In the first part of our series entitled Let's Talk About Sex & Menopause, we discussed a woman's anatomy, the sexual response cycle, libido changes during menopause, and medical treatments for common issues with sex for menopausal women. This blog focuses on other therapies and self-care practices to increase your desire and arousal.
Just a quick reminder...the sexual response cycle is composed of four phases: desire (libido), arousal (excitement), orgasm, resolution. In women, those phases come in no particular order and the order can change from day-to-day and over a lifetime. (Men mostly go in the listed order.)
I realize it doesn't sound sexy, but I assure you that scheduling sex with your partner will help you reclaim desire. First, scheduling sex takes the anxiety out of wondering when you will have sex next. It flips the script to put the timing very much within your control and ends the cycle of dreading going into the bedroom. Second, having sex improves desire in two ways - 1) once you start having sex your desire will be more active and 2) thinking about sex after you have sex can improve your desire to have sex again. Remember, the phases of the sexual response cycle are not fixed - they can work in any order.
How do you schedule sex? Communicate with your partner. Tell them that you want to make sex and intimacy a priority in your relationship. (I bet they will be pleased! ) Get your calendars out and and pick a day, time, and frequency. And don't worry if you don't feel like having sex when the time arrives. Just go with the flow and be kind to yourself. If you hit a roadblock, pivot to the three-minute game - it's a structured way to interact with your partner to give and receive pleasure in a mutually consensual way. Don't worry about whether or not it leads to intercourse. Just enjoy it! Remember that it'll go better if you seek as many turn-ons (sexy stories, sexting, a particular perfume, movies, images, daydreams, fantasies, music, sexy clothing, masturbation, massage, sexy talk, flirting, whatever works for you) and avoid as many turn-offs (negative self-talk, kids playing in the next room, bedroom clutter, to-do lists, worry about money, etc.) as possible on the day in which you have sex scheduled.
Mindfulness is another, very helpful way, to help close the 20 tabs open on the desktop of your mind and focus only on what's happening in the moment. I recommend you download an app onto your phone - I like Simple Habit and Headspace, pick what works for you - and spend 5-10 minutes clearing your mind each day. I also recommend the breathwork practice facilitated by The Shift made by Komusō Design. The Shift trains you to inhale deeply and prolong your exhalations, a practice that's been found to help reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Within two minutes, the slow exhale signals your parasympathetic nervous system to downregulate. These practices will improve your desire and intimacy but will also help with depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Set a time to do it every day. Can you spend 5-10 minutes every morning before your household wakes up? How about using the app before bed? Can you walk away from work at lunchtime to clear your head?
Next time we will talk more about the brakes and accelerators controlling our arousal and desire and other ways to tip the balance towards a better sex life.
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