Menopause and Sexless Marriage
While discussions around menopause often focus on physical changes, many couples find that this transitional period leads to a loss of sexual intimacy. Over time, menopause can contribute to the development of a sexless marriage.
Understanding the dynamics of menopause and its potential impact on your relationship is the first step towards navigating this phase with awareness and resilience.
Can Menopause Cause a Sexless Relationship?
The hormonal shifts during menopause, particularly the decline in estrogen levels, can significantly impact your experience of sex. Menopause can cause vaginal dryness and pain, decreased libido, and mood swings—together, a recipe for less interest in sexual intimacy.
However, sexuality experts say that the age of your relationship—not the age of the people in the relationship—is perhaps the single biggest influence on your libido and sexual satisfaction.
The impact of menopause in long-term relationships can create a cycle of less and less spontaneous desire, arousal, and mutual satisfaction. When sex is good, it’s very good. But when your sex life is struggling, it can lead to feeling less connected and confident in your partnership.
Change is normal, but it can be particularly challenging when it starts to affect your sexual partnership. You’re not alone if you’re feeling a personal sense of loss or grief, tension or frustration with your partner. You may even feel like that aspect of your relationship is over.
Avoiding sex due to pain and low desire often leads to the loss of all forms of sexual intimacy in a partnership. While some couples have happy, mutually fulfilling relationships without sexual intimacy, a sexless relationship is more frequently a source of conflict that leaves one or both partners without their needs met.
7 Strategies for Keeping Intimacy Alive During Menopause
1. Open Communication is Key
How often do you talk about sex with the person who you’re actually having it with? For many people, especially those who grew up in families and cultures that don’t discuss sex openly, it can feel like a monumental and even terrifying task.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. But if you’re able to take a leap to start the conversation with your partner, you might be pleasantly surprised at the benefits you and your partner will both get.
2. Educate Yourself and Your Partner
Learning the “why” behind changes in your body and libido is an important step in taking back ownership of your sexuality. But don’t stop there—share this information with your partner so they can gain a better understanding of your experience.
When you notice your sex life shifting around menopause, it’s easy to feel like it’s your responsibility to “fix” what is changing in your desire, arousal and physical body. However, the couples who are most successful in enjoying a long-term mutually satisfying sexual relationship are those who approach challenges together.
3. Seek Professional Guidance
If you are avoiding sexual intimacy because of pain, or find that changes in your libido are dramatic and bothersome, don’t wait to get professional help. There are effective options available for many symptoms that can help you avoid long-term disruptions to your sex life. For example, many women are surprised to learn that vaginal estrogen is a safe and effective option for vaginal dryness.
It’s often easiest to visit your primary care provider to get more information and understand the appropriate next step. Midday’s guided programs and health coaching can help you navigate changes in sexual intimacy and offer a range of options that may work for you.
4. Explore Alternative Pathways to Intimacy
Let sex in midlife be an exciting opportunity to rekindle your intimacy and explore new or unshared desires. Beyond orgasms and physical pleasure, a fulfilling sexual relationship also provides emotional and psychological benefits to strengthen your partnership.
Intimacy is not solely defined by vaginal intercourse. People experiencing painful sex often still enjoy other forms of sexual touch and pleasure, and are able to maintain sexual intimacy with their partner. While orgasm may be harder to achieve after menopause, introducing a vibrator or other forms of stimulation is the ticket for many women.
Planning date nights, for example, may seem less romantic and spontaneous, but this strategy works well for many couples. Dr. Barb Depree, an expert in sexual wellness, advises that couples plan their intimacy instead of waiting for desire to initiate sex, as desire will often follow once foreplay is underway. The book Come As You Are is a great resource for understanding how you experience desire and arousal.
Intimacy also does not have to involve sex at all! You can build and maintain emotional closeness with your partner through open communication, shared activities, and nonsexual touch like hugs, cuddling, and holding hands.
5. Prioritize Self-Care
While one of the biggest benefits of a long-term relationship is comfort and intimacy, you can start to lose an independent sense of self when your life is deeply intertwined with your partner’s. It’s OK for your partner to not be your “everything.”
One strategy to keep the passion alive in a long-term relationship is to maintain some independence and healthy separation. Having your own interests, hobbies and friends outside of your relationship makes it more exciting to come back together with your partner.
Don’t forget to take care of your well-being by prioritizing regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress-management techniques. Feeling good about yourself—and in your own skin—will only positively impact your relationship.
6. Consider Couples Therapy
Finding a new groove for your sexual relationship in midlife is more complicated than fixing one specific issue. Many times, it uncovers other concerns that need to be unpacked. Sex can also be a sensitive and emotional subject for all involved.
If navigating the challenges becomes overwhelming, couples therapy can provide a supportive environment for addressing relationship dynamics during menopause. Each partnership is unique, so there’s no one right answer for these challenges. With patience and investment from both partners, it’s possible to find compromises and meaningful solutions to conflict.
7. Embrace the Journey Together
Menopause is a shared journey. Change is inevitable through the course of a long-term partnership—but change doesn’t lead to loss. Through mutual support and understanding, it’s possible to continue to deepen your connection with your partner and keep your intimacy alive.
Sexless relationships around menopause are more common than you might think. Remember, you’re not alone, and with the right approach, you can emerge from this phase with a deeper connection and continued intimacy. Mutually pleasurable and engaging sex is possible for you and your partner in midlife and beyond. However, great sex is seldom fast and easy like it’s portrayed in the media. Like most things, intention and effort can create the greatest rewards.
Don’t miss the resources in the Midday app for more information and expert guidance about cultivating and maintaining a happy, healthy sexual partnership around menopause and beyond.
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