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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Act of Marriage After 40: Making Love for Life

This book is unlike any other I have ever written. It should be read only by married couples, those immediately contemplating marriage, and those who counsel married couples.

It is deliberately frank. I have long felt a need for a clear and detailed presentation of the intimate relationship that exists between a husband and wife. Most Christian books on this subject skirt the real issues and leave too much to the imagination; such evasiveness is not adequately instructive. Secular books, on the other hand, often go overboard telling it like it is in crude language repulsive to those who need help. In addition, such books usually advocate practices considered improper by biblical standards.

To keep the facts that every couple needs to know from being offensive, I am writing this book with the help of Beverly, my wife of fifty years. In addition to the delicate sense of balance she brings to this work, I have drawn on her extensive counseling experiences as a minister's wife, conference speaker, and registrar of Christian Heritage College.

Both of us have counseled enough married couples to convince us that an enormous number of them are not enjoying all the blessings of which they are capable or for which God has designed them. We have discovered that many others find the intimacies of married love distasteful and unpleasant. Through the years, we have developed several teaching principles that have helped such people in a relatively short period of time. The requests of counselors, pastors, and others persuaded us that these same principles could help thousands of people if presented in book form.

Before we had had time to begin the project, Dr. Robert K. DeVries, then executive vice president of Zondervan Publishing House, invited us to lunch to present us with the first printed copy of my previous book, How to Win Over Depression. "A book that is sorely needed today, written by a Christian couple, would concern sexual adjustment in marriage," he remarked, "and we would like to ask you two to write it." We thanked him and promised to pray about it.

At first Bev was reluctant to get heavily involved with the endeavor until the Lord gave her a specific sign. Within the next two months she counseled at least ten wives who were averse to sexual intercourse. The success those women soon achieved in their love lives convinced her that God required her active participation in the project.

As we began to read current literature on the subject, convinced that God meant lovemaking to be enjoyed by both partners, we prayed that He would lead us to make this work fully biblical and highly practical. He provided many counseling illustrations and pertinent suggestions from pastors, doctors, and friends, among them Dr. Ed Wheat, a family physician who has prepared a superb series of lectures on the subject. When we met him at our Family Life Seminar in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he presented us with a complete set of his cassettes and graciously offered us the freedom to use anything in them. We recommend these cassettes to every married couple and those planning to be married in the near future; they are unquestionably the finest we have ever reviewed. In fact, Dr. Wheat includes information in them that we have not found in the fifty or more books we have scrutinized on this subject.

Inasmuch as most of the people we counsel are Christians, we concluded through our reading that Christians generally experience a higher degree of sexual enjoyment than non-Christians. However, there was no way to prove our assumption. We then prepared an intimate survey for married couples and offered it to those who have attended our Family Life Seminars. By comparing the responses with those of secular sex surveys, our conclusions were confirmed and other interesting and valuable facts were discovered. The results of our survey appear in chapter 13, and parts of it are scattered through the book.

While we were writing the last chapter of this book, Redbook magazine published a Sexual Pleasure Survey showing the preferences of 100, 000 women. The survey was taken by the magazine and written by Robert J. Levin (coauthor with Masters and Johnson of The Pleasure Bond). The most significant finding of Redbook's survey and the one listed first was that "sexual satisfaction is related significantly to religious belief. With notable consistency, the greater the intensity of a woman's religious convictions, the likelier she is to be highly satisfied with the sexual pleasures of marriage." Naturally we were delighted to find that Redbook's survey revealed results quite similar to those of our survey. On the strength of his research Mr. Levin emphatically confirmed that "strongly religious women (over 25) seem to be more responsive . . . [and] she is more likely than the nonreligious woman to be orgasmic almost every time she engages in sex." This further convinces us that our presupposition is accurate.

