The impact of sexual problems on a woman and on her relationship with herself and others can be significant. No one is immune.
Sadly, a lot of our problems with sex, libido and menopause are reported with an astonishing oversimplification of complicated phenomena. It’s women after all.
Thinking about menopause as if it’s just a one-dimensional experience that we go through on a Thursday afternoon in November is usually a bad idea.
Menopause is a biological process that affects every single little bit of a woman regardless of whether she knows it or feels it. ‘The Change’ is a mental, physical and spiritual phenomena that will change us irrevocably. I’m glad about that, even though some days are a bitch/bastard (depending on who I have in the cross-hairs 😉).
By the time we reach those heady days of our 40s we’re probably tired. Plus we’re usually embroiled in full-on life to a factor of 10: careers, mortgages, money stuff, life stuff, teenagers, volunteering at the effing Parents & Friends committee, aging parents, shopping centre carparks (is it just me or are carparks getting more unwieldy by the effing day?). You name it we’ve seen it, heard it or felt it. So just when you think there’s light at the end of the tunnel along comes peri-menopause. F*ck. And most of the problems we experience from then on can be boiled down to unchecked hormones having their wicked way with us.
So, what the hell is libido anyway?
Libido is the sexual instinct or erotic desire and pleasure. Sometimes referred to as your ‘sex drive’. Sounds about right. Sounds pretty boring. It’s probably more fun to say it’s that warm, tingly feeling (in your pants) that you get when you spy the object of your desire (in real life or in your head). It’s an increase in breath rate, body temperature, inability to see straight or think straight and/or the number of naked or otherwise people increases exponentially and take centre-stage in your head. What’s cool is that all of that can happen while you’re standing in line at Woolies. Humans are pretty funky.
In our teens, 20s, 30s and beyond some of us have ‘private interludes’ in our heads all day, every day. Others of us, not so much. Regardless of where you fit on the Libido Spectrum, libido is a part of this human being gig. We’re wired for it.
The Libido Spectrum varies from woman to woman and is very much influenced by a range of things.
Desire Deficiency Syndrome I just made that up but it does sound very official and should possibly be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) can create a ruckus for many couples. DDS could probably be blamed for all sorts of disasters in coupledom BUT it’s something that can happen at any age and includes:
- reduced desire to have sex
- sexual experiences that are no longer satisfying or pleasurable
- painful sex (dyspareunia)
- physical changes due to menopause (buh-bye progesterone, testosterone)
- medical conditions and all the drugs we might have to take to save our lives
- personal preferences (switch sides)
- we no longer like the person we’re supposed to be getting hot & steamy with
- socio-economic circumstances — being penniless is bound to throw a bucket of iced water on your sex-life
So apparently good sex is (ahem) in your hands 😳
I’m told there’s no biological reason why sex can’t be great into our 80s. Yaaaayyyy. Except I’ll probably be in bed at 7:15 pm by then. I’ve also been told that the starting point of all good sex (sans alcohol) is about body confidence and self-acceptance.
Sidenote: FFS…. enough already with the confidence and self-acceptance! Is it just me or have we had an avalanche of effing, bloody self-acceptance and body confidence blasts from 1988 with the gorgeous Louise Hay to 2019 when the 20 something, size four, super-model, Instaslam influencer with fake tan and boobs say it? They just keep going and going and going and going and going x infinity… a bit like bloody Chuck Norris or David Hasselhoff — they never die.
Here’s what Emily Power Smith says: Masturbate, Lubricate and Communicate…. plus some other stuff I’ve listed next (I’m still stuck at the first 3!?!?!?!)
- Masturbate! – This is the foundation it seems. Make sexy time for yourself 3 times a week for 20 mins (might have to give up making the dinner – too busy!!)
- Eat, drink and rest well
- Have adventures
- Keep learning/questioning/challenging
Foreplay is ALL DAY!
