Celebrating Mid-Life Sex Donít let the age factor creep into your bedroom. By applying new techniques, itís possible to revitalize and find new beginnings and appreciation. BY DENISE J. CHARLES
Mid-life sex doesn't have to be boring or a literal pain, it can be celebrated when prepared for properly.
“ If a wife begins to feel less sexy, she is unlikely to initiate or want sex.”
In recent years attitudes toward aging have changed drasticallyóalthough there is no escaping the inevitable difference which age brings. While some jokingly assert that menopause really signals a pause from men, it need not spell the death of sexual desire. For women who are premenopausal (the period before the onset of actual menopause), a gradual decrease in the hormones estrogen and testosterone can, for some, begin the slow and painful trek toward diminished sexual desire.
This reduction in hormone levels can lead naturally to vaginal dryness and a decrease in lubrication, which can make sex painful. Less lubrication and engorgement in the vaginal area can also lead to reduced sensation, which can affect sensitivity to sexual stimulation. If sex becomes uncomfortable, painful or less pleasurable, a woman's response may understandably be to avoid it like the plague. When we add to these changes other symptoms like depression, emotional irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness and hot flashes, is it any wonder that a few women begin to focus their energies elsewhere while leaving their husbands to literally stew in their own juices? The absence or a significant reduction in sexual desire can affect how a woman may have viewed herself over the years of her marriage. If a wife begins to feel less sexy, she is unlikely to initiate or want sex.
The truth, however, is that menopause in women should be treated like any other manageable life transition. In the same way that we make physical and psychological adjustments at puberty and early adulthood, the mid-life change should be treated like another rite of passage, requiring adjustment and even celebration (some of us actually plan to throw a huge party once we get there).
As with any other life-change, perspective is everything. Our ability to cope with sexual and other changes at mid-life will, therefore, be contingent on the lens through which we view it. This lens is shaped by a number of factors, including our basic knowledge and understanding of menopause, our expectations, our general health, how our mother perhaps experienced it, and the loving support of our partner. For any woman experiencing diminished sexual desire at this juncture of her life, the following might be instructive.
Cultivate a desire for desire. The woman who enjoys sex and celebrates her sexuality, is likely to be less challenged by the issue of diminished sexual desire. This does not mean that she may not actually experience a lower sex-drive, but in spite of it, she can still see herself as a sexual being who deserves sexual love. I call this the desire for desire because such women understand the importance of sex to their own well-being. They acknowledge the importance of sex to the health of their relationship and in so doing, value sexual expression in spite of how they may feel. Since sex happens first in the mind, then desiring sex "in the brain," even when there is no initial physical pull, can be the first step toward kick-starting our own sexual arousal. For the woman who finds this a challenge, deliberately thinking sexual thoughts or imagining sexual scenarios with her spouse, can be a small step toward rekindling reduced desire.
Seek medical help. Menopause is not an illness. It simply signals the end of child-bearing years as a result of the changing hormone levels which come naturally with aging. A womanís personal physician can advise about the use of hormone replacement therapy for those symptoms which may be overbearing. Counseling intervention can also be utilized for excessive moodiness or extended depression, which appear to be significantly altering the quality of life.
Embrace sexual change. Trying to reproduce the sexual fervor of our 20s during mid-life actually makes little sense. Accepting that change is inevitable and learning to work with it is far more conducive to individual and relationship growth. Diversifying our sexual repertoire to non-penetrative sexual expressions can be a temporary reprieve for painful intercourse. Utilizing a water-soluble lubricant or practicing more oral sex may also be helpful. These changes, of course, require an understanding and cooperative partner, who depending on his age, may also be struggling with erectile issues. This is a great time for a womanís partner to show his flexibility and creativity in the sex department as together, they seek to re-define great sex.
Since, at mid-life, a couple may now take all night to do what they used to do all night long, this time can be used for greater body-exploration. It can encourage a re-discovery of pleasure which was taken for granted during what I call the "auto-pilot' sexual years. Far from shutting up shop, mid-life sex should be embraced as a means of deepening intimacy, improving heart-health and well-being, and re-confirming that our desire to be loved, pleasured and needed transcends age.