For many women, perimenopause and menopause can take a significant toll on sexual intimacy in marriage.
In today’s post, Debi Walter of The Romantic Vineyard shares authentically about her own journey, as well as information I think you will find helpful no matter your age. Debi‘s post is part of my ongoing guest blog series on things that destroy sex in marriage.
Before I begin, may I encourage all of you who are in your 20s and 30s to not check out of reading this because you think it doesn’t apply to you.
I’ve researched and written this post primarily with you in mind. Promise to read it? Ok, good. Thank you!
When Julie asked us to contribute to her guest blog series on things that take a toll on sex in marriage, I knew I had to approach the topic of Sex and Menopause and Perimenopause (PM).
Having gone through this myself (I’m 56), I only had my limited experience and a few friends I’ve talk to from which to glean. This is why I decided to ask readers through a 10-question survey about this apparently much-needed topic.
I also solicited the help from the CMBA marriage bloggers I know and asked them to alert their readers of the survey as well. I am pleased with the response. If you participated, thank you!
First, let me say, menopause is a mystery to most couples, even when you’re going through it.
Desires that once were a given, may no longer be on the radar screen. For those who have yet to experience it, you most likely don’t care to think about “that stage” of life. You’re too busy raising a family for goodness sakes.
I get that.
Second, everyone is different when it comes to how they’ll go through the “change of life,” as my parent’s generation called it.
After reading nearly 200 respondents answers to my survey, I understand why they gave it that name; It can change your life in ways you never thought would happen- – not to you anyway.
Finally, whatever difficulty you’ve had with your sexual intimacy and in your marriage for that matter, will be magnified during this season. This is why if you’re young and reading this, please, please work hard to keep the lines of communication open through all that you face together.
Holding back out of fear, shame or pride will only make things worse as the years pass. The pain you experience now in facing it won’t compare to the pain many of the couples shared who are facing menopause and unable to connect with their spouse in an understanding way.
If you’re not sure what the difference is between menopause and perimenopause or what any of it is, The Mayo Clinic provides this helpful definition:
“Perimenopause means ‘around menopause’ and refers to the time period during which a woman’s body makes its natural transition toward permanent infertility (menopause). Perimenopause is also called the menopausal transition.
Women start perimenopause at different ages. You may notice signs of progression toward menopause, such as menstrual irregularity, sometime in your 40s. But some women notice changes as early as their mid-30s.
The level of your estrogen — the main female hormone — rises and falls unevenly during perimenopause. Your menstrual cycles may lengthen or shorten, and you may begin having menstrual cycles in which your ovaries don’t release an egg (ovulate). You may also experience menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness. Treatments are available to help ease these symptoms.
Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.”
My experience began overnight when we went through an unexpected stressful season in our life. I thought I was struggling with anger and moodiness because of our situation, but it wasn’t like me.
I’d always been very optimistic about life, but suddenly I was seeing things like a pessimist. Everything was a negative, and my husband was perplexed to say the least.
So was I.
About 6 months into it, I had my annual appointment scheduled with my doctor and this is when we discovered my moodiness wasn’t only a reaction to my circumstances. My hormone levels had bottomed out as if I were in menopause, yet I was still having regular menstrual cycles.
I was full blown in the perimenopausal stage. I was 50.
Thankfully, because my husband and I have worked hard through our marriage to keep the lines of communication open, and we have enjoyed a healthy sex life, we were able to navigate the moody waters of my hormones.
I believe we have weathered the worst of it now, nearly 6 years after it began. Sure, things are different. The physical desire isn’t as strong as it once was, but it’s still there. It just takes a little more time to get things going.
The emotional connection to my husband and the love we share makes sex worth pursuing. It may not occur as often as it used to, but when it does, I would say it’s better than it’s ever been.
That’s our story, and it’s only one among thousands that are unique to each couple. Everyone is writing the story of their sex life with each encounter that they share. You will experience things that will challenge your intimacy in ways others may not.
The key is to be intentional together as you walk through difficulty.
Here are some facts that will help you know what it can be like for some women and the difficulty they have to enjoy their sexual encounters. (Source: The Mayo Clinic)
Physical Challenges of Perimenopause (PM):
Lack of libido (desire for sex)
Lack of sleep due to hot flashes and insomnia
Embarrassing sweating to the point of having to change clothes often
When touched the heat soars, which limits physical contact with husband
Thinning of vaginal walls causing bleeding and severe pain
Loss of bone density
Change in cholesterol levels
Vulnerable to urinary and vaginal infections
Menstrual irregularity – including skipping periods altogether or heavier, longer lasting periods.
