GloForward Feature: Intimacy
Hormonal Harmony: Keeping Intimacy Alive
by Susanne Haegele
February 5, 2021
In relationships between men and women, menopause can still be quite a taboo subject. Even men who are comfortable with periods may have no idea what is going to hit them (sometimes literally, if you become prone to fits of hormonal rage) when their partner goes through this phase in her life.
Many women don’t know what to expect, so how would the men?
This is where the quality of the relationship will get a chance to shine – just as when you had children together, if you did. Just as when you built a house together, or when one of you was fired from their job, or received a dire diagnosis, or when a loved one passed away. You can go through this together, or it can drive you apart.
Greying hair, sagging skin, and a chubby midriff may affect your self-esteem. You may no longer feel ‘sexy’ according to the preeminent beauty images, which are used by the advertising industry in magazines and on TV to sell us anti-aging products.
Vaginal dryness resulting in painful sex, loss of tone in the pelvic floor (and therefore loss of sensation in penetration), mood swings from depression to rage, hot flashes that leave you drenched, and low or unpredictable libido – all these can have massive consequences for a couple’s sex life.
This can lead to a variety of scenarios, amongst which:
the man may be tempted to date a younger woman, if he wants to keep his sex life as it is (at his own risk – he may well not be ‘up for the challenge’ himself, with erection issues and less stamina), or
the woman loses interest in her man, OR…
the couple evolves, just like their bodies and the rest of their lives are evolving.
What can a woman do?
At the physical level, hyaluronic vaginal creams and probiotic suppositories can help with vaginal moisture levels, targeted exercises such as the famed ‘kegels’ can keep the pelvic floor toned. A healthy lifestyle and, if that is an option for you, herbal or medical supplementation may slow down the changes in hormone levels.
This may also be a good time to improve your confidence by changing your clothing, make-up and hairstyle to suit your changing hair and skin colors, and your evolving body shape.
Seeking precise information about what perimenopause is and does, and sharing that information with your partner, is essential.
What can a couple do?
There is a lot that couples can do to keep their relationship vital and thriving:
spending quality time together (to create lovely memories) and apart (to have something to report back about, or as a ‘secret garden’),
experimenting with new ways of making love,
journaling to find out what is going on inside of you,
talking openly about your emotions, fears, and desires,
understanding that change is normal, laughing together, gaining a sense of perspective…
Some of these could already be the glue that keeps your relationship thriving. If not, now is a good time to try.
Sexuality after menopause can be very fulfilling and a great bonding experience – after all, procreation is no longer an issue, it’s all about the fun now! Women in mid-life may also be more assertive and know what they want. And men are experiencing some physical and emotional changes of their own (there goes another taboo which bears looking at!) which may make them more inclined to be tender and mindful.
To limber up and loosen your hips for your next experience, try these short exercises:
And finally, be open to learning what works for others. We frequently get great ideas for our own lives through stories and examples.
For a tongue-in-cheek look at what it means to feel sexy in your fifties, here are two movie recommendations. When it comes to sexuality and the mature couple, these two Nancy Meyers’ movies always come to mind.
Try planning a movie night with your partner, and see if it acts as a conversation starter.
Anything else you would add to this list? We’d love to hear what has worked well for you!
It’s Complicated with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin – after leaving his wife for a younger woman who turns out to be demanding and frankly exhausting, Alec’s character suddenly finds his ex-wife strangely attractive – including her new pubic hairstyle. I can’t reveal more without spoiling the plot…
Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson – apart from the fact that he starts out dating her daughter, and that she is courted by Keanu Reeves, I always think of the scene where they start making love and he asks ‘should we be using protection?,’ and she joyfully answers ‘Menopause!’
Susanne is a pre-and postnatal yoga teacher, trained by the Birthlight school, specializing in women's wellbeing. After working for many years as a translator in international organizations, Susanne came to yoga to heal her back pain and was amazed to discover the effects of a more natural lifestyle on her hypothyroidism and womanhood. As a certified yoga instructor since 2007, she now leads workshops on fertility, the menstrual cycle, menopause, and the pelvic floor, as well as women's circles. German by birth, French by upbringing, she has lived in the UK, Croatia, Italy and is currently based on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Her book, Hormonal Harmony: A Natural Guide to Women's Wellbeing, has been published in French, Spanish and is now available in English.