By Anne Gagliano
My firefighter husband Mike and I travel a lot these days. We have the honor of being invited to speak all over the country to our favorite people: firefighters and firefighter spouses. We stay at a lot of hotels. At some of these hotels, we have discovered a charming feature, a “host.” The purpose of these “hosts” is to great you in the lobby with a warm, personal welcome and to answer any questions you may have. These hosts tend to be senior citizens–more specifically, senior gentlemen.
I’m finding it amusing to discover that as men age, they finally develop a gift for gab. How ironic this is, as most younger wives find that getting their husbands to chat is like pulling teeth. Hang in there, ladies, as this will someday change. Not only do senior men talk openly and freely, but they do so about a wide range of topics, including their feelings. They become blunt, honest, and forthright, even about personal topics–much like women.
At a recent hotel stay while waiting to meet up with my party, I encountered such a man, a senior gentlemen hotel lobby host. We started chatting like old friends. As he politely inquired of me my reasons for the stay, he began to inquire about my family. He asked how old my children were that I could leave them alone for so long. I told him my sons were grown. He sputtered, “You can’t possibly have grown sons. The only thing more unbelievable than that would be if you were to tell me that you’re a grandmother.” Well, as a matter of fact, I am.
Expecting him to go on and on about me as that was the vein of the conversation, that I’m too young to be a grandmother, etc., he instead said this: “Wow, would I like to meet your husband!” Taken aback by this, I said, “Oh, why?” He replied, “I have a theory; women who age well have loving, giving husbands. And vice versa. If both look young, then the couple is happy and equally giving and very close.” He winked and all but said, they have lots of sex. Our seniors are the unofficial official scientific research experts, wisdom gained from personal experience and observation and passed on in the most unlikely of places like hotel lobbies.
And I do believe he had a point. Happily married people do age better. Intimacy flows from connectedness, and connectedness results in intimacy. It is a beautiful cycle. But this intimacy is a very fragile thread that can easily be broken. What causes a lack of intimacy? Too little time, too little talk, too little affection, and too little sex. It’s that simple. But with plenty of effort, the result will be plenty of sex. And sex has incredible benefits—such as aging well.
Mike and I don’t have all the answers about relationships, but we do know this: When we feel distance, even a little bit starting to develop, we stop all engines and fix the problem. There are good scientific reasons we make every effort to stay close, not just folk wisdom as mentioned by my senior hotel friend. If sex is waning in your marriage, be warned: There may be dire consequences including the following.
Fewer Endorphins. Touch, arousal, and orgasm release feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins have incredible benefits, such as relieving pain and lessening depression. They bring an instant mood boost or even a “high.” If you decrease your sex life, you may be decreasing your endorphins.
More Stress: Sex is relaxing, primarily because of endorphins. In a study by The Journal of Family Psychology in 2010, it was reported that the women who had the highest levels of stress also had the least sex. And more stress can make sex less appealing; it is a vicious cycle.
Less Relationship Satisfaction. To put it simply, sex leads to more emotional connection for both men and women. Orgasm causes the release of the brain chemical oxytocin, which is also known as the bonding hormone. Oxytocin produces a sense of trust and closeness and a more positive outlook on your partner.
Sexual Dysfunction. Infrequent sex can lead to problems for both men and women. Sex stimulates blood flow to the important areas, keeping things healthy, functioning, and enjoyable well beyond middle age. If sex decreases, so does sexual function, and with less function comes less desire. It too can be a vicious, Catch-22 cycle. In other words, “Use it or lose it.”
Heart Problems. A study in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2010 linked low sex frequency with an increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease. Firefighters have a higher-than-average rate for heart disease because of smoke exposure; fight back with a good, healthy sex life in your marriage. Sex one or two times a week can cut your chance of heart disease in half.
Lower Immune Function. Less sex means less feel-good chemicals. Less feel-good chemicals mean more stress. More stress means more stress hormones. And stress hormones kill off healthy cells and impede proper bodily functions such as digestion and immunoglobin production. The result? More colds, flu, and even vulnerability to disease.
Lower Self-Esteem. Both men and women start to doubt their attractiveness if sex diminishes in a relationship. And women especially think it is their fault, that they’ve done something wrong. If these feelings are compounded over time, it may impact self-confidence. And less endorphins lead to a darker mood, even depression; this too impacts esteem.
Faster Rate of Aging. Less joy, more stress, relational distance, sexual dysfunction, heart disease, lowered immunities, and lower self-esteem–these things cause the body to age more rapidly. Stress can even make you look older, as it may cause premature graying and wrinkles.
There is ample scientific proof that physical intimacy, arousal, and orgasm have awesome benefits. But no one put it better than my hotel host buddy. Just take a good look at your spouse; how is he or she aging? Some of your performance as a mate can be measured by your spouse’s youthful or, conversely, haggard appearance. Don’t miss out on this natural, free tip; lots of closeness and love making will bring youthful joy to you both for many long, happy years.
Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 31 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.