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Amp Up Your Sexy for Autumn

Autumn can be a tremendously busy time of year when work ramps up and social obligations resume. Or it can herald a return to peaceful calm after summer frenzy.

Full disclosure: There’s nothing peaceful about autumn for me! My appointment calendar is booked solid. No fewer than three healthcare conferences are on MiddlesexMD’s schedule in the next five weeks. That’s almost a rockstar schedule! (Well, maybe an aging rock star.)

So, whether your summer is an interlude or a frenzy, autumn is nonetheless an opportunity to reevaluate your relationship, sexually speaking, and recalibrate your sizzle, if necessary.

Long-term relationships have two (at least) universal pitfalls. One is boredom; the other is neglect. Occasional boredom is the almost inevitable result of familiarity and routine. It’s the same-old, same-old. It’s our guy in oversized sweatpants with a three-day scruff; it’s us in our stained muumuu and uncombed hair. And it’s the sexual routine that is as exciting as day-old coffee.

Hard to recall those days when we could hardly wait to rip the clothes off each other, hey?

Add a stressful job, social obligations, aging parents, kids in high school or university, and the absolute last thing on our minds is sex. The first thing is sleep. So, maybe we don’t even know if we’re bored because our sex life is over there in the corner gathering dust.

“As therapists, we can vouch for the fact that when people get out of the habit of loving in a sexual way, it can be extraordinarily difficult to get back into it,” writes therapist Christine Webber and Dr. David Delvin in this article.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, for this autumn is to reinvigorate romance, and ultimately, your sexual relationship with this person who, once long ago, made your heart beat faster.

Notice that there’s a hint of obligation here. A robust sex life might begin with spontaneous combustion, but it requires regular and conscious refueling to keep the flame alive over the long haul.

So, the first step is to want to revive your sexual relationship badly enough to make the effort and to commit to tending the flame. Here are some tips to get started.

Anticipation is a powerful aphrodisiac, and it’s one of the first casualties of a long-term relationship. “…living together…can take the anticipation out of sex. And anticipation is not just utterly delicious in itself; it’s a useful tool for heightening your passion during the act—when you finally get to it,” write Webber and Dalvin.

You can heighten anticipation by:

  • Scheduling sex. Put it on your calendar—both of you. Then you can begin to prepare—and fantasize—in advance. What will you wear? What will you do? What senses will you pleasure: what tastes, scents, textures might you incorporate? Will there be surprises? Maybe new toys? Maybe you’ll discover a new position to experiment with?
  • Prepare for your date night. Take a fragrant bath. Shave. Moisturize. Scent. Clear your mind of distractions, stress, and worry.
  • Send sexy notes. Leave them in odd places. Describe what you’re going to do to him or her. Sext like the bad girls. Email. Keep sex on the brain during the ho-hum (or hectic) work day.

One woman writes: “My husband resisted getting a cell phone for years. After becoming a small business owner, he finally caved and bought one. …After I had sent him a couple of steamy texts, he came home and said, ‘Boy, I never thought I’d say this, but I sure love cell phones!’ ”

  • Become foreplay aficionados. Nothing builds anticipation like foreplay. And you need a lot more these days, anyway. So, take your time. Tease. Play. What’s the rush?
  • Abstain. Forbidden fruit is always sweetest; the anticipation makes it so. You can touch, kiss, pet, cuddle—but no intercourse until some agreed-upon future moment.

Play. You’re only limited by your imagination here. Your date night could involve a variety of role plays: Arrange a tryst at a local bar. Arrive separately and “meet” each other. He (or you) might have conveniently reserved a room nearby. Go to a romantic movie separately and meet in the back row—make out just like you used to.

Here’s a list of adult games for both spice and romance, and honestly, they sound like fun!

Do it his way. Focus totally on pleasuring your partner. Do exactly what he wants—even if it’s not your cup of tea. Your task is to lovingly provide unforgettably erotic experience. Plan to fill in the gaps in case your partner’s imagination runs dry.

Next time it’ll be your turn.

Change it up. Nothing beats boredom like a change of pace. Try different times—lovemaking in the morning, an afternoon delight. Do it in unfamiliar, maybe even [slightly] dangerous, places—on the floor in front of the fireplace, in your back yard at night, in the bathtub.

Get away—or stay at home. It’s always fun to make reservations for a weekend getaway—a nice hotel with an in-room Jacuzzi. Dinner by candlelight. A sexy, maybe erotic, film. Room service breakfast in bed.

