As Kingsberg says, "Personalize the personal." Sexual desire and abilities shift with age, gender, and myriad other variables. For postmenopausal women, who may be prone to hot flashes, "setting the mood is also setting the thermostat," Kingsberg says. Dr. Ruth advises older couples to have sex in the morning "when the testosterone level is highest." Testosterone levels lower with age and can lead older men to experience diminished sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Make time for each other.
If at all possible, take a vacation. But if not, act like you're on one, Kingsberg says. "If you're home, you tend to be sort of running parallel lives," and "it's hit or miss to come together," Kingsberg says. She encourages couples to plan date nights.
Berman recommends several weekly iterations: a traditional date, cuddle date, and sex date. In the first case, she advises couples to "spend a minimum of two hours away from home, and you're not allowed to talk about the kids or diapers or your usual subjects of discussion." Block off 30 minutes each week for cuddling and kissing, but no sex, she says. This ritual helps women feel amorous without the pressure of any sexual demands. "Men are like a microwave oven, and women are like a slow-burning stove," she explains. "You have to stoke it all week long." That way you prime the pump, so to speak, when your sex date rolls around. And just because it's scheduled doesn't mean it's not romantic. "We think sex has to be spontaneous in order for it to be good," but planning for sex creates the joy of anticipation, she says.
"Make a commitment to giving each other five genuine expressions of appreciation a day," Berman says. "You're putting your attention on what your partner is doing right, rather than what they are doing wrong, which is very easy to do."
And while we often need to power off our screens to power up our love lives, there is room for digital dialogue to fan the flames of romance. "We have these smartphones now. Let's be smart about using them," Kingsberg says. "It is very easy now to send a short note to your partner," to say you're looking forward to dinner or simply thinking of him of her.
Exercise and eat right.
"Summer is a perfect opportunity to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and restrict fried foods, all of which will make you feel better in and out of the bedroom," says Irwin Goldstein . "Enjoy outdoor exercise to improve sexual health, but if you choose bike riding as your exercise, get off the saddle frequently, ride on a wide, noseless seat, and if you experience genital numbness stop riding immediately." A study published this month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine associated saddle pressure with genital nerve damage in women. The publication has previously published research linking cycling to male sexual dysfunction.
Rethink "good sex." "Good sex is not necessarily an orgasm at the same time (among both partners)," says Dr. Ruth. "If they look at each other and get aroused, wonderful. But we have to get away from the idea that it has to be simultaneous."
If need be, get help.
"We tend to push sex under the covers...so since its summer lets strip those covers off and talk about it," Kingsberg says. "We are still, as a society, uncomfortable talking about sex, and couples tend to not know where to turn or they think there's something wrong with them if they have some sexual concerns."
For more resources on sexual health, Sue Goldstein suggests visiting the websites of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America (www.sexhealthmatters.org), the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (www.isswsh.org); and the Institute for Sexual Medicine (sexualmed.org).