Sex in midlife

You getting your jiggie on? And do you even want it anymore?

You reach midlife, you are into menopause and like a screech of brakes, your mojo comes to a grinding halt. For some at any rate.

So why is that?

A key component of menopause is the decrease of oestrogen in a woman’s body. That incredible hormone responsible for so many important facets of a woman’s life, in particular, her ability to reproduce, and also her sexual desire. For many women, the lack of oestrogen can also mean the internal lining of her vaginal area can become dry which means the very act of sexual intercourse can be painful. Menopause in itself has also been blamed for damaging a woman’s confidence, increasing body fat, reducing muscle tone, actually about 40 symptoms in total so, it is hardly surprising with this midlife cocktail, her libido can vanish.

I know of women who screw their noses up at the very thought of having sex now that they are in midlife – perhaps for the reasons above. However, downing tools and going without it can have a potentially negative effect on a relationship. Sex is a fundamental part of a loving bond. It brings a couple together in a way unlike anything else. If we women think it’s ok to be in a marriage or intimate relationship without sex, we are seriously kidding ourselves. Men physically need it – apparently they think about sex around 19 times a day, and though this figure might well represent younger men, studies have shown, men never lose their libido. Sex is the way they connect with a woman emotionally and is fundamental to their being.

So, there we have the dichotomy.

We all know that sex is more than just the physical act itself. A great deal of it is being stroked, caressed, close to someone physically and emotionally, warm, indulged, pleasured, admired, adored, connected. And on top of that, oxytocin ‘the love hormone’ which is released during sex, is designed to make us feel utterly fantastic. What in all of that is not to be liked?

Somehow we need to bring all these threads together into something positive and acceptable to both parties.

During midlife (45-59 years) the rate of divorce is at its highest. Of course, there is no pinpointing one factor as there are so many things that can contribute to this, and every relationship is different. But it does beg the question, how much of an influence is sex in all this?

In my mind, the fundamental thing that differentiates the relationship your ‘husband/significant other’ has with you and any other woman is sexual intimacy. He can get on with other women, be intellectually stimulated by others, be in business with them, even own property with them, but having a sexual relationship brings the whole thing to a higher, very special and unique level. A lack of a physical relationship can be the start of a move away from this level and down towards something less special, and no longer unique.

I appreciate for many women, when their libido goes, sex might feel like a nothing experience, or perhaps even a painful one and that going through the motions is just about giving pleasure to him. ‘What’s in it for me?’ I can hear you say.  But surely a relationship is about giving and taking and sometimes, compromise? And let us not forget that the symptoms of menopause, while they might last several years, are not permanent. Reintroducing sex after a length of time of going without, can perhaps feel not worth the effort – will all the good bits have been forgotten?

The first thing to appreciate is the difference between men and women from a sexual perspective and try and work within these parameters. According to my husband (that well known authority), women have many dials to twizzle to get them in the mood: ‘Is the lighting right? Do I look fat? Eek when did I last shave my legs? Did I put the cat out? Did I take that casserole out of the freezer? What’s that noise? Is someone in the house?’ Actually he does have a point.

For a woman too, foreplay can begin hours before the actual act. Flirting, smiling, touching, laughing, connecting. The man might not even realise it!

For a man it is simple. On. Off. Mostly on.

So, if in your heart of hearts you do actually want to get it on with your man and get things into a good place sexually for you both, how do you get there? Here are a few suggestions which might get you started. If you have any others to add, please do share!

Have you considered HRT? It may not be for you, and your doctor will help clarify that, but if it is, it goes straight to the target. It brings oestrogen back into the woman’s body and gives her back some of her sexual super powers, not least lubrication and no more pain during sex. It also can eliminate many of the other symptoms of menopause which can impact sexual interest such as anxiety, hot flushes, weight gain, insomnia etc. If those ducks are in more of a row, then it is likely you will feel better about yourself, more confident and better placed to be intimate with your partner. Some doctors have even started to prescribe small doses of testosterone to compliment this and improve sexual desire. So a visit to your doctor is a very good place to start.

Make time for sex. Don’t attempt it when you are tired and all you can think of is when you need to get up. Maybe start with a relaxing bath together, earlier than you would normally go to bed. Chat, feel clean, feel relaxed, feel connected. Try and get into a regular ‘routine’ for it. In the words of a friend ‘use it or lose it!’ The more you do it, the more benefit you will gain. Studies show the optimal number of times a week is about 2-3. You up for that? You’ll sleep better, your confidence will be boosted, your anxiety will reduce, your body confidence will soar, your blood pressure will reduce, as will your stress levels.

And take your time. This will help your body relax and lubricate itself for a better overall experience.

Communicate. The biggest and most important one of all to me.  Tell him what you like, and when he does something that makes you feel good. Ask him what he thinks and wants too. The more you can talk to one another before, during and after to better understand what makes you both tick, the more likely it is that your intimacy will improve. I’ve read that to men, the most sexy thing a woman can do, is to actually really want it with him.  They want to be desired just as much as we do. We just need to tell them. We know – we just do, that a little bit of confidence stoking will make them feel a whole lot better too and so this virtuous circle continues.

Use your eyes. Did you know the eyes visibly age more slowly than other parts of our bodies, so even if you feel your body is letting the side down, your eyes won’t be. As a key communication tool, we really should use them more to our advantage. Wordless use of just our eyes can be a very seductive mechanism. Think about it.

Don’t worry. This is easier said than done, but I wonder if we didn’t actually care about how we looked naked, we would feel so much better about ourselves. I can’t imagine many of us look or feel totally knock out when we’re clothes-free, and even when we were at our peak we probably didn’t think so anyway. Marylin Monroe was apparently a size 16 and without a shadow of a doubt, she was a total sex siren. It’s not all what you look like, it’s how you work it. Being sexy is not necessarily looking it, but feeling it. And when you feel sexy, you can be a bombshell and that is a total turn on for a man – and for you.

Extend your comfort zone. If you’ve been with your partner for a long time, then maybe an intervention or something that moves you ever so slightly out of your comfort zone might jazz things up. Sex toys, oils and lubricants, dressing up, role play, watching porn, different locations, dirty weekends, ‘afternoon delight’, new positions, using food in a suggestive way. Whatever it is that sends things into a happy flutter. Sex will evolve over time and exploring new things as confidence grows can only help your intimacy.

All this only really matters if you actually want to have an intimate relationship with your partner. Sex shouldn’t have to stop for women at any age. You need only look at Jane Fonda – an octogenarian who professes to still have regular sex. Whatever you do, I hope you will remember that you are beautiful and sexy, no matter your age.

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