don't feel like it. Sexual energy is within all of us and available to most of us with very little effort - and if you can summon it up in response to your partner's sexual advances it could become energizing and revitalizing for you.
Third, if your reluctance to have sex is based on disharmony in the relationship, then talk about what is going on, or get some professional counseling help. If your lack of desire is simply due to exhaustion or worry, then put an alternative time for sexual intimacy in your diary and stick to it.
Lastly, if you don't want to be sexual in the sense of enjoying intercourse, there are many alternatives for you to consider:
Make love with your hands or mouth
If you don't want intercourse, but your partner is looking for sex, then offering to masturbate them or give them oral sex may be a good alternative. This can be fun and enjoyable for you as well as your partner, and it certainly gives you a chance to see your partner's body in a way that you wouldn't during normal intercourse. However, it may still be too sexually charged for you, and you might therefore want to suggest to your partner that they try the next idea.
Self-pleasuring while lying in your arms
Yes, masturbation can be a fun thing for couples to share. In fact I believe it is much better if they do, because one partner very often feels excluded when they discover that their partner has been secretly masturbating. Men in particular may think nothing of a quick session of self-pleasure, but their female partners can be very upset and may feel very excluded if they learn that their partner has been masturbating without their knowledge. While men may not want to give up this source of self-pleasure, it's worth trying a new approach, because there's a whole new depth of pleasure to be gained from masturbating when you are in intimate contact with your partner. Very often the sight of a partner masturbating is sexually arousing for the other partner and will lead to them joining in. But whether this happens or not, such self-pleasuring in a supportive environment is an excellent way to bridge the gap between two partners whose sexual desire is unequal in strength and urgency.
There is always the alternative of masturbating by yourself. But if you do this, make sure that you are not doing it in a way that enhances feelings of shame or guilt about the activity! Self-pleasuring is a fun thing, and it's certainly a natural part of human sexuality!
Massage and touch
Another great alternative to sexual contact when you don't feel in the mood is massage. There are many ways to make this a rewarding experience; alternating light an heavy touches, using feathers or rabbit fur, using strokes of varying pressure and intensity, chopping, cupping and so on. Touching does not have to be a two-way exchange: one partner can touch the other for as long as they like with or without the expectation of the touch being returned. Here's a link to a great massage site, where you can find out some basic information on how to do it.
Touch alone is a great healer, and if you are too tired to make love or massage each other, then at least touch each other before you go to sleep. Touch can of course convey negative emotions as well as positive ones, so it's worth ensuring that you feel positive towards your partner before you do this!
There's an interesting fact about ageing which suggests that men and women become more sexually compatible - at least in terms of desire - as they get older. A man's testosterone level drops steadily from about twenty years of age, while a woman's increases. Testosterone is the hormone of sexual desire, so men and women may find that their sexual desire becomes more equal as time goes by. But sex alone is not enough to sustain a relationship: love and ever-increasing intimacy are the building blocks of a great relationship.
One of the main sexual changes for women in mid-life is that their level of desire often is much lower than it has been in the past. There's no easy answer to this, though maintaining intimacy and a desire for connection (which lies at the root of sexual intimacy) will go a long way towards maintaining sexual desire. Another common symptom of the post-menopausal years is a dry vagina - but there are plenty of lubricants on the market which can help out here.
For men in mid-life or later, sexual urgency and desire may decrease, but perhaps the most important change for them is that their erections become more elusive. Often direct physical stimulation is needed to get it up - a far cry from the days of youth when his erections popped up all over the place for no apparent reason at all!
As time goes by, a man's erection will also be less firm than it was in his younger days. What's more, he will, from time to time, find that his penis becomes soft during sex. This is so common as to be considered normal, though that may be no consolation to the man in question! Often his fear that he'll never have an erection again makes the whole situation worse. But you know what? It isn't a disaster. First, there's Viagra and its more recent counterparts, Levitra and Cialis. Second, it's possible to enter a woman's vagina with a soft cock, and then pump it erect inside her by using your PC muscles.
The way to do this is to circle the penis with finger and thumb, then push the blood into the shaft and head by running the circling fingers firmly along the shaft. A common variation of this technique is to use a rubber ring that fits around the base of the penis and keeps the blood inside the penis. Often a vacuum pump can be helpful in getting the penis erect in the first place. It's important not to get to hung up about having an erection, and to stop watching anxiously for it to arrive! In such a situation, a man's emotional focus needs to be external - he can think of something that arouses him, for example. One of the major benefits of ageing for a man is that his desire to ejaculate decreases markedly. He can naturally become a long lasting lover without any fear of premature ejaculation!
And it's important to remember that the loving connection and the joy of lovemaking are probably more important than having an ejaculation. What's more, most men over 50 will find that if they do not ejaculate they will be able to achieve an erection and have sex again much sooner than if they do.
A final thought: love is not based on the quantity of orgasms you have, but on the quality of the love that you experience in your relationship with your partner.