“For a major part of our married life, we lived as a joint family and we moved to our own home just before our daughter’s marriage. Now that she’s married and our son is doing his master’s degree in Singapore, the house is all ours, with plenty of privacy. My husband, Karthik, thus has gotten into his romantic best at the age of 62, while I’m not able to reciprocate at 59. Over the years, romance had taken a back seat due to lack of privacy. Now I experience a lot of vaginal dryness and thus intercourse is painful. I walk around with bothersome hot flashes, so contact with another body generates even more heat in me, leading to irritation. Karthik, however, consciously takes a lot of effort these days to revive our lost sexual verve, but my lack of interest frustrates him and weakens our relationship,” described Madhavi.
Madhavi is in her perimenopausal stage. It is that stage in a woman’s life when her periods begin to stop and she undergoes several changes, stretching to many years. A huge number of changes can be taking place in the lives of women at the time of menopause. Many may feel that they are evolving into a ‘new me’. This transition can be novel and stressful. For most women in the menopausal and post-menopausal age, the decline in sexual desires is evident, as they may not get aroused easily. Low libido may cause relationship and emotional issues of confidence and self-esteem.
He says I’m old
“I am troubled, as the low libido means making excuses in bed and that is causing a rift between us. He takes it as lack of interest in him. Karthik was never around to understand my menstrual aches and pains, being lost in the joint family, and thus he doesn’t understand the hormonal havoc of menopause. He thinks I have aged and become less interested in sex and romance, and that hurts me even more. When he says becoming a mother-in-law has made me old, I feel defeated. I thus have to work harder on my looks while fighting the hormones. Sometimes I have to oblige sexually, as I don’t want to be ridiculed about ageing and losing interest in romance. All this seems so hypocritical to me,” continued Madhavi.
In the years leading up to the menopause, the level of oestrogen starts to decline and then falls sharply. This has many physical and psychological effects on women. Madhavi is undergoing most of the symptoms; however, this is not the case with most women. For most women sex is like fine wine, it gets better with age. Because, as women age, they are more in control of their physical needs and they know exactly what they want in sex and how to be satisfied. In the 20s, women are mostly focusing on the sexual experience of the partner, but as they age and get into the 40s, they focus on self-satisfaction.
Related reading: Married and a virgin, I want to have sex before I get too old
The scars from a joint family life
“The life in a joint family has left its scars on my sex life. For some reason there is a stigma around older people being romantic and having sex. As soon as you’ve earned 50 candles on your birthday cake, your vagina is magically replaced with a Barbie-smooth patch of skin, rendering coitus physically impossible. Then onwards it was as if couples live celibate. This has affected my psyche and I feel a lack of interest in sex altogether,” said Madhavi.
The sexual identity of each individual changes and evolves throughout life. During each stage, one can alter their libido by understanding the physical changes that are happening. We can all make practical choices to create a sex life that suits during the menopause. There is a prevalent myth that women stop having sex after menopause. This is untrue, as women can receive and give pleasure even after menopause. Most of the problems can usually be remedied, as they are temporary in nature.
An open talk with Karthik telling him about the changes happening to her body, about her physical and psychological discomforts, can be very comforting. This is most important, as this can avoid misunderstanding in the relationship. They should then consult a gynaecologist and get some medical help if physical illness is disturbing. She should focus on pleasure rather than climaxing. After all it’s the brain, anyway, not the genitals, that’s the chief sex organ.
Discussing sexual issues with your partner can be a daunting proposition and most partners would rather give it a miss and ignore it rather than solving it. Solutions are available in plenty, therefore its ideal that the partners become proactive and co-operative. Madhavi should work for new body confidence through her body image.