I am not a marriage expert, I just want to make that clear. God knows in the 17 years I have been with my husband we’ve argued – often biblically – thrown tantrums (sadly me, not him) and even lived on separate continents for five whole months. But the secret to good sex during the menopause? I’ll come to that.
We’re from completely different cultures (I’m English, he’s South American, raised in New York) and we disagree on pretty much everything you may care to mention: from religion to politics to discipline and where to holiday to the ultimate end result of a cooked potato (me, roasted, him, mashed).
However, critically as it turns out, we still have sex – good sex – often, and we always have. It’s literally the glue that holds us together. It’s also the one that brought us together.
We met at a classic Christmas party in the basement of The Chelsea Hotel in New York (the one made infamous by Sid & Nancy). The bar was called Serena’s, which we later decided would be the name of our little girl. We didn’t have one. Instead, we snogged that night away, dated passionately and, less than a year later, we had a beautiful boy.
As I say, our union tends to be explosive yet intoxicating. It’s not what I expected from marriage, I thought it would be peaceful, harmonious and, whisper it, possibly a little dull and predictable (fair compensation for being married forever, thought I). Instead, our fiery passion is a reminder that we do care about each other deeply, however harshly we disagree, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that we just don’t seem to communicate in quite the way my (far more sedate, read grown-up) couple friends do.
The truth is that a good sex life is great for your health. Mentally, physically and emotionally, those endorphins whizzing around your body and your brain play a “hurrah for fun” part in the midlife complexity of menopause.
I am here to tell you you can still feel like a sexy being, even with night sweats and insomnia. Yes, I’m incredibly fortunate not to have had the other symptoms that so many women suffer from, but there are still many days when sex is the last thing I feel like. But in the name of sharing, I’ve jotted down a few nuggets I’ve learnt about how to make sure you get the midlife love life you deserve.
Don’t take your fights to bed with you
Important one this. If your bedroom becomes a battle ground you can use all the healing crystals you like, but you won’t rid the bad ju-ju. Keep disagreements downstairs. Bed is for sex and sleep only.
Make passion a priority
To-do lists are never ending. You are a friend, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a boss… So many people will make demands on your time and drain your precious energy reserves. Still, aim to make passion a priority on your to-do list. Really. People schedule workouts, so make sure you schedule this one! My husband never gets a weekend off due to his job but he is often home on a week day. I make sure I schedule us some alone time. Nuff said.
Compliment each other
When you first met you never stopped complimenting one another – your differences were what initially excited you. Don’t forget that. We all get on one another’s nerves when we live together for a long period of time, but remember what first attracted you and say it.
There’s actually a name for the technique that’s designed to reboot your sex life, according to psychologist Dr Stephen Snyder – simmering. He’s written a book on the subject, Love Worth Making (£18.43, amazon.co.uk). Simmering means arousing one another without it leading to sex. Apparently this fuels our erotic climate and keeps us desiring one another so we’re in a constant state of arousal. I haven’t practiced this before but, now I know about it, I’m going to.
Fake it ‘til you make it
If you’re not in the mood to hell with it, do it anyway. It’s like smiling – your body is soon tricked into thinking it’s the real thing and responds accordingly.