As our population continues to live longer and more fully, I find that I’m seeing more couples in their 60s and even 70s come to Portland marriage counseling with relationship issues. While issues at this stage of the relationship can come from numerous things, including children leaving the nest for good, there’s one that always stands out: sex.

The vast majority of older couples I see complain to me that their sex life just isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps they’ve forgotten how to be as intimate as they once were after years of having kids around the house. Or they don’t feel attractive, so they don’t seek out sexual activity with their partner. Or maybe the fulfillment they were receiving in their career disappeared after they retired.

Whatever the reason, they now feel unfulfilled in their sex lives and it’s causing relationship issues. In the past, many professionals had been taught to explain that this is just something to be expected as they age, but new findings suggest that we shouldn’t be so quick to write off a healthy sex life.

Portland Marriage Counseling: There’s a Relationship between Sex and Happiness

Research shows that older people who have sex more than once a month are 50 percent more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those who haven’t engaged in sexual activity for a year or more. For those in marriages, only 59 percent of people who hadn’t had sex in a year said they were happy, compared to the nearly 80 percent who were having sex once a month. Perhaps even more interesting is that about 60 percent of those surveyed said that sex was more fulfilling after age 50 than it was when they were in their 20s and 30s!

In my sessions Portland marriage counseling, I’ve learned firsthand that sex isn’t just about sex. My older clients who engage in regular sexual activity are not only happier and more contented in their marriage, experiencing fewer relationship issues, they’re happier in their lives overall. Research has even shown that older couples who are still intimate regularly are more satisfied with their appearance than younger people, and have a better quality of life.

While there are completely valid reasons to refrain from sexual activity as we age, such as health problems, don’t give up on your sex life just because you feel like you and your spouse are too old. If you feel like you need help talking about your sex life with your spouse, try Portland marriage counseling.