Can Midlife Marriage Survive Without Sex?

One of my favorite Hallmark cards of all time. Scroll down for the sentiment inside.

Christa D’Souza, columnist for the London newspaper The Guardian, wrote on Friday that most middle-aged married couples would feel relieved if they didn’t feel societal pressure to keep having great sex. What do you think?

D’Souza’s provocative piece (sorry) was written after a new survey of Brits, “The Sex Census 2012,” revealed that people aged 60 to 65 were more sexually confident than those in their 30s. “Really?,” D’Souza writes, no doubt echoing the sentiments of many midlife people who read the report. “ Who are these middle-aged chandelier-swingers? Where do they winkle them out from?” To read the whole column, click here.

While the Sex Census covered the UK, surveys in the U.S. suggest that midlifers are randier than ever. In January the Huffington Post published highlights of a survey by dating site OurTime.com, in which 97 percent of midlifers said regular sex was important to their relationships. According to the survey, 53 percent of post 50ers think their sex life is just as important now as when they were younger, 26 percent think it is more important, and only 3 percent think their sex life is not important at all. That same HuffPo article featured sex and relationship expert Dr. Pepper Schwartz, who said that that women after 70 are more satisfied with their sex lives than men. (Really? Could it be because women after 70s are happier because they are having less sex?)

Here’s the inside of my favorite Hallmark card.

In her column in The Guardian, D’Souza was skeptical about the Sex Census results. She suspects that most people in midlife might just embellish the truth a wee bit when asked about their sex lives.  And the fact that the Sex Census was conducted in part by Ann Summers, a UK-based chain of erotic boutiques, might also skew the results.

“Admit to having shoplifted. Admit to having a bit of a drink problem, or being bankrupt. But living in a sexless marriage? Never,” she writes.

D’Souza breezily admits to an increased prudishness in her own marriage and shares similar perspectives from some of her acquaintances, all happy with having sex infrequently or not at all. Moreover, she features experts who say that it’s unfair to people with diminishing hormones to perpetuate the myth that sex should always be frequent and volcanic. One of those experts, psychologist Petra Boyton, points out that it’s a myth “that if you aren’t bonking like rabbits some terrible thing will befall your relationship.”

“If you are having a lot of sex, and you are enjoying it, obviously I’m not going to talk you out of it,” Boynton told The Guardian, “but in this environment where we vet or measure our relationships by the amount of sex we are having, I think that is disingenuous for people who have lots of other ways to express intimacy. There are a number of things which connect people, but we are constantly spun this line that the glue to a relationship is sex, and without it one’s relationship will fall apart, and I think there are a lot of commercial reasons why that message is put out. That’s not just insulting, it’s pernicious.”

Any brave souls want to join this discussion?

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8 thoughts on “Can Midlife Marriage Survive Without Sex?

  1. Im with Petra Boyton on this and agree that “there are lots of ways to express intimacy.”

  2. I have lived in a sexless marriage for 18 years. No longer. My wife’s ending of our sex life after our last child was born and her subsequent refusal to discuss it, or to visit Relate with me, have simply shown me that she wants to be in control of the relationship. No longer. This is one sexless marriage that has run its course.

  3. I was amused by the line in the first paragraph that said, in part: “most middle-aged married couples would feel relieved if they didn’t feel societal pressure to keep having great sex.”
    So middle-aged couples would feel relieved if they had bad sex? I don’t think that was the author’s intent.

  4. What I meant was: sex that’s as earth-shattering as it was in our 20s when we had all those raging hormones!!! I do think sex changes as we get older.
    Of course we can argue that “bad sex” is better than none!

  5. Sex and intimacy are important, but if health problems come in the way, then it can be tolerated so long as the loving, sharing, caring continue. Don’t just back off from all touching, kissing and cuddling………keep caring and show that you care. Love can pull you through if you both communicate and understand each others needs.

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