Let’s face it. When you get to this stage of the game, and especially if you’ve been with the same partner for years, you may be wondering whether sex is really worth all the bother. Is it really worth the time, the mess, the mental energy? Why not just let it go the way of your vanishing waistline? Well, you might consider that many couples in their mature years have discovered a
kinder, gentler sex life that enriches their relationship and keeps their finger on this essential juiciness of life. You might think twice about closing the door to this most lovely of intimacies with a person you love. You might reconsider losing this thing that keeps you in touch with sensuality in the broadest sense. As Dr. Christine Northrup said in an interview, “Menopause is the fork in the road where one side says ‘Grow,’ and the other says, ‘Die.’ Menopause… like the fall of the year, is an open window.”
Libido is a fragile flame at this stage of life. We can snuff it out, or we can coax that flicker into a cozy fire. And like other parts of our life, with some nurturing, some honesty, and some practice, sex can become one of the delights of our mature years.
So, maybe it’s time to rethink attitudes and values you’ve carried with your throughout your adult life. Your body, your libido, and your responses—and maybe your partner’s vim and vigor—are changing anyway, so maybe it’s time to bring some open-mindedness, more compassion and patience (and maybe some new moves) to the bedroom.
First, you have to discover what pleases you sexually. You might have a hard time articulating or even knowing what turns you on. Maybe you haven’t thought about it, or you’ve focused on your partner’s pleasure, or you’ve never enjoyed sex all that much, or you’ve been too self-conscious for that kind of exploration.
Have you ever considered that the biggest turn-on for your partner is when you’re turned on? And that it doesn’t even take penis-in-vagina sex to turn you on? “The good news is, men do not need a penis to pleasure a woman,” says Dr. Northrup, “and it’s very important to a man’s self-esteem that he know how to pleasure a woman.”
So, the first order of business is to find out what pleases you and then to communicate that to your partner.
So—explore your sexual parts! Get to know yourself and what feels good and where. Practice. Masturbate. You’ll probably discover that, rather than a full-on attack, a gentle tease, a buildup of tension, then backing off is both effective and pleasurable. Consider using a vibrator if you need more stimulation.
Now, have a little tutorial with your partner. How is he supposed to know this stuff if you don’t show him? Maybe he can show you what pleases him as well.
Next, broaden your definition of sex. According to sex therapist JoAnn Loulan, sex should begin with willingness and end with pleasure, with or without orgasm in between. Lots of intimacies count as sex—cuddling, kissing, touching. As long as it’s emotionally pleasurable and fulfilling and keeps the spark alive, it all counts.
Your mind can be the pink Viagra that everyone’s looking for. Harness your creativity and imagination. Fantasize. Read or watch erotica. Many women are gathering ideas from the latest 50 Shades of Gray series. (More on that later.) Or read this for our own list of movies that turn us on.
Finally, a few wrap-up thoughts:
- Don’t compare. Your sex life is unique and sacred. There’s no magic number of times or ways to do it. At this stage of the game, we can do it any way we want.
- Your partner is a lot more accepting of your body than you are, so let go of the self-criticism.
- If you have a hard time loosening up and you can’t turn off that judgmental voice in your head, try a glass of wine with sex. (As long as alcohol isn’t a problem for you.) It’s a nice way to release inhibitions.
- Take belly dancing. I still remember watching a friend who had learned to belly dance walk onto the dance floor with her husband. That woman had the roll of the hips down pat—it was sexy even for me to watch. You’ll develop some great musculature, and you’ll learn a truly female art form.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.