There was a lot of talk several years ago that a single woman over 40 years of age had a better chance of being blown up in a terrorist attack than finding a healthy marriage partner. Times have changed, and 40 year-old women no longer look 40 and terrorist attacks are more frequent. The saying has lost its “punch” and you seldom hear this phrase anymore. I have gone to more weddings where the bride and groom are both over 40 years of age, and/or one of them is over 40 and the other is 39 and holding.
The new phrase is, “You get what you envision and believe.” People who are optimistic and see their partner as being the best and visualize their lives as being sexually active usually end up with great partners and sexually active lives.
The practice of optimism has never been as correlated to positive outcomes as it is with sexuality. Joel Black, Ph.D. has written numerous articles about sex lives over 50 years of age. He reports that when couples engage in the habit of optimism they suffer fewer problems with age-related effects of aging on their sexuality, and when or if there are problems, their optimistic habits help them work around the issues in a healthy way. This makes so much sense in working with couples. By the time I see the couple, one or both of them are depleted of optimism. In fact, many times it is not the relationship that is the issue, but the couple’s viewpoint that it is terrible and there is no hope of fixing it. Couples come in ready to give up on having a healthy sex life because they haven’t been successful at having sex for months or years. When I ask them how they can give up such a vital area of their relationship, they will say often times with disdain, “It was never good anyway, and she/he doesn’t really care about sex.” Very rarely is this the case. The partner has given up, because the person stating this has become so negative that being involved with them sexually is more painful than becoming celibate in the marriage.
Pessimism towards one’s sex life doesn’t happen overnight; it is a pattern developed relatively early in the relationship/marriage and it continues to get worse as the years go on. Pessimism is a habit just as optimism is. When you date, you know right away if the person you are out with is a pessimist by trait or an optimist. Usually, pessimists attract optimists much like a magnet attracts metal, and if you are a full-blooded optimist it is highly likely the person sharing your pillow is a pessimist. When couples are newlywed, they may find this match humorous. However, when you grow as a couple and your pessimistic partner is getting older, complaining about the effects of aging, and the lack of vigor, the humor you may have enjoyed in your youth with this person becomes dulled. The optimistic partner becomes overwhelmed with trying to appease the pessimistic spouse, and this is where touching, talking, and enjoying intimacy hits the wall. Many times this is where they enter my office, both of them looking very pessimistic regarding their non-existent sex lives.