It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many women believe that going into menopause means losing interest in sex. And that's precisely what happens to them! But it doesn't have to be this way.
It is true that age brings some physical challenges but much of your desire is in your head (and your heart). Here's how to keep the flame going.
What's Sex Drive Anyway?
Sex drive, also known as libido, is your interest in sex and willingness to do erotic things alone or with a partner. This is a primary drive for humans because it ensures our species can continue. After all, sexual intercourse is still the main way humans reproduce.
If we look at things from a psychological point of view, the way psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud defined it, libido is a life instinct and a form of psychic energy.
How does Menopause Affect Your Libido?
Looking at the statistics of how often people have sex at different stages of life, we may conclude that most of us lose interest in sex as we get older. However, the factual explanation is more complicated than that.
Women's sexuality is partly hormone-dependent, so perimenopause and menopause will inevitably lead to changes in sex drive and intimate experiences. Here are some of the factors that may cause a decline in your libido at that stage of life:
Your Fertility Declines
As your body prepares to drop its reproductive functions, your hormone levels will change. You won’t have so much estrogen and this is the hormone of horniness. Lower levels of this hormone can also cause other symptoms that will get in the way of intimacy:
Loss of elasticity in the vagina
Loss of thickness in the walls of the vagina
Your Wellbeing Suffers
We’ve all seen memes about menopausal women, soaked in night sweats, red in the face from hot flashes, and generally cranky. While not all women experience such extreme signs of menopause, and there’s much you can do to feel better, you’re likely to notice some uncomfortable symptoms.
And let’s face it, if you can’t get a good night’s sleep, and feel constantly hot and sweaty, you’re likely not to be in the mood for sex. Some women even feel ashamed of their bodies and worry that their partners will be disgusted by their weight gain or excessive sweating.
Your Mental Health Is Affected Too
Menopause is not just a physical process. As your body changes, so do your mind and your emotions. Therefore, there’s also a risk of psychological problems. Women are at a higher risk of depression in perimenopause and the first years after their periods stop.
Even if you don’t develop a serious disorder, you are still likely to experience mood swings. It’s not uncommon to feel like you’ve lost your vitality and energy over the course of a few months. Add sleep difficulties and the extra kilograms that come from metabolic and hormonal changes to that, and your confidence and self-esteem can take a nosedive.
Your sex drive depends on how you feel, so if you’re not feeling full of life, ready to have fun, and you stop seeing yourself as feminine and desirable, you may start avoiding sex altogether.
Recommended Reading - Menopause - the great taboo
Nurturing Your Desire While Getting Older
Women who come to me for sex counseling are usually in their 40s. Some are already seeing signs of perimenopause, others don’t, and still, they complain about the quality of their sex life. To be honest, at least half of those women tell me they feel like sex might as well not exist. They completely lost interest.
It doesn’t have to be this way! While some of us may need medical intervention, for example, depression treatment may be necessary, most menopausal women can get their libido back on their own. Here’s where to start:
Say Goodbye to Old Ideas
You’re probably surprised I’m not starting with advice on losing weight or getting more sleep. Yes, these things can help improve your health and well-being but the key to your libido in menopause lies in your mindset.
I love to spread the ideas of the couple’s therapist Dr. Marty Klein who says most people in their 40s still think they should be having sex like teenagers or young adults. But if you think about it, you’re not the same person you were 20 or 30 years ago. Your body has changed, you have more experience, and your emotional life is different too. So, let’s stop expecting ourselves and our partners to perform and act in the bedroom like we used to back in the day!
Start With Yourself
Another trap most women fall into, at any age, is the belief that their sexual satisfaction can only exist with another person, a partner, or a spouse. That’s not true!
And it’s high time to embrace your own sexuality before trying to rebuild that spark with your lover.
Think about it this way. You’re not the only one in your relationship who’s aging. Unless you have a much younger partner, the person you’re sharing your life with will also have their own challenges. If your partner is a man, you may think to yourself “What? But men don’t go through menopause!”.
Yes, it’s true. The hormonal changes in men are less drastic and more spread over time, but many will have to deal with such issues as:
Loss of energy
The more you’re able to take care of your sexual satisfaction independently, the less pressure you’ll put on your special person. And getting your libido back starts with learning how to pleasure yourself and doing it regularly.
Boost Your Energy Levels
A healthy sex drive is connected to your well-being and that feeling of strength and positive tension in your body. Take good care of yourself and address any health issues that may impact how you feel.
Ask your doctor about the side effects of medication – some can cause drops in libido, fatigue and other unpleasant symptoms.
If you work out just to lose weight, it’s more of a chore than a pleasure. Find at least one type of movement or sport that brings you joy. Something that makes you smile and gives you a happy glow.
Enjoy Good Enough Sex Your Whole Life
Making that mental transition from an idealized vision of sex to a more realistic one is a game changer for menopausal women. I always teach them my Good Enough Sex philosophy. It doesn’t have to be perfect to make us fulfilled.
Good enough doesn’t mean low quality. It means intimacy without perfectionism, with more self-acceptance and ease. It does take some effort to change your thinking but it’s worth it. You have a whole life of good sex ahead of you. Enjoy!
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About the author
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist based in Zurich and offers services online too.