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Couples sex lives thrive on intimacy
Getty Images Couples' sex lives thrive on intimacy

They say life begins at 40, and so it seems, does a rejuvenated sex life.

In fact, couples aged between 40 and 49 who are earning a combined income of $80,000 are not only having more sex than the rest of us, but they are also more satisfied.

In figures collated between February 27 and March 8, 2011 by Relationships Australia's 2011 relationships indicator survey, 72 per cent of people in the middle age bracket indicated they were sexually active and 74 per cent said they were satisfied with their sexual activity.

And while people aged between 25 and 34 are almost as sexually active at 70 per cent, they are actually the least satisfied with their sexual activity (65 per cent). The surprise packet of the statistics are those aged 70 and above, who have increased their sexual activity by 8 per cent since the last survey in 2008, and are as satisfied as those three decades younger.

The results, said relationship and sexuality experts, were not surprising given that people in their 40s were more likely to be financially independent and have independent children, while those 25 to 39 were still working hard to pay off mortgages and bring up children.

Sexuality and relationship expert Gabrielle Morrissey said couples in their 20s and 30s often had unrealistic expectations for their sex lives.

Dr Morrissey, who completed her PhD in sexology at Curtin University and has a Masters in human sexuality education from the University of Pennsylvania, is now a sought-after newspaper, radio and television commentator, and is the author of A Year of Spicy Sex, Urge and Sex in the Time of Generation X.

She said busy couples, particularly those who were parents, sometimes expected that their lives in the bedroom would still be as "hot and heavy" as their courting days.

"If you look at the research and the anecdotal evidence from sex counsellors and relationship experts, you will see that we're still in a place where people's expectations don't meet their reality," Dr Morrissey said.

"Many of us still expect the happily ever after story with a libido to match.

"We generally have an unrealistic expectation of our sex drive over our life span and in long-term relationships. Sometimes, it's this that can have the biggest impact on the breakdown of long-term relationships because people equate that lessening of passion as a signal the relationship has ended.

"It's easy in the beginning when our younger bodies are filled with love chemicals and we have more time to focus our attention and passion on the object of our affections - but that's not designed to last. We then go into a bonding phase where we get more familiar with our partners and things may become more 'boring' in the bedroom and, for some people, the temptation to find that thrill again may creep in.

"The answer lies in working at keeping things interesting by introducing variety, but that's not just sexual variety, it's about growing together."

Family Planning WA's Rebecca Smith said the stress of daily life could have a big impact on relations in the bedroom.

"Sexual health can have an impact on emotional health and vice versa," Ms Smith said. "It's important to look after your sexual health within a relationship because how we feel about ourselves can then translate into the sexual dynamic.

"Sexual health, both physical and emotional, will affect the level of personal satisfaction that couples have. Often people neglect this part of their lives."

Ms Smith said stress and daily living could cause a low libido and difficulty in achieving orgasm. Good communication between couples, lowering stress levels and counselling could alleviate sexual health issues.