Most couples remain happy with their sex lives into their 60s, research says

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Adapted Media Release

Most couples in long-term
relationships remain happy with their sex lives, even into their 60s, new
research says.
The British Sociological
Association’s annual conference in Manchester heard that while it was not
uncommon for couples to disagree about how often they should have sex, this did
not alter the commitment to the relationship.
Professor Jacqui Gabb, of the
Open University, and Professor Janet Fink, of the University of Huddersfield,
surveyed more than 5,000 heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual people aged 16
to 65 to ask about their relationships. They found that:

  • around 60% agreed with a
    survey statement that sex was an important part of their relationship, with
    around 15% disagreeing. Others neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • around 33% of women agreed
    with the statement that their partners wanted sex more than they did, and 40%
    said this was not the case
  • around 10% of men said that
    their partners wanted sex more than they did, and 60% said this was not the
Professor Gabb told the
conference that although a minority of couples disagreed about the frequency of
sex, they and other couples were still happy with their relationship.
“What’s really
interesting is that couples are saying that differences in sexual frequency and
desire are just part and parcel of the relationship cycle and are accepted as
not particularly significant,” she said.
“What couples talk about
is finding a compromise – other ways of sharing and expressing feelings, acknowledging
issues and accommodating these and, for older couples especially, not taking it
all too seriously.”
The researchers also looked
specifically at women’s feelings about their sex lives over time.
They found that 20% of
heterosexual women at the beginning of the relationship said their partner
wanted sex more than they did, rising to 45% among women in a relationship for
16 years, but falling to 36% among women in a relationship that had lasted over
20 years.
For LGB women, 15% thought
their partner wanted sex more than they did at the beginning of the
relationship, rising to 36% for those in a relationship had lasted 20 years,
falling to 15% for those in one that had lasted over 20 years.
When asked what they least
liked about their relationship, women were more likely to choose ‘not sharing
childcare and housework fairly’, ‘poor communication’ and ‘money worries’ than
problems with sexual intimacy.
For men, different
expectations of sexual intimacy were the second most often problem cited, after
‘arguments or conflicts’.
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The researchers found that for
men and women, being given compliments, sharing the housework and being
listened to were more important in feeling appreciated than sexual intimacy.
The researchers also
interviewed 50 couples and found that many older participants still took
pleasure in their sex lives even when sex was not as frequent.
Professor Gabb said:
“Fluctuations in desire are inexorably tied into other life factors, but
it is the sharing of a life together, the investment in that joint venture, and
the acceptance of change as an integral part of this shared life which enables
couples to weather the ebbs and flows that characterise sexual intimacy and the
passage of time in long-term relationships.
“The longevity of
partnerships seems to be connected with couples’ capacity to negotiate changing
circumstances. For older couples, the first blush of a new relationship may
have worn off but the relationship has not tarnished.”
Quotations from couples
“In terms of sex, we’re
probably down to once a week or once every two weeks now, because we have been
really busy. We’ve been together for five and a half years and as you can
imagine we would have sex more often when we started going out. The good thing
is that we can talk to each other a lot about these things.”
Heterosexual woman, aged
25-35, childfree
“It’s not an important
part of our relationship, if it’s available and it’s okay, then we’ll do it. I
don’t ever feel like we’re having too much sex or too little sex, we’ve never
had an argument or pressured the other person into sex or anything like
Gay man, aged 18-24, childfree
A woman said that sex was:
“one of the prerequisites of a relationship for me. But there are other
areas of a relationship which I think need a lot more work and are far more
important, like trust, money, love, teamwork.”
Heterosexual woman, aged
55-65, childfree
“It’s such a cliché isn’t
it? [Partner] would like to find more time for that [sex], I’m less bothered
because I’m exhausted and sometimes when I get to bed I just want to sleep. I
don’t always have the kind of emotional energy to get from just being a really
tired mum who’s got to go to work in the morning to a woman in a relationship –
I’d rather just go to bed, whereas [partner] is not like that, like most men, I
Heterosexual woman, aged
25-34, children living at home
“I think it’s got better
and better. When we were younger it was a lot less frequent, because we were
both working hard full-time and were knackered, basically. It’s not always been
the same, but it’s always been a good part of the relationship.”
Heterosexual woman, aged
35-54, children left home

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.