I share all of this with you because it helps to be informed. Many women would rather not think about it. I know, because this is what I did.
I was afraid to hear of the nightmares other women had experienced. I didn’t want to think that that could be me one day. I totally ignored the wisdom and advice that could have prepared me more for this season, because I was too proud thinking that would never be me.
I don’t want you to go 6 months wondering what in the world is wrong with you, like I did. Burying your head in the sand will not make it go away. It will just ensure you’re not prepared when it comes.
Surprisingly, many menopausal couples no longer have sex or rarely do for various reasons. This is sad to me, and makes me grateful that we are still able to enjoy our sexual intimacy. But there are many couples whose sex life is still going strong, even if it’s not as often.
I want to close with this excellent advice from one of the survey respondents to all of you who are wondering what this season will hold for you. Don’t be fearful, instead prepare. Here is what they had to say:
“Let your husband be a priority in your life. He will be with you through all the ups and downs. Have date nights, do your best to keep romance alive. Put him before your girlfriends. Get away for the weekend if you can. I wish I would have trusted God more and worried less. My husband has taken good care of us and our kids. Have fun with your husband!!!”
To read the survey results, see the embedded graph further down in this post or go to this link.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,11 ESV holds new meaning when read in light of our subject.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace…
…He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Kind of sounds like those vows we said on our wedding day, doesn’t it?
For richer or poorer, for better or worse?
We hope this helps open the door of communication between you and your spouse. Let them read this post and see if they can relate to what has been shared.
Take time and read the responses in our survey (the survey results are below or at this link).
Set aside some time to talk about it. If menopause is far down the road, still plan a date night to discuss with your spouse how they would respond to some of the examples given.
Be aware and prepare.
Menopause and Its Effect On Your Sex Life
Debi Walter blogs regularly at The Romantic Vineyard. She and her husband, Tom, are true champions of marriage. They live in Florida and have three grown children.
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Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.
11 thoughts on “Is Menopause Destroying Sex in Your Marriage?”
Good thoughts, but I want to chime in and say that many of the changes which are experienced during peri-menopause and menopause are not caused from estrogen levels decreasing or bouncing all around, but more because of the drastic drop in Progesterone and testosterone.
I’m 50 and a year ago went 5 months without a period and assumed that it was happening because of a decrease in estrogen. When I had my hormone levels checked my doctor said my estrogen was fine it was my Progesterone, DHEA and testosterone which had all plummeted so low.
Once I started on herbal supplements to bring my hormones back in balance I resumed periods (although they are no longer regular) and my mood swings are not so severe. The issue I have is not being able to orgasm as easily and a drop in desire.
Just wanted to add my .02 cents. 🙂
I second much of what Amy said above… And I am only 31. Thanks to extended breastfeeding, my progesterone has tanked and I am basically experiencing all the symptoms of perimenopause. I am most likely going to start a bio-identical progesterone cream once I ovulate (or try to anyway) this cycle. It is my prayer than God is actually being gracious in putting me through this now. Perhaps what I am learning will spare me so much struggle when I actually reach perimenopause. My mom became horribly depressed when she did and maybe my current struggle will spare me from that, or at least reduce it. Estrogen dominance/low progesterone is an increasing problem and I am sure this is not the last you will hear about it.
I really hope women are reading this. My wife had a full hysterectomy including removal of all ovaries 5 years ago. She went to a doctor two years after, and he told her to come back in 6 weeks, and she has not been back.
She refuses anything sexual, she has hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, vaginal atrophy and disordered cognition. The worst part is her mood swings. I could deal with the celibacy for the last 5 years, but the horrible temper tantrums are about to kill me.
Please Ladies, don’t live this way and don’t make your husbands miserable.
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Menopause has been tough on our marriage. Vaginal atrophy leading to pain and bleeding, as well as, bladder and vaginal infections. Zero libido. But the worst part is the decrease in pleasure of physical touch, lack of arousal, and no more orgasms.
I am taking bio-identical hormones which have helped with the hot flashes, mood swings, and heart palpitations but nothing else.
I have been to several doctors and hormone specialists. Not sure why everyone seems to think that a pill or a cream will solve all the problems. Not true in my case. I’ve been post menopause 8 years now.
Menopause has not had a positive affect on our sex life.
Like everything else in life:
“To everything there is a season.”
Not everyone has the same experiences, but you never know how it’s going to affect you. I recommend working on building a strong non-sexual intimate relationship before the aging process sets in. It will help keep you bonded when sex becomes difficult.
