Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson have been creative collaborators teaching and writing about relationships, sexuality, and Tantra together since 1999. Their two most recent books are Designer Relationships and Partners in Passion. Since meeting while they were in their 30s, Michaels, age 51, and Johnson, age 56, have navigated many of the changes people experience during mid-life. They emphasize that being conscious and intentional about relationships and sex is the key to keeping things fresh and reducing the challenges that come with middle-age. In this interview, Mark and Patricia share their personal insights and tips. You can read more about their work at www.MichaelsandJohnson.com
Thoughts on the Aging Process and The Way We Change
Mark – I’m not acutely aware of diminished performance compared to where I was ten years ago, although there have been some subtle changes. My level of desire has declined slightly, and morning erections are not quite as hard as they used to be. I’ve never been much of a night person, and my tolerance for late nights and hard partying has diminished. Some of this may be work related, as we’ve written five books, recorded a meditation CD, and have toured heavily over the past nine years. That’s also forced us to have less of an open relationship than we prefer.
Patricia – I’m recently post-menopausal, and I’m finding that I have more of a hair-trigger when it comes to arousal and orgasm. I may be one of the lucky few, but I suspect there are more women like me than the popular media imply. I’ve always been very orgasmic, but now it seems that I’m usually ahead of Mark by a good deal. I’m more quickly satisfied than I used to be, and that is an adjustment for both of us. At this stage of our lives, we don’t seem to find the time and energy for longer lovemaking sessions, but we are enjoying our quickies a lot more.
Tip: Lust is intense curiosity. Stay focused on one another, seek to be surprised, and enjoy the way your partner changes.
M – We’ve always made sex a priority, and in recent years scheduling has become increasingly important.
Tip: Unspontaneous sex – what better way to let your partner or partners know that your relationship and sexuality are important. Setting aside time to focus on an erotic encounter is truly romantic.
M – In the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve had more difficulty finding physical exercise routines that work. I’ve never loved workouts, but I used to be able to push myself really hard. I still enjoy the outdoors and can walk for hours. But I injure more easily, and an injury I sustained in a kettle bell class a couple of years ago left me unable to do much for several months. It’s been hard to get back on track.
P – I never took menopause very seriously when I was younger, but the hot flashes are very hard to manage, and none of the medical options appeal to me. The biggest problem is sleep disruption, and I can tell that I sometimes disrupt Mark’s rest as well. When I’m sleep deprived, my verbal capacity suffers, it’s harder to focus, and feeling tired is just not sexy!
Tip – Do whatever is necessary to be comfortable. If that means sleeping in separate beds, don’t worry about it. Buy a massage table, it will open up a range of sexual options and is a great way to work around injuries, aches, and pains.
M – I am a bit of a stickler about language, but I strive to be sensitive to what’s going on with her. It’s sometimes challenging because when we’re lecturing, I don’t want to be contradicting or correcting Patricia, but at times I need to. I do my best and strive to offer the corrections in a light-hearted way. We’re very genuine when we present, and I hope that our audiences find these sometimes awkward moments to be endearing and real because they are.
Tip – Kindness: as we age, we become more acutely aware of how much we need people, especially our significant others. Embrace this interdependence and find joy in supporting each other.
P – I make sure that I am maintaining the health of my pelvic floor – regular orgasms, penetration, and pulsing my pubococcygeal muscles are all part of my routine.
Tip – As with physical exercise, exercise gets more important with age and fitness, when lost, is much harder to regain. Practice self-pleasuring and exercise your pubococcygeal muscles. You may need penetration of some kind to maintain vaginal health and elasticity.
and autonomy. It is not demanding your attention. When you reach a certain age sex will no longer be driving you; instead, you will be driving sex.”