Most people begin their relationship as a romantic love/passionate sex/idealized couple. This infatuated love or limerance phase is special and of great value. However, it is fragile and time-limited, usually lasting between 6 months and 2 years. The challenge for the couple is to develop a couple sexual style post-infatuation/limerence which allows each partner to have a “sexual voice” while being a sexual team who integrate intimacy and eroticism. This is true whether the couple are straight or gay, married or partnered.
In this workshop, we will explore sexual transitions between people in their 20s, 40s, 60s, and 80s. The good news is there is solid scientific evidence that people enjoy satisfying couple sexuality in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. The bad news is that 1 in 3 couples stop being sexual between 60 and 65 and 2 in 3 between 70 and 75.
The role of couple sexuality is to energize the relationship and reinforce feelings of desire and desirability. Each phase faces its unique challenges. The vulnerability for younger couples is that they do not see a need to create a couple sexual style to replace the sex of the limerance phase. The challenge here is to integrate desire/pleasure/eroticism/satisfaction so that sexuality has a positive 15-20% role in their lives. For couple in their 30s and 40s the vulnerability is settling for routine, totally predictable sex, and prioritizing parenting and career over being a couple. The challenge is to value and reinforce vital, satisfying couple sexuality. The vulnerability for couples over 50 is the focus on individual sex performance as a pass-fail test and to narrowly define sex as intercourse. The challenge is to value sensual, playful, and erotic sexuality in addition to intercourse and to emphasize the couple pleasure-oriented Good Enough Sex (GES) approach.
Barry McCarthy, PhD, is a professor of psychology at American University, a diplomate in clinical psychology, a certified sex therapist, and a certified couples therapist. He has published more than 110 professional articles, 29 book chapters, and 14 books. Barry has presented more than 450 professional workshops in the United States and internationally. In 2016 he received the Masters and Johnson award for lifetime contributions to the sexuality field.