Why do we never talk about the problems couples have with menopause? Are we afraid of reality? Are we afraid of aging? Are we afraid of change?
With knowledge comes power to be proactive. We need to start talking about sexual issue and quit keeping our heads in the sand.
I’ve been post menopausal for several years now. I no longer have any sexual needs for myself. Sexual touch has become annoying.
I can be sexual with my husband, but I can’t stand having him be sexual with me.
Can a husband accept the physical changes that happen to a woman’s sexuality without taking it personally?
Can a husband still enjoy sex when it no longer provides any satisfaction and/or only provides pain and discomfort for his wife?
Well,.. it’s better than most “articles” that I’ve read about menopause and it’s effects on marriage and relationships. Most other articles attacked the husbands completely for not doing “something” to help. My 35 year marriage was destroyed by menopause. We brought it up in therapy and all she could say is “YEAH,.. I’ve changed, I don’t put up with as much crap now. I’m more outspoken about stuff now”. She made no attempt to seek medical help to combat the symptoms. Then she began a program of Parental Alienation Syndrome, Malicious Mother syndrome,.. bad mouthing about me to anyone who would listen. She had DEFINITELY changed
and was off the deep end. You can’t make someone change. You can suggest getting help but you can’t force someone. if they have the wheel and want to crash the car destroying both lives and children,.. you can’t do much. Doctors should speak to their female patients about this and make them aware of what is coming. Now a family is destroyed and bitter.
Ok, I am at my wits end and need advice, forgive my grammer errors, I have been with my wife(common law)for 41 yrs, we had our first date in 1978, I was 14 and she 11, soulmates,. had some break ups through the years but we always found our way back, 3 kids, son 32, daughter 31, son 28, we have had some major walls in our way, i cheated back in 90, she did a revenge cheat, how do you like it thing, a foreclosure in 2009, lost everything,. sigh,.. i fell 20 feet in 95 landed on my back, busted up really bad and lost my career, wife took care of me, literally for 13 months,. wiping my butt kinda care, broken wrists, pelvis in 2 places, tailbone, right orbit fracture, PTSD, major depression, 20 yr long workers comp claim, settlement in 2014, paid cash for house new car and now we are Southerners, NC, we are born and raised in PA, Erie county,. lived 10 miles from one another, am now on SSDI/Medicare and she bartends, MENOPAUSE started when she was 35 or so, she is on her way out,. sex was always good, we were just good ole missionary, we would have sex 2-4 times a week, around 15-16 months ago the sex became painful for her,. tears at times and we tried the lubes and all that jazz to no avail, sex just ended,. hand job occasionally, around 13 months ago she started with a Bartholin’s cyst,. at least thats what it looks like, with the internet is how we determined that,. now you wonder,. did we go to doctor?? Nope,. she has a fear of them, poking and prodding scares the crap out of her, home remedies did not help, I have been pleading and begging her for over a yr now to make appt,. nope… got to point where i started to think she had another squeeze,. touching her or even just seeing her nude became a thing like, ahhhhh, covers up with towel, pulls away from me, i got scared to even try and touch her,. i literally have to beg for a handjob, she has a nice rack and i love her boobs, i am a deer caught in the headlights still,. we have talked and i know there is not another man in the picture, but her behavior still has my mind wandering there,. the intimacy is gone, cuddling is gone(it’s rare but happens, we will lay together on couch and watch a movie i have educated myself about menopause to the point where I am educating her,. a doctor is a MUST, she knows this, i get the fear thing she has, she does not want to hear the word cancer,. the cyst can be dangerous, blood poisoning, i have shown her, explained to her the dangers,. still, no appt,. insurance is not an issue nor is money, it’s fear,. i have started to resent her, told her this,… if you love me as you say, go to the doctor,. she says, i only want her to go so i can have sex,. NO hun, i would love that but your health means more,. she does as well want to get back to sex, she says so anyways, i have wanted to make an appt for her and drag her there or by deceit but that aint gonna fly,.I could go on and on,. therapy is also a thing we have spoke of but i really dont thionk we need it,. it’s the hormone imbalance, cyst and fear of what if it is the C word. help…. any suggestions???
So sad when a wife won’t even try to fix the issue. Vaginal atrophy, which for many is improved dramatically by estrogen or hyaluronic acid suppositories. When discussed, the answer is, “I’m in my 50s and I’m tired of having drippy things between my legs for 4o years — I am done with that.” I guess when I don’t do something I’m supposed to do next time, I’ll just say, “I’m done with that!”