But it can also be delicious to spend a weekend away—at home. Clear your calendar. Turn off the electronic gadgets. Get the cleaning and laundry done ahead of time. Stock up on luxurious and tasty treats that may also be known for their quality as aphrodisiacs.

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In the beginning, there was passion. Your feelings were almost painful. You wrote long letters and sent silly gifts and spent hours in whispered conversations on the phone. A lifetime ago. Remember?

Then came the long familiar years. You settled into a cozy, secure routine. You finished each other’s sentences; you knew the next move, the habits, the vulnerabilities, the quirks and preferences.

But what happened to the passion?

Psychotherapist Esther Perel has spent her career studying the sexual language of long-term, committed couples. She’s pondered the dynamics of the love/desire dialectic, and she’s identified the qualities that keep the sexual spark alive over the years. In a recent talk, she discussed her work with exceptional lucidity. You may intuitively know what Perel has to say, but few of us have articulated it so clearly. In any case, it’s good to be reminded—and challenged.

Desire and love are paradoxical. They’re mutually exclusive. Love, says Perel, is to have. It’s associated with security, with safety, with roots and foundations. To love is to know the beloved and to be known. But this contented intimacy isn’t a necessary component of good sex, “contrary to popular belief,” says Perel.

To desire, on the other hand, is to want. Desire craves adventure, novelty, risk. We desire mystery, the unattainable, the 50 Shades kind of guy.

Trouble is, we want both love and desire. We want security and passion. Intimacy and mystery. Safety and risk. So how can these opposing drives coexist in a marriage? How can we settle into the mature love of a long-term relationship without losing the hungry edge of desire that brought us together in the first place? How can we achieve the ideal of a “passionate marriage,” which fans the flame of desire within the intimacy of commitment?

As she studied couples around the world, Perel asked them when they found themselves most attracted to their partner. She heard variations of the same theme:

  1. When they reunite after an absence.
  2. When watching the other from a distance when the partner is completely engaged in an activity. “When I look at my partner, radiant and confident, [is] probably the biggest turn-on across the board,” says Perel.
  3. When there are no demands and no needs.  “Caretaking is mightily loving,” says Perel. But, “it’s a powerful anti-aphrodisiac.”
  4. When there is some novelty or newness. “When he’s in his tux,” said one person. Substitute cowboy boots, or a toolbelt, or motorcycle leather.

In these situations, there is a shift in perspective from the familiar to a sense of separation and distance. It’s the Proustian “voyage of discovery [that] consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Desire is a dialog we have with committed love. It’s a duet, a dance. The dynamic may be paradoxical, but both are necessary if a long-term relationship is to remain vital. It’s the language of poetry and mystery rather than of process and technique. Desire is more complex than bedroom gymnastics.

From her experience in studying and counseling couples, Perel has distilled several qualities that erotic couples seem to have in common. These aren’t on many “how-to” lists; they have more to do with essence than with activities. They may not be easy to incorporate because they’re not as straightforward as establishing a “date night.” But the concepts she delineates are worth some thought.

  1. Give each other some erotic privacy. Maybe this is the space that preserves mystery. It allows the other some personal freedom to explore. It acknowledges that you aren’t joined at the hip; that there is difference and distance. “Erotic privacy may mean different things to different people,” writes Pamela Madsen, author of Shameless. “It may mean the privacy to look at pornography and not share some desires with our partners. It may mean the possibility of exploring ourselves within agreed upon boundaries without our partners.”
  2. Foreplay isn’t optional. It isn’t a five-minute, pre-sex duty. “Foreplay pretty much starts at the end of the previous orgasm,” says Perel. These relationships cultivate a sense of erotic anticipation.
  3. Check the “good girl” at the door. Desire is selfish. You aren’t responsible for organizing or orchestrating. “Responsibility and desire just butt heads,” says Perel.
  4. Passion has seasons. Like the moon, it waxes and wanes. It will return, but keep on having sex in the meantime. “Willful, non-spontaneous sex,” says Madsen.

“Committed sex is premeditated sex,” says Perel. “It’s willful. It’s intentional. It’s focus and presence.”

To hear Perel’s talk in its entirety, visit the TED website here. This twenty minutes may be the best gift you could give your relationship today.

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A Sexy Start to the New Year

I don’t know about you, but celebrating New Year’s Eve has become as exciting as a dirty sock under the bed. What happened to the crazy parties with friends? What happened to Auld Lang Syne and champagne and… other stuff?

