You have just published this book, Love Worth Making, which you subtitled How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. What need did you see that you were trying to address through your writing?
In our sex-saturated era, I noticed sex advice just kept getting edgier and edgier — bondage, threesomes, prostate massage, and so on — and all this relentless pursuit of sexual adventure struck me as misguided. The key to sexual happiness in a committed relationship is to take care of your sexual feelings. But there was very little sensible advice out there about that. So I knew I’d have to write that book myself!
I’m biased towards a more inward approach, since I’m a fairly inward-looking person. In addition, my wife is disabled from a stroke she had 26 years ago — not long after we were married. So I’m glad it’s not necessary to get really edgy and adventurous to have great sex, or there’d be little hope for us. As it is, we’re doing just fine.
When it comes to my women in midlife and older, how would you describe the challenges and opportunities with maintaining a vibrant sex life?
If you’re part of an established couple, by midlife you don’t have as much to prove to each other. You’re freer to engage with your own erotic feelings, without having to worry whether your partner is going to be OK with that.
If you’re single, you have less to prove to yourself. If you a find nice erotic groove with someone, you can just enjoy it. If that groove just isn’t there, you know enough not to try to force it.
What should women be aware of when it comes to their male partners and their challenges and desires in midlife or older?
The biggest male challenge in midlife tends to be erections. A woman in midlife can use a lubricant, but until 1998 a man didn’t have many options. Now, since Viagra and Cialis, it’s a whole new ballgame. I think ultimately people will think of Viagra and Cialis the way they think of lube for women — just an accommodation to the fact that biological response in midlife isn’t as immediate or predictable.
What are some of your best tips to reinvigorate sex in a long-term relationship?
I’m a big fan of mindfulness practice pre-lovemaking — which for many people opens them up again to sexual inspiration with their partner. Mindfulness is a quiet, inward practice, but a mindful encounter between two people can be the most erotic thing imaginable. There are several recipes for this in my book. Emily Nagoski’s Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life and Lori Brotto’s Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire have many others.
Besides your book, what are some of your favorite resources on the topic of sexual intimacy?
Your ability to stay erotically alive in midlife is strongly influenced by how much you’ve managed the adult process of differentiation — which means validating your own needs, even when they conflict with your partner’s needs. Two writers on this whose work I’ve found particularly helpful are Harriet Lerner (Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships, and others) and David Schnarch (Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships, and others). My own article, “Dining and Differentiation,” is a quick guide to the subject for people in a hurry.
STEPHEN SNYDER, M.D. is a sex and couples therapist, psychiatrist, and writer in New York City and the author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. He is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City, and chairman of the Consumer Book Award Committee for the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). He has treated patients at his practice for 25 years, is a guest on major media outlets nationwide, and writes for Psychology Today and Huffington Post. He lives with his wife and children in New York City.