In middle age, for the upper classes, the married relationship stagnates, the sex declines and the wife is frustrated, angry and bitter
By Shevlin Sebastian
“The first night was terrible for both of us,” says Prema Rajan, 46. “My husband and I were so disappointed. We were made to feel it would be the most exciting night of our lives, but nothing like that happened.”
The experience was physically painful for Prema and there was a lot of fumbling in the dark. “It took us some time to learn how to go about it and enjoy sex,” she says, with a laugh.
Twenty four years have passed. Three daughters were born. Prema is a teacher in an upscale school, while her husband is a CEO of a private firm. “My sex life petered out ten years ago, after my third child,” she says. “It was not because of any bitterness or incompatibility. Both of us began getting our orgasmic pleasures from other things.”
While her husband is intensely involved in his career, Prema has turned her mind towards things spiritual. “Middle age is the time when you overcome your indulgences,” she says. “It is also the time when I feel that if I don’t have something, I am okay with it.”
But not everybody has Prema’s sense of equanimity. Gayatri Raghavan, 49, says, “I am at the stage where I am battling the ‘empty nest syndrome’ (her son and daughter are studying abroad), as well as menopause.” She says this gives rise to unhappiness and the wife needs to be handled with oodles of tender loving care. “But my husband is indifferent or, perhaps, ignorant of my plight,” she says.
What is adding to Gayatri’s misery is her lack of a sex life. Married for 25 years to a successful businessman, she says, “Sex is history for us. It became very mechanical, lacklustre and then slowly petered out!”
She has company in Susan Thomas, 48. “In the last 15 years, I have had sex a few times a year,” she says. “And I am not exaggerating. I am sick and tired of my husband. The problem with my marriage is that there is no intimacy, no emotional bonding and no sex.”
So, why does sex go down as the years go by? “Partners tend to take each other for granted,” says Gayatri. “Spouses also don’t take pains to maintain themselves physically and this leads to a deadening of interest.”
Prema says one of the main reasons for the decline of sex in her social circle is a hectic lifestyle. “Both husband and wife have thriving careers,” she says. “They are so exhausted at the end of the day, they don’t have time for anything else.”
So, in these busy times, how do these women tackle sexual frustration? “I usually masturbate or have a sexual fantasy,” says Gayatri. “Both are very satisfying.” Susan, on the other hand, hates masturbation, but would not mind having a sexual fantasy. For both, affairs are a no-no.
“It is not that I am prudish or puritanical,” says Gayatri. “But I fear the censure of a conservative society.” Susan says that she has not met a man with whom she could fall in love with.
Prema, on the other hand, says that she did have an affair but it ran out of steam because she did not want to break up her marriage. She says she knows of friends who had affairs, out of sheer boredom, but none made the ultimate move of divorce. “Most women I know just did not have the energy to walk out,” says Prema.
Susan’s friends have also indulged in affairs but, “it is a dead-end. Only one had the courage to go for a divorce and marry a childhood sweetheart.” She feels that around 75 per cent of the marriages in the 45 to 55 age group are unhappy. “The women are suffering silently,” she says. “Eventually, they will fall sick, so that they can get a little attention. Most illnesses in this age group have psychosomatic origins.”
But not everybody has a gloomy story to tell. Snehalata Panicker is 50, but looks 40, what with her slim figure and unlined face, made more attractive by high cheekbones and kaajal-rimmed eyes. Married for 25 years, she has a reasonably satisfactory sexual life. “My husband and I indulge in it at least once a week,” she says.
Asked whether sex is more enjoyable now than when she was younger, she says it is better now. “When a woman is in her child-rearing period, it is difficult to think about sex,” she says. “Every day, you have to get up early, get the children ready, and go to work. Managing a house and career is a stressful responsibility.”
She says that now – her two sons are working abroad -- she is prone to experimentation. “I am in a very free period,” she says. “But we don’t use sexual toys yet, because my husband is a conventional person.”
So, what is Snehalata’s advice to those who are having a tough time? “Couples should talk about their needs to each other,” she says. “I have noticed that the communication aspect is poor in most marriages.”
(Names and identities have been changed)
How to revive your sexual life
By Dr. Prakash Kothari
For women, when there is a deficiency of estrogen, it leads to a dryness in the vagina, which results in painful intercourse. Hence, the estrogen levels should be high. Women should eat food that is rich is estrogen: soya beans and its products. In addition, a little bit of testosterone would be better. Have urad ka dal and garlic. Garlic dilates the blood vessels in the pelvic region.
Even after this, if lubrication is inadequate, you can use KY, a water-based jelly or synthetic estrogen, but under a doctor’s advise.
Middle-aged people should devote more time to foreplay. As you grow older, getting an erection in a man and lubrication in a woman is a slow process.
There is a misconception that menopause is the end of sex. This needs to be clarified: it is the end of the reproductive career, but not the sexual life.
Communication is the best solvent of sexual problems. The four-letter word at this stage is T A L K. Communicate to each other about your likes and dislikes, and about the erogenous zones.
Sometimes, only foreplay will revive passions. It will also allay performance anxiety for man and woman. Both partners should remember that, sometimes, the appetisers are better than the main course, that is, intercourse.
You can use fantasy or erotic literature. If there is still a problem of arousal, as Sage Vatsyanana wrote in the Kama Sutra, one can use apadravya (an artificial penis, dildo or a vibrator).
Please remember sex has no expiry date.
(The Mumbai-based Kothari is one of the leading sexologists in the country)
Talking the language of love
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a best-selling book, The Five Love Languages (How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate) about married relationships and why so many people are unhappy. He says that if spouses follow the five love languages, the chances of happiness are very high.
The Five Love Languages are:
Words of Affirmation
Mark Twain once said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Verbal appreciation speaks powerfully to persons whose primary Love Language is “Words of Affirmation.”
Quality time is more than mere proximity. It’s about focusing all your energy on your mate. A husband watching sports while talking to his wife is NOT quality time.
Quality conversation is very important in a healthy relationship.
Some mates respond well to visual symbols of love. If you speak this love language, you are more likely to treasure any gift as an expression of love and devotion.
Acts of Service
Sometimes, simple chores around the house can be an undeniable expression of love. Even simple things like laundry and taking out the trash.
Many mates feel the most loved when they receive physical contact from their partner. For a mate who speaks this love language loudly, physical touch can make or break the relationship. Sexual intercourse makes many mates feel secure and loved in a marriage.
(Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express, Kochi)