I’ll tell you what happened. Life and maturity happened. At some point, we decided it was silly to party like it’s 1999 and wake up with the baby at 6 a.m. And now I’m betting that a good number of us won’t even make it ‘til the ball drops. And really, that’s not so bad, is it?

So maybe you’re staring down a quiet evening at home. Or maybe you’ve chosen to welcome the New Year with a quiet evening at home. So why not make it special? Just the two of you.

Here are some ideas:

  • Have a pajama party. Dress in cozy nightwear. (No, not your raggedy footies. Get some nice but comfy nightwear.) Play board games—Scrabble or Monopoly. Have some yummy but healthy snacks ready. Dark chocolate is a must. Wine. Fruit. Here’s a list of foods with aphrodisiac qualities.
  • Brew up some special cocktails for the occasion. Maybe you have a drink you both love, but here are some romantic nightcaps if you want to try something new. Very rich hot buttered rum, anyone?
  • Have a romantic movie night. Cuddle. Make popcorn and hot chocolate. My favorite gottahaveit movie snack? Peanut M&Ms. Have a favorite? Here’s a great list to get you started. Others might include Gone With the Wind, An Officer and a Gentleman, Ghost, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Casablanca, Doctor Zhivago, or West Side Story.
  • Rent (or borrow) a cabin in the woods. Celebrate the New Year under a canopy of stars in the deep quiet of a snowy forest in front of a roaring fire. Naked. Make magic happen.
  • Go bubbly. If you have a jacuzzi (or even if you don’t), fill the bathroom with candles, incense, soft music, champagne, and a warm bubble bath for two.
  • Don’t stop at New Year’s Eve. Make a resolution to romance your honey all year long. This is the best list I’ve encountered for sincere, creative ways to let your partner know you love him or her.

Happy, Sexy New Year!

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A young woman I know went to the hospital to have a baby. She packed all the things she thought she needed to keep her comfortable during labor—a big ball to sit on; small balls for back pain, power bars and snacks for energy. She also loaded her iPod with a playlist of her favorite music.

I was expecting Vivaldi, maybe Bach, or some soothing Tchaikovsky. But what filled the room as she puffed her way through contractions was a mélange of rock tunes she had found comforting on the subway when she was nauseated “and everything else I was into at the time.” These included bands like Cat Power and Sun Volt.

Yeah, I’ve never heard of them, either.

We may associate certain music with a happy time of life—French songs we heard in Paris or the Latin beat of Havana. We may like the music we listened to in our youth. Or, we may have cultivated a taste for one genre or another later in life—jazz or opera, for example.

I vividly remember the first time I heard Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring in college. That began my love affair with classical music, which continues to this day.

One thing is certain—music is powerful. Just listening to it—and it doesn’t have to be the favs on our playlist—can trigger emotion, such as patriotism, sadness, joy, excitement; it can relieve pain and depression; it causes the release of various chemicals such as testosterone, oxytocin, and those feel-good endorphins, such as dopamine, according to this Time magazine article. In fact, music taps into the same neurochemicals as sex, according to a recent study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Since we humans seem hard-wired to respond to music, doesn’t it make sense to invite this powerful ally into the bedroom?

As we mentioned in previous posts about engaging all our senses during sex, music can help us “get out of our heads.” This is valuable all by itself. But music can also help us get in the mood. Music that has shared associations can make us feel close to our partner. Or, like Ravel’s Bolero (that quintessential piece to have sex by), it might track the crescendo of the action.

Ideally, your partner likes the same music as you do, but maybe you’ll have to stretch a bit to include his or her favorites. Or maybe you can recall special tunes that are significant to both of you.

Don’t use this as an opportunity to broaden your taste in music, however—this might not be the time to sample that heavy metal band your son told you about. What you want is music that’s familiar, whether it’s soothing, romantic, or energizing. What you don’t want is an unexpected clash of cymbals at an inopportune moment. You want to avoid jarring changes in tempo or volume. The music should either sound similar or transition gradually. You might also consider keeping the remote close at hand to click to the next song or turn the music off altogether if it gets too distracting.

The Internet is full of lists of sexy music, including (Whoot! Whoot!) a 50 Shades playlist. Amazon also sells downloadable and unadorned Music for Sex. (A little more nuance might be nice.) But in this sphere, the best music is your own, drawn from shared memories and personal taste. Whether it’s Aaron Copland or Buena Vista Social Club, country, R&B, or classic rock, make it yours.

