Midlife Sex: A Reality Check

Can I make a few assumptions? If you're reading this you are most likely a woman over 40, single and looking. You are probably dating, or hoping to. You are either nearing menopause, in menopause or post-menopausal.

Taken together, here's what that tells me: You are facing the prospect of having new sexual partners. After all, you have hopes of falling in love, which means you will want to consummate your relationship by making love with your man.

The thought of that might excite the hell out you, or scare the crap out of you. Could go either way.
You may have never thought you'd be dating, romancing and making love with new men at this stage in your life. And doing it while your body is changing, sweating and certainly not responding to anything the way it used to…now that's just a delightful surprise, right?

What? Not too delighted by this?

Well…if this is your story, you are not alone. You are much like hundreds of women I support as I guide them toward bringing lasting love into their life. They are facing this same challenge: the excitement and hope for a future filled with intimacy AND the fear around the initial stages of that life with a new man.

So, I think it's time I give you a midlife sex talk. What I'm really hoping is that you hear it as more of a midlife pep talk.

I'm giving you a little reality check about what sex and happiness can be like for women on the menopause continuum. I suppose that I'm trying to recruit you from team "scared about sex" onto team "excited about sex." Maybe I'll even lead you to team "bring it on!"

The truth is that this time in life can be when a woman most enjoys sex. The following is from an article written by Meredith Maran for More magazine:

In a 1998 Gallup phone survey sponsored by NAMS (North American Menopause Society), 51 percent of postmenopausal women reported being happiest and most fulfilled between the ages of 50 and 65.

Between 1997 and 1999, therapist Dr. Gina Ogden, author of several books on women's sexuality, and consulting editor to Our Bodies, Ourselves, conducted a sexuality survey of 3800 men and women aged 18-86.

"The 50-and 60-year-olds were having more meaningful sexual experiences than the 20- and 30-year-olds," Ogden says. "They reported richer relationships - possibly because they'd matured beyond the old, "good girls don't" constraints."

Yes, this study is old, but nothing has changed. This confirms what I and my clients are experiencing. We aren't living the "dried up old biddy" image the media loves to portray. We are enjoying our life, our relationships and our bodies. And we are doing so much more than during our teen years or our fast and furious twenties when, for many of us, our bodies were simply what we used to get a boy to like us or keep us. Mutual pleasure was certainly not part of the equation during those years.

I love what Christiane Northrup, MD, author of The Secret Pleasures of Menopause, answered when asked how sex is different for women over 40 in another More Magazine article:

Northrup said "[Sex is] often a lot better. In midlife, you get to a place where you realize you'll never again have the body you had at 18. But because of your ego strength, skill set, and clout in the world, you can have sex on your own terms. You know what you like, and if sometimes you don't know, this is the time of life when you'll find out. Your soul is waking up. You have the spirit and sense of adventure that 9- to 11-year-olds have - so you can reinvent yourself sexually. The truth is, most men don't care if you are 40, 50, or 60. What they want is someone who is fun, who responds, and who makes them feel good."

Oh yah. That is definitely what I see every day.

Now my encouragement to embrace your midlife sexuality comes with caveats. Don't fall into bed without some serious thought. The lovely enjoyment can come AFTER you do your grownup thing, which means setting yourself up for safe sex; both the physical and emotional kid of safe.

Among other things, I recommend that you have an open and honest talk with your partner-to-be before the big moment. If you can't talk about "it" you shouldn't be doing "it."

(If you want to know exactly how to have this conversation and what I recommend it contains, watch my Grownup Girl's Night Out webcast: How to Talk About Sex with Your Man…Hopefully Before You Have It.)

There are also real physical challenges at this stage of life. We can experience dryness and he can experience erectile difficulties. But instead of how it was in our younger years when we were overcome with shame or clueless as to how to make it better, now we can look each other in the eye and have an honest, compassionate discussion.

As smart grownups, we can be resourceful and think of things we never would have thought of in our early years. Together we can resolve sexual challenges in a mutually beneficial way.
Can it be a little dicey at times? Yep, I won't lie. But with all your grownup skills and past experiences my money is on you working anything out if you've chosen a kind, mature man and you share deep feelings.

There is more good news about mature dating and sex: we are beyond worrying about unwanted pregnancies or that our man will think we're a tramp if we like sex. We know our bodies - what works for us and what doesn't. We may have also learned a few tricks between the sheets that will dazzle our new love. (If you haven't, don't you think it's time?) Bobbi Palmer of Date Like a Grownup gives advice on relationships and intimacy. Notice the Gallup study said "more meaningful sexual experiences" not "more sexual experiences." At this stage of life, many have become at peace with a diminished drive, doing it less often, but enjoying it more.

As grownups, we don't need to prove anything to anyone. We can be ourselves and express our love and lust to our partner in a wide variety of ways. We can also laugh at ourselves way more than when we were 20. That counts for a lot. (This goes for most men at this stage of life also.)

So, are you on team "let's get it on" yet? No? Well if you've moved from scared to even just a little excitement…that's good for now. This journey is about taking many steps forward until one leads you to your loving and adoring life partner.

There are many myths and mis-truths about menopausal women and sexuality. Once you get past these and create your own reality, you can let yourself go…much to the enjoyment of your partner and yourself!