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The Big Way Sex Changes For Couples After 40

It's probably not what you think.

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An illustration of a man and woman as matches - the woman's match is on fire as she strikes a sexy pose, while the man's match looks burned out as he slumps forward.
Kiersten Essenpreis
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The last time I met my friend Julie* for lunch, I barely recognized her. She looked, to put it mildly, absolutely amazing. She’d lost weight … maybe 10 pounds … and her arms and legs were toned and muscular. She had an adorable new haircut and had, at the age of 47, decided to go blonde, a color that suited her perfectly. Her outfit was working all the right angles, and Oh-My-God those shoes! Was she really wearing heels in the middle of the day? As she dug into her meal with gusto, I marveled at this new, improved version of my friend whom I’ve known since college. This was not my same, slightly bored, married-forever friend. Julie had come to lunch happy, hungry and HOT.

“Well, to be honest,” Julie confided when I asked about her fabulous transformation, “Jerry and I are having more sex than ever. Truth be told, I feel like a teenager … except when I was a teenage girl I never wanted to have this much sex!”

This made sense to me. During the times in my life when I’ve felt desired, I’ve been motivated to make myself look desirable. And when one feels wanted at home, some of the stress that weighs us down during the day dissipates, lightening our step and increasing our appetite.

“Jerry must be psyched,” I speculated.

“Sort of,” explained Julie. “But really, he’s getting very cuddly.”

It was an interesting idea. Julie was behaving like a frat boy in the bedroom while her husband just wanted to be held. And while most of my friends aren’t quite this open about their sex life, it’s not the first time I’ve heard about this idea of trading places in terms of our sexual needs when we hit our 40s and 50s. Many women report having the best sex of their lives in their 40s, while a list of turn-ons for men over 40 includes intimacy as a top priority.

“Women in their 40s and 50s do become much more ‘sexually activated’ and less inhibited sexually,” say relationship experts Antia & Brody Boyd. “The reason for this is biological. … After a woman has passed her biological clock, sex becomes more about pleasure, so her sexuality can rise as high as desired.”

Psychotherapist and family therapist Ellen Jacobs agrees. “There is a lot of personal maturity that can develop from being older that can also lead to not caring about what others think or society’s idea of women, which may allow for behaving in a way that is less inhibited sexually.”

But what about Mr. Cuddles? Is it possible that these men who used to have to be reminded to think with their head and not a certain organ would now be the ones to crave intimacy and emotional connection with their partners?

“Men’s testosterone levels are lower with middle age, and the need for conquest is not as much of a motivator once they are settled into a family,” says Jacobs. “Men in middle age may be more concerned with being in an intimate relationship. With age and maturity, men can develop more awareness of their need to be cared for or intimate in order not to feel alone.”

The Boyds agree and chalk it up to biological, reproductive cues. Especially when you’re talking about a man in his 40s or 50s who has already produced children. “Sex becomes then more about connection and bonding with quality [partners] or with his chosen [partner].”

Variety is the spice of life, and these experts agree that this sexual swap is healthy. “It’s important that women learn and allow themselves to be fully sexual beings, no matter how old they are,” says Jacobs.

The Boyds say that it all depends on whom you’re partnered up with. “But when both match up,” they say, “If can definitely be a beautiful thing.”

*Julie’s name has been changed