Men's testosterone levels really do begin to decline when they are in committed relationships with women, and at least one study has found that when men start talking to babies with goo-goos and baby talk, their testosterone levels fall even lower. One of the purposes of testosterone is to give a man the energy to find a mate; once the mate has been found, testosterone levels can fall again. The question is, does this have to lead to depression? The answer may be in what else changes as testosterone levels change.
As men spend more time in relationships:
- They still want sex, but don't get as much. Some international studies find that American men have more frequent intercourse with their wives or partners than men in other countries
- They are less interested in other women. Men who pay attention to women other than their wives (not that I'm recommending this) tend to have higher testosterone levels. Some couples can manage this phenomenon in ways that keep a certain amount of zest in the marriage, but others cannot.
- The longer men have been in relationships, the more intense their orgasms when they have sex. However, they have sex less often.
The solution isn't to divorce and try to live the life of a young playboy. Unmarried men experience even greater drops in depression over time than married men. There are, however, some very simple and important things that keep up testosterone levels, keep up sexual satisfaction levels, and fight depression.
- Don't smoke. Smokers usually object to this advice, but nearly every study finds that testosterone levels fall off more rapidly in smokers than in non-smokers.
- Avoid weight gain. Specifically, avoid fat gain. The more fat you pack on to your midsection, especially to your hips, the more fat cells you have that can convert testosterone into estrogen. Not only do your testosterone levels go down, your estrogen levels go up.
These two factors were found to influence testosterone levels more than any other in a study of Australian men. Another factor in marital satisfaction in about 1 percent of men worldwide (more in English-speaking countries) is hereditary iron overload disease. If your body accumulates too much iron, your hypothalamus can't send the signal to your testes to make testosterone and your liver can't process sex hormone binding globulin to release it when your body needs it. Taking care of that issue will relieve not just depression and low testosterone but also a wide range of symptoms.
What about the situation in which everything was great until you started having sex? Usually, men who have this experience have unrealistic expectations about their partners. These tend to be picked up from watching porn and from listening to buddies stretch the truth about their own sexual encounters. It takes extraordinary maturity and focus to commit yourself to being the best lover you can be to the woman you are with, not the woman you remember from a computer screen.
It also helps to have a sense of humor (and a partner who has a sense of humor) about sex. For a while, men actually get better at sex. By the time they are 30, they no longer (usually) have problems with premature ejaculation. But by the time they are in their forties, they start to have problems with erectile dysfunction. The way to deal with this is to know a variety of places to pleasure your partner. All orgasms do not have to be genital. You can both have terrific sex even without using your genitals, but you do not develop these bedroom skills without practice, practice, and more practice.
Relationships don't have to be depressing. They just take work. Before you end a relationship, try giving it all you have got and see how you feel.
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