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Warming Up to Foreplay

Warming Up to Foreplay

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

I’m a recreational runner, and before a run, I always spend a few minutes warming up. I’ll run in place and do some stretches, especially of my calves and ankles. Experts no longer say this is a must, but I do it anyway because I know that as I’ve grown older, I have tighter muscles and less range of motion in my joints. And I’ve learned that if I exercise and end up hurting, I’ll be more likely to postpone my next outing.

This cycle can also be true of sex. If you rush past the warm-up—foreplay—you may not have enough lubrication to make penetration comfortable. If sex hurts, you’re less likely to initiate it or to respond to your partner. The more time that passes without having sex, the more difficult it is.

Many couples have a long habit of foreplay, but If the women I talk to are representative of the larger population (and I believe they are), men don’t always get the connection. They are happy to skip the foreplay and sprint to the finish line. Early in the relationship, that might work even for women, who are more sexually complex than men, because excitement is high all the way around and it’s easier to get aroused. It might even fly during the “thirsty thirties,” when women’s sexuality peaks.

But during menopause and after, hormones work against us. Estrogen declines, vaginal tissues become thinner and more fragile, and circulation to those tissues decreases. The less stimulation your vagina receives—from sex with a partner or your own self-care—the faster those changes happen.We’re not kidding when we say, “use it or lose it!”

So after menopause, we need more to warm up. More real intimacy, more talk, more titillation. In short, more time.  The stakes are higher now. If we don’t warm up, it hurts. If it hurts, we don’t want it. If we avoid it for too long, it’s more and more difficult to have it. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably time to talk about it.

Because a little foreplay has gone a long way in the past, your partner might be puzzled when you suggest your lovemaking include more foreplay. He might worry he’s losing his sexual prowess. This is a great opportunity to explain how changing hormones affect your response to sex. If there’s something you’ve secretly been longing to suggest to him lo these many years, you can slip that into the discussion, too. It’s never too late for your partner to learn, and telling him what you need and why is a great first step.

How about you? Have you been able to change the patterns of sex with your partner? How did you approach it? How did your partner respond? We’d love to hear!


  • I have to think about this more, but I like it when sex begins somewhere other than the bedroom. What I mean by this is that I try to surprise my husband in the kitchen by gently pushing him up against a cupboard and kissing him. Or while watching TV on the sofa, licking the inside of his ear. We work opposing shifts and so it’s hard to have unplanned sex, but even planned sex can be better if the hours leading up to it include some physical intimacy and teasing. My man is not necessarily the guy for this, but I do think some role playing — or just playing — can be fun. Recently I exited a coffee shop where my husband was waiting for me on a bench, and I went up and pretended we were meeting for the first time. It worked in “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Also helpful for me in “warming up” or during intercourse is allowing myself to fantasize about an actor or TV character. I think it’s possible to be mindful in sex while still imagining that the scruff you feel against your (fill in the blank) belongs to Harrison Ford.

    Reka on

  • Kitty,
    It’s fantastic that you are being proactive about your sexuality. I wonder if you’d be willing to share some of your sources of erotic fiction. I too have found satisfaction in reading and writing erotic fiction, including Fan Fiction. I’ve also explored some great vibrators. My good friend also has multiple sclerosis, and it was she who first suggested a couple of vibrators to me. The Hitachi Magic Wand is very good because of the sheer strength of the vibrations.
    Good luck and have fun playing!

    Reka on

  • Hi, I agree with the words here. I’m not at menopause quite yet, but I have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis early this year.
    My interest in sex hasn’t waned, but I seem to have lost my ability to orgasm.
    I’m still having a fun time playing, just not the exquisite time I’m hoping for. I’ve found an interest in erotic fiction, both reading it and writing it. This is keeping my interest level up, and both my husband and I are having a fun time hunting for my elusive Madam O!
    Soon I will invest in a vibrator and with luck locate Madam O again. Staying involved with and committed to the sexual relationship with my husband is keeping the hunt fun!

    Kitty on

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