Ask a Sex Therapist: Is It Normal To Have Less Sex After Menopause?

by Cay L. Crow

silver haired man and silver hairded women in bed together

My Wife Has No Interest In Sex Anymore

Dear Cay,

My wife and I are in our early 60s and have been married 40 years. I have always had a higher sex drive than my wife. About 4 or 5 years ago, she told me that she had no interest in sex. This hurt very deeply but I thought it would pass. She went to the doctor, tried creams and pills, but to no avail. Our love-making went from 2-3 times a week to once every week or 1-2 times a month. Whenever I would try to get her in the mood, she would stiffen up as if she could not stand for me to touch her. I would stop and not try anything again for a week or two. We would have sex occasionally but I have been rejected so many times that I feel like my heart is being ripped out. It feels like she kills a little of my manhood each time. When we did make love, she appeared to enjoy it and would climax most of the time. I always tried to finish as quickly as possible. Now I feel as if I have pressured her for the last time. This feels almost like a death sentence. I love my wife very much but don’t know what to do. If this continues, I fear that I will lose my desire for my wife. Please help.

J.B.

What Is Desire Discrepancy and How To Solve It As a Couple?

Dear J. B.,

Desire discrepancy (one partner wants more sex than the other) is the most common issue addressed by sex therapists. Here are a few things that I have learned about this issue having worked with it for 30 years;

1. It is not about how much sex the couple is having; it is about the quality of their eroticism.

The higher-desire partner tends to focus on how frequently sex occurs as a measure of their worthiness. The real question is, what will it take for both partners to be present and to participate in a sexual encounter? If affection in your relationship only takes place during a sexual overture, try doing more touching for the sake of touching alone. Sex does not begin and end at the threshold of the bedroom; it is a constant flame that each partner is feeding through private jokes, pet names, playfulness, and subtle touch.

2.Each partner makes the desire discrepancy mean something it does not. We all have an internal dialogue going on all the time. When sexual issues occur, this internal dialogue goes into overdrive and becomes quite negative. People tend to personalize sexual rejection when it might not have anything to do with them. Watch what you make it mean. It is your responsibility to share how you feel about this with your partner.

3.Change the conversation. Once you recognize what your internal dialogue is around the desire discrepancy, you can check in with your partner and change it. For example, you can say to your partner, “The story I tell myself about the reason you don’t want sex is that you are not attracted to me. Do I have that right?” This question will result in a more fruitful conversation than an angry accusation. It is possible that your wife saying she is not interested in sex means that she is not interested in the type of sex that you have been having for 40 years. But what if the two of you changed your sexual repertoire? Maybe she would be more interested in non-penetrative activity than intercourse.

4.Men cannot separate their partner’s disinterest in sex from their partner’s disinterest in them. But for women, the act of sex flows from but is not focused around their interest in their partner. Female sexuality is multidimensional. A woman needs to feel secure emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually with her partner to optimize the sexual connection.

Sex After Menopause

J.B., you mentioned in a P.S. that you and your wife are in good health. Good health is one thing but the medical changes that accompany aging are another. The average age of menopause is 51. How did you and your wife handle this transition sexually? Is she taking hormones? Is she experiencing any vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse that may cause her to avoid sex? Has she had any surgeries that make sexual contact uncomfortable? Have you altered the way that you make love to accommodate any possible health changes over the past 5-6 years? It is possible that she feels embarrassed to discuss these issues with you.

Reading between the lines, I am wondering if there are other unresolved issues between you and your wife. When individuals feel out of control in a given situation, they often grasp at control in other ways. Is your wife, for example, avoiding intimacy as a way of maintaining a level of distance from you? Your letter is mostly about the impact this has on you. How does she feel about this? Does she have a preconceived notion that women her age are not supposed to be sexual?

Can the two of you talk about this subject and hear each other? Or can you only hear that she is rejecting you? I have been a therapist long enough to know that both sides of the story are essential to understanding the problem. I strongly encourage you and your wife to consult a therapist about this issue. You can find a list of AASECT-Certified Sex Therapists at https://www.aasect.org/referral-directory

I also recommend the book, Sex Without Stress by Jessa Zimmerman, an AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist.

CAY L. CROW, LPC, AASECT-CERTIFIED SEX THERAPIST

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