So maybe sit down together tonight and compile your playlist of music to make love by. Let us know how it goes—and be sure to share with us what works for you.

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The editor of the MiddlesexMD newsletter, who somehow knows these things, tells me that August is Romance Awareness Month.

Who knew?

According to an online poll by Zoosk, which calls itself a “romantic social network,” couples enjoy more romance than single people. Without getting too fussy about the details, according to the Zoosk survey, 79 percent of people in couples say that their partner is romantic while only 41 percent of single people say the same (presumably of their current interest?).

And even though the vast majority (78 percent) of those polled consider romance important in a relationship, only 20 percent of single people are happy with the romance in their lives compared to 59 percent of the coupled folks.

(Just to be clear, neither single people nor couples considered taking out the garbage romantic—so don’t try to make that count.)

In honor of Romance Awareness Month, maybe it’s time to take stock of the romance in your life. Are you stuck in a rut? A little rusty when it comes to new ways to woo your honey? Or maybe you haven’t thought about romance in a long, long time.

Romance might be considered a nuisance and a bother by some long-term couples. Romance is for newlyweds. What’s the point? He (or she) knows I love him (or her).

Maybe. But we frail human creatures still need reassurance from time to time. And saying the words out loud keeps our own emotional machinery in good working order, too. I’m betting that couples who manage to stay sexy and in love over the years are very good at romance. You know the couples I’m talking about. They hold hands; they enjoy being together; they touch; they make eye contact.

Romance can be as simple as a little squeeze or an “I love you” before bed. In fact, couples in the Zoosk survey actually preferred a hug and a kiss to dinner by candlelight (41 to 39 percent), while the singles prefer the dinner to the kiss (44 to 32 percent).

The tricky thing about romance is that it requires you to really know your partner in order to anticipate the unique things that will please him or her. Roses and chocolate might completely miss the mark while fresh coffee in the morning might be the most sensitive, loving and, yes, romantic, gesture imaginable. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to romance.

Romance is all about acts of thoughtfulness and caring that is uniquely targeted toward the person you love. It’s about going a little out of your way for no reason at all, except that you care.

Done right, romance communicates to your partner that he or she is uniquely loved, and that leads to a sense of intimacy and caring in return. (And maybe to sex.)

This is the stuff that keeps a relationship tender and vital. While romance can be sexy, it isn’t about sex; it’s about expressing your love without ulterior motive or expectation of return in a manner that that only your partner will appreciate.

August may be Romance Awareness Month, but there are eleven more months to practice in.

Let’s get started!

 

 

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Dear beloved partner of mine:

If you read my last letter (you did, right?), then maybe you understand how I feel—and how to make me feel better—sexually speaking.

So let’s stop beating about the bush. (Music to your ears, I know.) I’m going to get very specific about how to turn me on. But I’m hoping that if I take this step, you’ll reciprocate, and maybe we can begin talking about sex more openly, about what we each like, and about how to make it good for both of us.

Prime the pump. Always remember that, for a woman, sex begins in the mind and imagination. Use that to your advantage. Begin early. Make the coffee and bring it to me in bed. Leave me a provocative note in the morning. Send me a sexy text. Bring home lovely wine and chocolate. Help me get my head in the game.

Finesse the foreplay. I recently read that it takes a woman an average of 20 minutes to reach orgasm—and it takes a man four! Those numbers may be optimistic for both of us these days, but they illustrate one important difference between Venus and Mars: I need time! Besides, we’re sitting on Golden Pond now. What’s the rush?

Try starting in a different room. (Variety is always spicy.) Whisper sweet nothings. Tell me I’m beautiful. Show me that you desire me.

So once we get down to business, don’t just go for the goal posts: tease me. Use light touch. Use your tongue. Use your imagination. Experiment. Try running your hands over my inner thighs, tickle my neck. Try stimulating my perineum. (That’s the spot between my vagina and my anal opening.) Once I begin to steam up, hone in on the erogenous zones—my breasts and vulva. Lightly touch, lick, or kiss. Back off and do it again. Ask me to show you how I like to be touched.

Many ways to score. Despite all you’ve heard about how hard it is for women to reach orgasm, we’re actually equipped with several ways to do it. In fact, according to an article in Everyday Health, “researchers have even found a nerve pathway outside of the spinal cord, through the sensory vagus nerve, that will lead a woman to orgasm through sensations transmitted directly to the brain.”

Pretty fancy, huh?

