The dinner reservations are booked, the sitter has been called, and that one extremely low-cut dress that is appropriate for literally no other day of the year has been dug out of the back of the closet. It can all only mean one thing — Valentine's Day is upon us yet again.
But if peri/menopause has brought some new changes to your sex life this year, don't sweat it. We've assembled a quick cheat sheet to some of the most common questions about sex during peri/menopause, so you can spend your V-day worry-free, and concentrating on the important stuff (like remembering to eat dinner after you have sex — truly, nothing is more awkward than trying to find a good position after you have just consumed a ton of roasted chicken).
What do I do if sex has started to become painful?
The drop in estrogen levels that accompanies peri/menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, which can be uncomfortable on its own — but when combined with sex, it can get downright painful. According to experts, the best way to make sure sex stays "ooh" and not "OW" is to use both lube and moisturizer.
Water, silicone, and oil-based lubes all work — you should pick one that works best with your personal needs — and can be used in the moment. Vaginal moisturizer should be used regularly in advance of sex, to help your vagina stay more flexible and moist.
My old sex toys don't feel good anymore. What should I do?
Penetrative sex toys like dildos might feel less pleasurable these days, due to lessened vaginal elasticity and increased dryness. But that doesn't mean your sex toy days are behind you — it's just time to shop for some new ones.
Check out sex toys that specifically stimulate the clitoris, like bullet vibrators or suction toys. You and your partner can try shopping for some together, IRL or online — not only can it be a fun and bonding experience, but it's a great Valentine's gift (does anyone really want another expensive bouquet of roses that are just going to be wilted and shedding petals all over your floor in a matter of days?)
Read more about updating your sex toy collection in midlife.
How should I tell my partner I want different things in bed now?
Whether you're with a new partner or in a longtime relationship, communicating your sexual needs can be challenging — especially when you have new needs, whether they’re due to hormonal changes, life changes, or simply different interests.
If you have some thoughts or questions about the kind of sex you’d like to have now, you may want to plan a time to discuss them in advance, rather than bringing them in the heat (or afterglow) of the moment, since sex and immediately afterwards can be "a really vulnerable time," according to sex therapist Casey Tanner. Instead, try to pick a time before your date, like during a walk or other relaxed activity, where you and your partner can discuss sex and what you both want.
It might also be easier to ask for changes by staying away from negative statements and bringing up suggestions — so instead of "You always rush through foreplay, I hate it," you might want to try something like "I love foreplay with you, and I'd really like to spend more time there together."
Read more about how to ask for what you want.
So get ready to throw on that extremely sparkly outfit, eat a $60 prix fixe dinner that you’re pretty sure is only worth $20, and enjoy the night anyway — after all, it comes but once a year.
By Gabrielle Moss
Gabrielle Moss is the editor at Stripes. She's the author of Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, GQ, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire and elsewhere.
Photo by Molly Champion/ Pexels