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Sex, Sex, Sex

Menopause and Sex: How to Keep Things Sexy With Your Partner 

Oct 24, 2022

Menopause and Sex: How to Keep Things Sexy With Your Partner 

Going through menopause is a deeply personal experience — but that doesn’t mean it only affects you. This major life transition and all the ways it manifests can quickly start to take a toll on some of your most important relationships and the deep connections that come with them. Maybe your mood swings have you constantly on edge with your partner, or your down-there area feels like a foreign country (and not in an exotic way). Perhaps your changing (read: bloated and sweaty) body makes you want to hide out under the covers, by yourself. (OK, your pet can join you.)

It’s not at all uncommon to feel like the sexy factor in your relationship is a thing of the past. If your hormonal roller coaster ride has zapped the intimacy right out of your intimate sphere, here are a few expert-backed tips to get through this uncharted territory together.

Remember sex isn’t just…sex

First of all: Sex does not always equal intercourse. “This is probably the most important insight, because so many couples really seem to think it isn’t ‘real’ sex if penetration isn’t involved,” says Carol Queen, PhD, a Good Vibrations staff sexologist and co-author of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone.“Too often when this is the case and there’s a sexual issue, the assumption is that the couple’s sex life is over.” Instead of focusing on one sex act, de-center intercourse when you need to, and explore other kinds of sex play that do feel pleasurable and achievable. 

Keep track of your symptoms 

Manifestations of menopause can make any kind of body-to-body erotic connection uncomfortable, says Queen. If your peri/menopause symptoms are getting in the way of your sexy time, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on what makes you feel worse, keeping a journal as you would if you were trying to track down a food sensitivity. 

Knowing what triggers your symptoms — for example, maybe spicy food and alcohol worsen your hot flashes — can help you avoid them or take steps to cope. “If need be, keep a little fan by the bed, or maybe a little bowl of ice cubes for sensory play plus cooldown,” Queen says.

Talk about your symptoms

Admitting to yourself that your body is changing is hard enough. Talking about your symptoms with someone else can be even harder. Your hesitation to open up about your vaginal dryness or midnight hot flashes is understandable. But on the flip side, it’s probably hard for your partner to watch you suffer in silence. 

Open and honest communication is the best way to strengthen your bond and help you get over any embarrassment you may be feeling. “Even if these changes are temporary, they are affecting your physical and possibly emotional experience of sex, and bottling them up will not help you cope,” says Queen. 

Your partner might have a general idea of what’s happening with you, but make sure to talk openly about your struggles and how they’re affecting you. Be straightforward, too, about how your partner can support you through this time. “It’s also quite common for partners, especially cis men, to have absolutely no idea how perimenopause can affect us,” says Queen. “They will not be able to read your mind or subtle signals.”

Explore other barriers to desire

Sure, hot flashes might be to blame, but keep in mind that other factors common in midlife can drain your sex drive. Stress, tension, bad sleep, anxiety or depression, or increased distress in your partnership can all take a toll on your sex life and even your relationship when your clothes are on. “Those really need to be addressed if at all possible,” Queen says. “Simply having a good attitude about sex in general may not be enough to tackle those kinds of barriers.” 

Prioritizing self-care (staying hydrated, getting more sleep, and exercising, to name a few) can make a big difference in supporting your body during this time. Your primary care doc or gyno are great places to start if you need support, and it’s never a bad idea to talk to your therapist. 

One important note: If you’ve already been diagnosed with anxiety or depression and take meds for it, know that some meds are known libido disruptors. “Speak to your doctor if you think that’s a factor,” says Queen. 

How to increase sex drive during menopause

Keeping eroticism alive for yourself can also involve masturbation, erotic literature, audio, toy play, sexy movies, pornography — whatever reminds you of sexiness and gets you going. For some, embodiment via massage works very well. “Any and all of this can also be shared with your partner, and they can also support you with sexy texts or notes, expressions of love and desire, and support about any emerging body image issues,” says Queen. “But tell them what you need and want so they don’t swamp you with sexy talk that feels overwhelming to you.”

Ask for help

Still struggling? If your trial-and-error attempts to solve your issues aren’t bearing fruit, it may be time to seek more support. Queen is a huge fan of the book What Fresh Hell Is This? Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You as an inclusive resource for all things menopause (including how your changing hormones can impact your relationships and sex life).  

Enlisting pros during this time can be important, too. If you want to work with an M.D. to deal with peri/menopause-related issues, Queen recommends finding one who is well informed about this aspect of life — not all are, and not all docs are trained about sex beyond reproductive health–type issues. “Pleasure-focused function isn’t covered in many medical school curricula,” she says. 

Likewise, if you see a sexologist or therapist, try to one who is well versed in peri/menopause. According to Queen, the best time to reach out is if you can’t find an M.D. who takes your sexual issues seriously and is knowledgeable about them, or if you are experiencing distress in your relationship. 

If a partner is not on your side about your menopausal changes, you might need to take that to a therapist, too. Therapy isn’t just a last-ditch attempt to save a struggling marriage. Whether you’re stuck in a rut or just looking for new ways to connect with your partner during this tumultuous time, a neutral third party — and a supportive one, at that — can be a great means toward rekindling a connection and overcoming difficult patterns that may be taking a toll on your relationship. 

 

By Ashley Abramson

Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer primarily covering health, psychology, and relationships. In addition to Fatherly, she's been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian. She lives in the Milwaukee area with her husband and two young sons


Looking to connect with a community of women who know what you're going through? Check out The Hot Spot!
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In partnership with the biotech company Amyris, Stripes created a line of holistic, science-backed solutions that promote overall wellness for people experiencing menopause. Our active ingredients are sustainably sourced, and created to be good to both you and our planet. 

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INCLUSIVITY

Menopause affects each of us differently, which is why we designed Stripes to be inclusive of all people who experience it. When we make space for each of our unique journeys and needs, we create a collective wisdom that strengthens, empowers, and unites us all.

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HEALTHY AGING

Menopause affects each of us differently, which is why we designed Stripes to be inclusive of all people who experience it. When we make space for each of our unique journeys and needs, we create a collective wisdom that strengthens, empowers, and unites us all.