“Attention is the beginning of devotion.” —Mary Oliver
Looking over our blog posts, I realize Vicki and I might have given the impression that maintaining our intimacy is effortless.
I wish that were so, but like everything else worth having, we have to work at it. And like all relationships, sometimes it’s easy, and other times it’s not.
When we were younger, work and children absorbed most of our attention, and intimacy became an afterthought. Now as older folks with the kids long gone and careers mostly a thing of the past, we still have to work at keeping our loving connection alive.
Just as with earlier relationships, we find ourselves getting sidetracked by life and drifting apart. The difference now is that we have the luxury of making intimacy our priority. Maintaining our loving connection is what we value most, so that’s our main focus now.
What detracts from maintaining our intimacy
All the activities we boomer retirees enjoy can distract us from each other—the internet, grandchildren, exercise, shopping, yoga, golf, hiking, volunteering, movies, reading, hobbies and travel. And although we are blessed to have these advantages, they nonetheless draw time and energy away from our intimacy.
Illness and physical challenges also absorb time and energy. I feel less attractive and less than desirable as an older man, which zaps my libido. I lack stamina, and when I’m sick, I don’t feel sexy. And my aches and pains sure don’t help me feel frisky!
Contentious politics and the constant din of bad news streaming from the ever-present media frighten and dishearten us. They disrupt our intimate bond by inserting doubt and uncertainty where trust and loving-kindness should be.
Neither Vicki or I were taught the importance of having a loving connection, or the work necessary to sustain it. We didn’t learn from our families how much happier, loving, forgiving, open, kinder, and easy-to-live-with we can be when we are sexually fulfilled.
Sure, romantic love is prominent in our culture, but it is supposed to be easy and effortless, happily-ever-after, not an often challenging, persistent effort. Instead, we sometimes see hard work as a sign that we are with the wrong person. And our sex-shaming, touch-phobic society doesn’t help by downplaying the important role that loving sex plays in maintaining intimacy in long-term relationships.
Biggest barrier to intimacy
Overall, my ego is my greatest obstacle to maintaining our intimacy. The part of me who “just knows” I am separate from everyone else and feels isolated. The part that constantly worries about how I appear to others and continually compares myself to them. That part of me that says over and over, “What about me?” The part that ruminates incessantly over the past and only stops to worry about the future. The part that fears annihilation and death and is activated by all that bad news.
How I escape the ego’s constant chatter
I know what works for me:
- Flow. . .when I become so deeply involved in my painting or doing a project that I forget to worry about how I am doing.
- Compassion. . .when concern for others trumps my own concerns.
- Meditation. . .when my mind quiets and I see that my monkey mind is not all of me.
- Mindfulness. . .when I stop operating in automatic mode and dive deeply into the moment.
- Sensation. . .when my body takes over and fills my consciousness.
- Awe. . .being outdoors and becoming absorbed in the beauty of nature and other living things, such as the migrating birds and elk that live near our home.
- Sexual ecstasy. . .when Vicki and I combine all these ego-dissolving strategies in a most delightful way. How convenient!
When I regularly do these things, I remember my ego is only a small part of who I am, and then my heart is open to my Beloved.
We both make an effort, many efforts actually, to stay present with each other and to be honest with our feelings. We both know that when one of us tunes out or hides their feelings, the intimacy slips away. Best to be vigilant and catch the drifting apart right when it starts. By taking care of our relationship this way, we avoid straying too far from each other.
Working on intimacy together
Vicki and I take time to greet each other with long hugs, even when other things seem more important. We offer a Loving Massage when one realizes the other is in distress. When one of us feels sexually neglected, we’re learning to recognize our neediness and ask for what we want instead of getting grumpy.
We have taught ourselves to talk about what’s bothering us instead of keeping the peace. I have learned to listen, and I mean truly listen, with all parts of me. I can even hear Vicki say those once dreaded words, “We need to talk,” without a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because we both know how easy it is to let unpleasant things go unsaid, we push ourselves to discuss sensitive issues before they build up.
We have altars in our home to remind us how much we value our intimacy and commitment to each other. We often eat dinner by candlelight.
Even writing this blog is a way of working on our relationship together. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth every ounce of effort I put into it.
Vicki here. . .
Yes, my dear, I agree. Maintaining our loving connection isn’t always easy–especially when being physically intimate is the last thing on my mind. Sometimes it seems much easier to default to a favorite TV show or zone out on click bait than to make the effort to be intimate.
Baby Boomers like us weren’t raised to enjoy sensual pleasure for its own sake. It’s OK to fool around in bed at night, but to come together in the middle of the day to make sweet love. . .that’s kinda out there. So keeping our physical connection alive and vital doesn’t come naturally. Much like beginning a practice of yoga or meditation, we have to work at showing up for it. Sometimes one of us even has to persuade the other to accept a massage! And then five minutes into it, the receiver is already so grateful and beginning to relax!
Because we both value intimacy, one of us carries the ball when the other isn’t in the mood. We schedule special evenings specifically to enjoy our sensual love, which is more intimate than a date night. As many others have noted, go ahead and get sexual even when you don’t feel like it—your body’s innate desire to be touched will take over soon enough.
Make loving connection your first priority
The thing is, older folks have to make intimacy a priority in their lives because we weren’t raised that way. The good news is that the older we get, the more satisfying physical connection becomes and the easier it is to connect in a heartfelt way. “The times they are a-changin,'” and so are we—now is your time to live the intimate life you’ve always dreamed of having.
How do you maintain intimacy with your lover? Let us know in the comments below!