While men and women lose passion with age, women are often left cold by longer relationships, says a study of British sexual attitudes.
The findings, from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in Britain, are based on the experiences of nearly 5,000 men and 6,700 women.
Relate sex therapist Ammanda Major told BBC Health that losing interest in sex isn’t necessarily abnormal, and there were many different reasons why men’s and women’s needs change.
“For some, it is a natural and normal place to be, but for others it causes pain and misery,” she says.
In total, 15% of men and 34% of women surveyed said they had lost interest in sex for three months or more in the previous year.
For men, this lack of interest was highest at the ages of 35-44 while for women it peaked between 55 and 64.
But the researchers, from the University of Southampton and University College London, said there was no evidence that the menopause was a factor for women.
They did find, however, that having young children at home was a particular turn-off for women.
Poor physical and mental health, poor communication and a lack of emotional connection during sex were the main reasons why men and women lost interest.
Tips for rekindling interest in sex
- Start talking about the issue early on rather than leaving it to fester – ignoring it can lead to other problems and make you feel resentful. If that doesn’t work, confront the reason why you don’t want to talk about it.
- Explore other forms of intimacy such as holding hands, talking gently to each other, cuddling and stroking rather than full-on sex.
- Feeling as if you are not being heard is a barrier to sex – so make your partner feel respected and important.
- Get some additional support by going to see a sex therapist, relationship counsellor or your GP.
In the survey, those who found it “always easy to talk about sex” with their partner were less likely to say they lacked interest.
However, those whose partner had had sexual difficulties, and those who were less happy in their relationship, were more likely to say they had lost interest in sex at some stage.
Ammanda says: “Sex is a very personal thing, and talking about it can be embarrassing. But talking is often the best thing you can do to improve your sex life.”
Relate has helped thousands of people re-discover a satisfying sex life.