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Sex Ed: Still Doing It

The characteristics of long-term lovers

In two recent studies, some 80 percent of long-term couples reported high sexual satisfaction. Does this mean the Waning Libido is a myth created by marketers of lingerie, Viagra, and oyster shacks nationwide? Not at all. Sexdrive and function do diminish with age; long-term lovers may be satisfied, but they’re probably satisfied with less.

Long-Term Lovers; Hot and Warm

Though they’re doing it less often, they get more from each encounter. A 2008 study comparing new and long-term lovers showed brain activity in the dopamine-reward regions of both. But the older couples also had activity in the areas rich in oxytocin and serotonin—chemicals associated with well-being and attachment. So while both groups are flying high on dopamine, those in long-term loving relationships are also floating in a warm bath of bonding.

Security Leads to Good Sex

Early sex is intense but also emotionally lighter. As we grow increasingly dependent, we may feel more vulnerable. Ongoing passion requires security. “If you have even the slightest amount of fear, your brain shuts down your arousal,” says Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight. Couples who develop a strong sense of attachment, however, “can be years into a relationship and the sex is infinitely exciting.”

Do Ask, Do Tell

Long-term lovers communicate what arouses them, even as it changes. “People say, ‘If I have to ask, forget it.’ But two-thirds of women and almost a third of men don’t feel like having sex until they’re having sex,” says Pat Love, author of Hot Monogamy. “You have to be responsible for your own orgasm.”

Excitement Evokes Desire

Fun and challenging activities support a lasting libido. In a study done at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, couples engaging in novel activities reported more relationship satisfaction, including good sex. Why? Novel activities recapture the thrill of the early days—and the accompanying friskiness. —Wendy Paris

Love, American Style

We may not have a reputation as the world’s most romantic country, but in a recent survey of 27,500 people aged 40 to 80 in 29 countries, the United States ranked second only to Austria in sexual satisfaction. Japan and Taiwan were last, with Egypt and Algeria in the middle.

Researchers concluded that in Western countries where gender equality is greatest, couples develop mutually enjoyable sexual habits. “In countries where sex is a duty, as soon as women hit post-fertility, they stop doing it,” says lead author Edward Laumann, of the University .


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