Mindful Sex

Tips and techniques from the front lines of couples therapy.

Aging and Male Sexual Desire IV: Mindfulness: Secret Elixir

Being mindful, accepting, and present is the best antidote to aging in sexuality

If you have read the previous three parts of “Aging and Male Sexual Desire,” you are aware that there is no way to avoid the changes to body and mind that accompany aging. This is also true for our sexual equipment and functioning. In part one I described the control one can have over the aging changes and its resulting toll. This involves taking good care of your body and avoiding life-style associated illness (diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, vascular illness). Staying in good cardio-vascular and mental health means that you can avoid taking medications that are also implicated in reducing and complicating sexual desire and arousal. 

Maintaining strong sexual desire must include a satisfying and responsive intimate relationship or a “securely attached” relationship. When securely attached your relationship is a safe haven and secure base where it is safe to directly and unambiguously express your needs and wants, take risks, and verbalize or communicate about your sexuality. A securely attached relationship is characterized by responsiveness, engagement, and availability. It is hard to think of a satisfying sexual relationship without these three characteristics. In a securely attached relationship you seek intimacy and closeness as well as sensation and pleasure. You have the expectation that your partner will respond in a way that says “I care about you and wish to meet your (sexual) needs.” 

The safety and permission to directly communicate about your sexual needs and then modify your sexual “dance” is the antidote to the loss of physical function that accompanies aging. There is no preventing change (“impermanence”) to our physicality as it relates to sexual arousal and functioning. What there can be between partners is the flexibility and adaptability to adjust as these normative changes occurs. Examples include being able to change positions if there are back issues or needing more time or different kinds of penile stimulation in order to become aroused by your partner. 

There is one more crucial ingredient to healthy sexual aging I wish to mention and this is both an attitude towards life and a capacity of the mind. This is called Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the lynchpin of Buddhist Psychology and is practiced as a means of training attention and improving awareness. The objective of this training is ultimately to reduce suffering by seeing things as they are and accepting them as is. Suffering in Buddhist psychology is conceptualized as resulting from our inability to accept change or impermanence and to remain attached (to whatever does not serve us including self-defeating thoughts and emotions). When we are mindful we are in a mental state of “non-reactive, non-judgmental awareness.” When mindful, we are present in the moment, leaning in to what is happening embracing whatever presents itself with equanimity and gratitude. 

Now we cannot all be Buddha like or enlightened but this is a mindset that will be in the service of healthy adaptation to our inevitably aging bodies. Instead of fearing the changing conditions and symptoms of aging, trying desperately to hold on and resist, mindfulness leads to acceptance and then to doing the best you can with what you have, no matter how old or disabled. You don’t have to like it, but resisting the change or comparing yourself with what you had or did when you were younger is not helpful. Keeping yourself in a state where you desire sex when everything moves slower, feels different, and sags requires more than a pill or fitter muscles, it necessitates a “mindful brain” that is equal parts self-accepting and compassionate and relational: connected and connecting. The embers of the sexual fire then do not extinguish but are fanned to a mellow glow by loving presence.

 

Dan F. Pollets, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist. more...

Subscribe to Mindful Sex

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.