It will come as a surprise to precisely no one that midlife can be a time of more bumps in the road than humps. Nor that long-term couples may find their sex life lacking. Wrestling with the stresses of physical changes and multiple responsibilities – not to mention the chance of existential crisis – is hardly conducive to passion.
Men in particular can find such difficulties hard to broach, whether they have been with a partner for 20 years or two weeks. But those who seek help from psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist Silva Neves often have concerns in common.
The sooner the situation is acknowledged and accepted, the sooner it can be addressed and fixed. The important thing to remember is this is a common occurrence among all men – and no one should feel as though they’re ‘in it on their own’.
Here, he shares the five most frequent questions from midlife men, and the advice he gives.
How do I make time for sex when I’m so busy and tired?
In midlife, men’s careers and concerns are often all consuming. If their love life needs resurrecting, it is often a battle against an unceasing eff ort to maintain status and lifestyle.
“Status is important for many men, and the provider element,” says Neves. “It’s something they can show their partner, but also wider society, to say, ‘I am a good husband, a good person, because I take care of things.’”
But he says many men tell him: “My career is eating me up, I have no energy or time for my sex life.”
Neves says: “The stuff that’s private is left behind. And that is very often their sex life, meeting their own needs, but also meeting their partner’s needs. And if that conversation is awkward, it’s very common for both partners to never talk about it.”
That lack of a fulfilling intimate connection weighs heavily – as ultimately it is what gives our life meaning. Neves notes that when researchers asked people at the end of life their main regrets, “they were always, ‘I wish I had spent more time with my family, my spouse; I wish I paid more attention to human connection.’ None were, ‘I wish I had a bigger house or a better career.’”
So Neves asks the men he sees in his consulting room: “On your deathbed looking back, what do you want to see?” It can jolt them into re-prioritising.
But how can men broach the topic, particularly if there is resentment? Hard as it is, he encourages them to open up. “Have an emotionally vulnerable conversation,” he says. “I suggest looking at your partner, and saying, ‘I miss you. I miss being around you. I miss touching you. I miss our connection. I don’t tell you, because I forget, but I really like waking up every day and seeing you by my side.’”