But the surest way to orgasm for most women is through the clitoris—it’s the tail that wags the dog. And while it may take some practice to get it right, that little number isn’t choosy about the medium. Both oral and manual stimulation work just fine.

I know you’re not completely clueless, but let’s run over some technique. First, remember the tease. Don’t dive right in and go for gold. Kiss my abdomen and thighs, then move to the vulva and its inner lips. Gently lick or kiss. Explore with your tongue. Lick my clitoris lightly, then move away. Then come back. Don’t lick one spot too intensely or too long, because it just becomes numb. Let me know you like this. Pay attention to how I’m responding. Do I seem to be getting turned on? You can ask, you know.

When I’m good and ready, you can focus on the clitoris. At this point, a firm, repetitive licking should do the trick. You can also place your finger in my vagina at the same time. Maybe you can find the elusive G-spot. I’ll let you know. Or, you can caress my breasts as I’m coming into full-blown orgasm. You can also try to stimulate my perineum and see if I like that.

Another move (only slightly acrobatic) would be to move up to missionary when I begin orgasming clitorally and get your own orgasm started. (You should be pretty turned on by now—it’s been more than four minutes.) It’ll feel pretty good to me.

If this is a little overwhelming, or if you need more detail, I’ll buy you the book She Comes First: A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner.

Good positioning. Finally, let’s not neglect positions that might work better for me than our standard missionary. We could try what the kids call the “reverse cowboy,” or the doggy-style, rear-entry position. Or maybe I could sit on your lap? That might hit some different nerve endings, plus we can get real cozy.

We could also try some of those fancy pillows to help us get into all kinds of positions. (And to support our less-than-agile parts.)

And remember, if you’ve come and gone, and I’m still unsatisfied, we can always go back to the good old dependable clitoral orgasm. I just know how good you’re going to get at it.

But really, honey, the point isn’t to learn a bunch of new tricks, but to learn to accommodate our changing bodies and to have a more deeply satisfying time together.

And that’s going to take some good communication and a lot of practice.

So, let’s get started. I’ll bring the lube; you get the wine and chocolate.

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Science under the Romance

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’m a fan of vibrators. From talking to my patients, I’m well aware that not everyone is as comfortable with the idea—and the reality—of them as I am.

We’ve been talking with the MiddlesexMD medical advisory board about the adoption of vibrators. Dr. Michael Krychman, one of the members, sent me this history of the vibrator:

Steam-powered vibrating devices were patented in the late 1860s and 1870s by George Taylor. The first electromechanical vibrator was designed in 1880 by British physician Joseph Mortimer Granville, who intended it to be used for massage of male skeletal muscles.

Doctors originally used vibrators or self stimulators as a cure-all for female ailments: female hysteria, pelvic pain, nervous tension and a wide variety of gynecological complaints. In the 1920s, vibrators became associated with pornography and illicit sexuality. Only recently have sexual accessories and vibrators been favorably viewed as adjunctive medical accessories to help restore or enhance sexual response.

Well, I’m glad I don’t have to recommend a steam-powered device to my patients! But Michael’s response makes me think further about our attitudes about what’s “natural,” “sexual,” and “medical.”

One of the objections to vibrator use I hear is that they’re artificial—and this from users of microwaves, hair dryers, and Botox. That contradiction makes me think there’s something more going on. I think women of my generation like sex to be “romantic”—and so do I! But I’m guessing that my medical training has made it easier for me to acknowledge that underneath the romance is a real physical body, and the body encompasses a whole lot of science.

Michael confirms that “For some women, a vibrator might make the difference between adequate stimulation and the ability to achieve an orgasm—or not. About two thirds of the female population are not able to reach an orgasm with penetration alone.”

As a physician working with women who want to maintain their sexuality (and you know it’s good for you!), bypassing the vibrator would be like refusing to use a pacemaker or an artificial valve. The fact that a vibrator is erotic and fun? Well, that’s just a bonus.

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It’s the third Friday of the month, and you know the script by heart—half-hearted foreplay, missionary position, a quick (or not-so-quick) denouement, and your partner’s already snoring while you’re thinking about tomorrow’s chores.

Routine is inevitable in long-term relationships. Routine can feel secure and orderly, but too much routine in the bedroom just feels boring. When you can anticipate every move, when you stay up late to avoid sex, when you wish your partner would just hurry up and get it over with, it’s time to hit “reset,” and crank up the heat with your honey.