So the advice is to: be vulnerable, dance, laugh, sleep naked, find new ways to be romantic, don’t compartmentalise sex, include it in the ordinary (like the ahem kitchen table). Emily says for women foreplay is all day (we already knew that bit), masturbation is the foundation, expand your idea of what sex can be, keep eye contact, try open-eyed orgasm (what?!?!), watch a (ahem) sex-ed video, take notes. Why not watch films like Debbie Does Dallas, 9 ½ Weeks, The Secretary…. The Notebook if crying is part of your repertoire.
But before we move on, let’s have a quick chat about pain and libido.
Pain and loss of libido is a real thing. It can be emotional and physical.
In my previous post, I talked about painful sex. I got a bit cranky thinking about what we go through and what we say to ourselves. It got me to thinking (and talking/writing) about that.
A lack of education, conversation and compassion around the functionality of our sexual selves means many women go through life without ever questioning or speaking to anyone about the pain they’re experiencing.
As women, we’re sometimes led to believe that pain during sex is just in our head. We hear the old “buy something sexy, have a coupla drinks, relax and you’ll be fine” by people who don’t understand what they’re effing talking about. And what’s worse is that a lot of us are used to thinking everything is our fault. Then we feel guilty because we might not be able to have the kind of sexual relationship our partner has come to expect.
Whatever kind of pain it is, our confidence sinks into our fluffy, leopard print slippers. We unhappily think we’re the only ones in the whole world ever to experience this! We become isolated, embarrassed and ashamed (that could be just me but I don’t think so).
Without compassion for ourselves and our partner/s things can quickly become difficult, insensitive and impatient because we just don’t understand. Make no mistake, this stuff can fracture a relationship and your libido.
As women and as human beings, we’re always on the lookout for practical answers to almost everything. But libido and pesky Desire Deficiency Syndrome are actually complicated without us making them that way. By the time we’re 50, there’s a lot of stuff going on and a simple misunderstanding about the way we age and the way our emotional (neurotransmitters) and other biochemical things (hormones) work can become a problem all on its own.
So much of libido and the physical side of sex can be snuffed out in a nano-second by pain expectation, worry, fear and feeling like a failure.
Loss of libido is NOT a personal failing. It’s one part of the aging process that can feel new and life-altering. But it needn’t be.
So what to do: seek advice
You can talk about it with your partner or friends or the doctor. Just talk. That’s the first step. Then you’ll likely get something like one of these or a combination.
- Treatment for any underlying illness or medical condition
- Lifestyle changes (think diet & exercise or giving up the booze, smokes or complaining)
- Herbal remedies (see an accredited person, not someone you met on Facecrack)
- Hormone therapy (talk to your doc)
- Medication changes (talk to your doc)
- Antidepressants (some antidepressants work for hot flushes – yay, some can reduce libido)
- Stress-reducing treatments or physical activity
- Couples therapy
- Counselling with a sex therapist
- Sex (Don’t laugh…. Having sex is actually a cure for not having sex! Who knew!??!?)
Sex may never again be like it was in your 20s or 30s (sorry, not sorry if you’re reading this and you’re under 40) but it can be great in different ways. A lot of menopausal women I’ve talked to or stalked on social media, report that sex has become more satisfying than when they were younger. Once you’re post-menopausal you’re no longer worried about getting pregnant and you’re more comfortable with who you are or you’re too cranky to get near.
Give yourself a little more time — and remind your partner to try a little patience, tenderness and effing resilience ‘cause not everything is about them!!
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve imagined whilst standing in the line at Woolies?
TELL US IN THE COMMENTS.
P.S. So that we can keep you in the loop you can subscribe to our mostly fortnightly dispatches. You’ll get to know more about menopause by walking in other women’s (probably sensible) shoes. And hopefully get some of the confidence and know-how to find out how to stop the insanity & symptoms (if that’s possible), so you can start doing your life YOUR WAY.
Warning: Sharon’s F-bombs pop-in here and there… but they’re kept to a minimum. 🙋
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