Sex…It used to be so simple. All it took was a glance between you and your partner and it was clear what needed to happen. Here. Now.
Fast forward a few short decades and here we are. Sex is suddenly a complicated mix of aerobic exercise and strategic positioning to avoid a cramp. In midlife we use a formula to determine whether we will have sex. It looks something like this:
Predicted expended energy (x) + Potential cramping/body aches (y) – Anticipated orgasm (O) x Relationship Benefits (Rb) = Interest/willingness to participate in sexual activity (I/WSA)
It’s all very complex. And as you can see, quite scientific.
How Midlife Impacts Sex Life
Women in midlife experience a gradual decline in estrogen levels and this can impact libido. Other causes of decreased sex drive can include mental health issues such as depression, medical issues, pain and stress. Vaginal changes in midlife can also make sex less appealing, particularly if sex causes pain or distress. (Vaginal issues can be treated; talk to your OB/GYN about treatment options).
And let’s name the elephant in the room, shall we? Weight changes happen. It’s a natural part of our developmental transition into the menopausal years. It sucks, and it can impact our view of our ourselves sexually. When self esteem decreases, sexual interest and willingness to be vulnerable with our partners can also decline. Relationship stressors can be a barrier to sexual activity, too. The cruel irony is that the decline in sexual interactions can negatively impact the relationship even more, further perpetuating this cycle. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the road, there are many more miles to go!
S.O.S! (Save Our Sex-lives)
Midlife doesn’t have to wreck our sex lives entirely. We can fight back and reclaim our sexual selves. It may take time and patience, but sexual satisfaction is very possible:
- Increase intimacy. We’ve all heard that most of our sexual process is in our heads. Often when couples have been together for many years, the intimacy fizzles out. Make it a point to do the things you used to do when the relationship was new; hold hands, give unsolicited back rubs, look into each other’s eyes when you are talking. Sometimes these simple things can improve intimacy, which can make sex more appealing.
- Don’t be afraid to get your kink on. Maybe part of the decline in your sex drive is related to boredom. The benefit of midlife is that you’ve been having sex for a long time now. You know what you like. And there may be things you like that you don’t even know about yet. Try some new sex toys and videos. Masturbate more. Treat your sexual adventures like a research project and dive right in. You can erase your search history later (wink, wink). Give your sex life as much attention as your Netflix subscription.
- Supplements. Ok, so I write this section with great trepidation. There are so many supplements that promise sexual veracity, but do they really work? Some of the pills that have been prescribed to increase libido have shown slight improvement in sex drive, but have caused unpleasant side effects such as nausea, fainting and low blood pressure. (“When I regain consciousness, I’m gonna rock your WORLD, honey!”) Do your research and talk to your doctor before taking anything. Even natural supplements can have negative side effects, but they may be a safer alternative than pharmaceuticals.
- Embrace your glory, gals. We’re so self-critical. We notice our own perceived imperfections more than anyone else and this can get in the way of our sexual pursuits. Maybe it’s time to go online shopping for a sexy bra. Stand naked in front of the full-length mirror and take an honest inventory of your beauty. Curves are lovely. Allow yourself some self-love.
Midlife brings a lot of changes, and sexual side effects are common. We don’t have to simply accept it; we can take action and embrace our changing selves. Taking care of our minds and bodies is an important part of this journey. Commit to a healthy, balanced lifestyle; it can make a significant difference and improve our sex lives in the process.