It’s worth putting the effort into a good sexual relationship for all the reasons I mentioned in the last post. You’ll probably be spending your golden years with this person, and sexual intimacy (which includes kissing and cuddling) is at the heart of a healthy relationship outside the bedroom. Regular sex is also good for your health, and it’s good for your mental frame of mind. Besides, if you’re going to have sex, you might as well make it good.

But you can’t just jump in bed with sex toys in hand—lay the groundwork I discussed in the last post. Communicate. Try to understand your partner’s needs. Does he or she feel vulnerable? Uncertain? Inadequate? Bored?

Share fantasies. And keep an open mind. Anything new seems awkward and weird at first, but neither your mother nor your pastor is in the bedroom. This is sacred space for just the two of you.

Once you’ve both agreed to sweeten the honey pot, here are some ideas to heat things up:

  • Create a boudoir. Your bedroom should be a place for sleeping and for sex. It’s not the junk room, not the den, not the family photo gallery. Take out the distractions—including the television. Create a private, comfortable, beautiful space for the two of you to be together.
  • Write love letters. Leave notes for each other throughout the day. Make them more lusty as the day goes on. (We found some postcards you can use if you like.)
  • Fantasize. Talk about sexual things you’ve always wanted to do. Write down three for each of you. Put them in a hat and draw one. The other has to at least try. (Not sure where to start? We found these vows when we were looking for postcards!)
  • Focus on foreplay. Forget about scoring a home run. Get creative with the many ways of getting around the bases, from sexy undressing to intimate touching.
  • Focus on skin. Remember that big sex organ? Use that powerful sense of touch to explore your partner’s erogenous spots. Use textured objects, such as feathers or silk, to create new sensations and to stimulate sensitive nerves.
  • Swap roles. One of you is the “giver,” whose sole task is to pleasure the other. Pay attention to what feels good to your partner, how he or she responds to certain touch in certain places. Then switch roles—you get to be the receiver.
  • Change places. Make love in a different room, a different house, outdoors, in front of a mirror. “[Sex] is about the stimulation of your surroundings,” said Jane Seddon, author of Daily Sex in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Doing it somewhere out of the norm adds an element of fun and makes you feel a little deviant.”
  • Stay healthy. Stress is a sex-killer, and it isn’t good for your health, either. Eat healthfully. Keep your weight under control. Exercise to maintain flexibility and to keep your joints healthy. You’ll be able to make love and do a whole lot more.

The goal, of course, isn’t to become sexual superstars, but simply to reestablish the connection and intimacy that was undoubtedly there in the beginning of your relationship. With decades of life experience behind you, the best is yet to come.

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Today, more and more women over age 50 are finding themselves sharing their households with parents and/or grown children. A recent article in the Atlantic magazine, “Grandma’s in the Attic, Junior’s in the Basement,” talks about the big jump in multi-generations living under one roof, from grandpa or grandma who move in to adult kids who move back.

The article cites a recent Pew Foundation study estimating that 16 percent of the U.S. population now lives in multi-generational households—the largest share since the 1950s. Reasons range from economics to caring for elderly parents.

These findings made me think about how complicated it can be for women in that situation to keep their sex lives alive and kicking. If you’re married, having a romantic evening (let alone having sex) presents all kinds of logistical problems. Knowing that your 78-year old mother is in the next room is not exactly an aphrodisiac.

If you’ve got grown children around, they can be even worse: Even a hint of parental romance can still gross them out (although they should know better!)—and curtail any action on your part.

To make matters worse, this multi-generational living may not have been your first choice; it may be happening just when you were starting to really enjoy being alone with your partner again, comfortably settling in as empty nesters.

So what’s a sexually active, post-menopausal woman to do? Make an effort, that’s what.

Go on an overnighter every few months, even if it’s just to the hotel downtown. Or ask friends if you could borrow their cabin in the woods some weekend.

Yes, it might take some planning ahead, but that in itself could be exciting (as those Viagra ads imply). So when grandma goes to visit your sister and your kids are out on their dates, make your own date to “meet in the bedroom” once the coast is clear.

Or be spontaneous and grab any moment that presents itself. Make a game out of it.

The point is, if you have a healthy sex life, don’t let these new circumstances ruin it for you. Good sex is not something to let casually slip away. And the way to keep it is to keep at it, making a commitment to get together in spite of your situation. Make it a priority; put it at the top of your “Things to do” list once in awhile!

Because, remember, having a good sex life is good not just for your relationship but for your overall health. If you do get caught by an older or younger resident, tell them you were just “exercising”!

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