No single book by human beings will ever become the last word on any subject; therefore we don't claim this manual on married love to be final. But we do believe it contains much valuable information helpful to almost any married couple, and several of its insights are not currently found in any other book of its kind. We therefore send it out with our prayers that God will use it to enrich both the love and the love lives of those who read it.
Read a Sample Chapter
Chapter One
Love for a Long, Long Lifetime
Many people as they grow older--notice I didnt say old--poke fun at their diminishing ability to perform sexually. For instance, one of my favorite jokes goes like this:
The following are the three stages of a couples love life--
1. Couples in their twenties have sex triweekly.
2. Couples in their thirties try weekly to have sex.
3. Couples in their forties, fifties, and sixties try weakly to have sexual relations.
Those of you crossing the threshold into the middle-age years may hear that theres a lot of will but no way. But dont you believe it. Sex begins upstairs in the mind God gave you, so if you think youre too old for sex, youll act accordingly. This would be a shame because we believe couples can--and should--enjoy a vibrant sex life until they are well into their seventies, even their eighties. Psalm 90:10 reminds us, The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength. To have the strength, we must take care of our bodies by exercising moderately, eating the right foods, and taking nutritional supplements. (Ill have more to say about this later.)
One of our major themes in this book is that you can continue to love your spouse in physical and amorous ways that will be even better than during those first few sexually adventurous years of marriage. It is possible to enjoy an active, satisfying sex life well into your seventies and eighties. Affection, warmth, and sensuality do not have to deteriorate with age and can actually increase in the midlife years.
Sex in later life is sex for its own sake since our childbearing years are in our rearview mirrors. We make lovefor pleasure, release, communication, and intimacy. Since the midlife years are marked with fewer responsibilities on the home front (the kids are grown and gone or about to leave the nest), many find this era a time of exhilaration. We lose a step physically, but we more than gain that back with experience. Playwright George Bernard Shaw had it right when he correctly stated, Youth is wasted on the young.
Sex can remain interesting, fulfilling, and exciting in the forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond. Older women rarely lose their physical ability to reach an orgasm, and many older men exhibit a capability for erections and ejaculations. We can expect the body to slow down gradually in sexual response, however, and for sexual desire to lessen, especially for women.
The fact that you have chosen to read about this topic suggests that your sexual relationship is important to you and your spouse. Based on that interest, we will attempt to answer several fundamental questions in The Act of Marriage After 40:
What are satisfying love relationships like in the midlife years?
In what ways does the act of marriage change as spouses grow older together?
How can the sexual relationship improve in the second half of marriage?
To begin our discussion, lets debunk these common myths about sex in the midlife years.
Myth #1: Couples should expect to lose their ability to make love after they reach a certain age
We all know that males reach their sexual peak in late adolescence--between the ages of eighteen and twenty. A young male can ejaculate three to six times a day. We also know that after this sexual peak, males show a steady decline in their sexual ability to climax throughout the rest of their lives.1 A males ability to make love will not drop off a cliff when he hits forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy; instead, its a steady descent. Picture a Boeing 757 following a glide path into Chicagos OHare Airport, and you get the idea.
On the flip side, women reach their sexual peak ten, twenty years after men when they are in their late thirties and remain on that plateau through their sixties, after which they may show a slight decline in sexual response capability.2 Fred Stoeker, coauthor of Every Mans Battle: Winning the War of Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, once looked forward to the time in his marriage when he and his wife, Brenda, would experience a sexual nirvana when his wifes peaking line of desire crossed his descending path. If only physical relationships were that simple, Fred says. In the end, it wasnt the match of ability or desire that mattered so much, but accepting the fact that there would likely be no match. Men and women are different, and understanding those differences was the key to sensitivity and tenderness for us, he said.
One of those differences is that, biologically speaking, women experience little sexual impairment as they age. Many women feel that sex is more enjoyable after menopause since there is no risk of becoming pregnant. Others feel their sexual assertiveness increase because they feel comfortable in a stable marriage. Since men and women achieve emotional maturity in the midlife years, they can pave the way toward a superior intimate relationship.
Myth #2: The quality of sex declines for men and women in the midlife years
Your body certainly changes with age. A twenty-year-old man can be erect in five seconds, while it takes a fifty-year-old male half a minute. Maybe a septuagenarian needs several minutes of manual stimulation to become aroused. While an older man may take longer to achieve an erection, he often gains more control over ejaculation because he can sustain his erection longer. With more control, he can take his time to bring his wife to orgasm before intercourse.
The biggest difference is the rebound, or the refractory time, before sex is again possible. At a males sexual peak (in his late teens or early twenties), he could orgasm as many as three to six times in one night. Older men need twelve to twenty-four hours before they are capable of ejaculation--sometimes several days. We need to keep our eyes focused on how good the sexual experience can be, not how many sexual experiences one can have.

Excerpted from

The Act of Marriage After 40: Making Love for Life

by Tim LaHaye
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