Libido, sex drive, sizzle, in the mood… call it what you will, your desire to have sex can take a real hit during menopause. Whatever the reasons – physical or emotional or a mix – it’s a change that can can really affect relationships. Relate, a UK-based network of relationship counselors, talks about what might be happening and how couples in conflict can find balance together again.
I seem to feel in the mood for sex less – what’s going on?
During menopause your sex life is likely to be very different as you adjust to the biological changes that you are going through. You might find that sex is less enjoyable, you’re not as interested in having sex, you might experience vaginal dryness or simply feel too exhausted to initiate it.
What might be happening for your partner?
Partners often respond to this change in the couple’s sex life by sulking or trying to initiate sex more often. They can feel distanced by the lack of sex and want to use sex to feel close again. This mismatch in desires leads to cycle of increased conflict over intimacy. The more pressure a partner puts on the other to have sex the more they withdraw, this in turn leads to a situation where the women feels even less understood and as a result less loved. Sex then becomes a battleground with one partner feeling rejected and the other completely unsupported. Women may also be going through a time of uncertainty about their role in life. Their kids may have left home, their body may feel different, and they might then wonder if their partner will start to back away from them too. This combination of uncertainty can start to affect a woman’s confidence and libido. Sex therapy can help with these kind of problems. It uses a combination of education about the biological changes that happen at menopause and a counseling approach so you can find a way to understand each other’s experiences.
What can help increase my libido?
- Don’t focus on having sex – think about other things you can do to be intimate. Try massage, kissing or just holding hands – the idea is to take away the pressure to perform and just enjoy feeling close.
- Talk and think about sex – the brain is the body’s biggest sexual organ so just thinking or talking about sex can help to boost desire. If you’re avoiding having sex you may think that talking about it only makes the problem worse but the reverse is often true.
- Rely on your partner to initiate sex – if your desire has reduced you might need your partner to take the lead when it comes to getting things started. You might find that this approach can spark your desire, but be mindful that you aren’t putting too much pressure on yourself to have sex when you’re not in the mood.
- Make time for your sex life – spend time together where the focus is on being intimate – again, try to ease off on the pressure to have sex. Your partner can make things a whole lot more enjoyable by taking a gentle approach and remembering to be kind and caring.
- See a sex therapist – while this isn’t always necessary, your relationship might benefit from their help if you are constantly arguing or are finding it hard to understand what’s going wrong. They will be able to help you see how you are both withdrawing from the relationship and find a way to renegotiate how the relationship works. They can also provide ‘psycho-education’ this is advice and education about the physical changes that menopause brings that can help you understand how your sex life will be different.
- Don’t compare your sex life to your friends – there can be big differences in couple’s sex lives at this life stage. It’s just more unnecessary pressure to be looking at everyone else’s sex life and thinking yours should be as ‘good’.
- Improve your diet and lifestyle – this can improve any other symptoms such as tiredness or hot flashes that might be affecting your interest in sex – there are lots of resources on this website to help with this, including: a Nutritionist’s Guide To Menopause; a personal trainer’s Menopause Exercise Guide; and detailed advice on managing specific menopause symptoms.
Will my libido ever come back?
Having a lower sex drive can be an unavoidable part of the menopause but if both partners can work on trying to approach their sex life differently and taking the pressure off to get back to how they were before you are likely to be able to tap into a desire to have more sex. If you feel sex has become a battleground and you’re too upset with your partner to think about experimenting with how your sex life could be different then sex therapy can be a really helpful way to start sorting out any misunderstandings and rebuilding trust and intimacy.
Relate is a UK provider of relationship support, and last year they helped over two million people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities to strengthen their relationships. Read about them here You might also be interested in. Loss of sex drive at menopause by Anne Henderson, gynecologist Painful sex and relationships – how to talk about it and improve things together