For most of us, broaching the topic of libido to a partner isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. And by that, we mean it’s really, really, REALLY difficult.
But here’s the thing: we cannot assume that our partners are mind readers (if only!), and not talking about this may cause your partner to falsely assume that the sexual problems and lack of intimacy are somehow linked to them. When one person in the relationship constantly feels undesired and even rejected, it can in turn add stressors to a relationship, which itself can impact sex drive…and cue the vicious cycle.
To make it easy (or, let’s be real, easier), we’re laying the groundwork for exactly how to talk about the sensitive topic of physical intimacy issues: tips, conversation starters, resources, dos and don’ts…the whole nine yards.
Bring it up when you’re both in a calm state of mind (and ideally not in the bedroom)
This should help you have a more productive conversation and hear each other out without the added curveballs of a heated moment. Look for opportunities when you can organically bring it up rather than introducing it out of the blue — some find this happens most naturally when a partner tries to initiate sex, in which case instead of just saying “No, thanks” you can say… “No, but let’s talk about it.” That said, you also want to try and avoid these conversations in the bedroom so you can keep that as a “safe space.”
Not finding a natural opening? Create one. The conversation has to happen sometime, so scheduling a time to chat may be your best bet.
It’s okay to write it out beforehand
Some people are okay having the “sex talk” off the cuff while others are more comfortable opening up in writing — you can even send it to your partner in advance if you’d prefer to initially express certain feelings with a bit of distance (which allows your partner time to process the information before the face-to-face conversation).
How to approach the conversation
First things first, encourage an open discussion about menopause (the what and the why)
If your lower-than-usual libido is menopause-related, it’s helpful if your partner knows that and understands why this totally normal hormonal transition is impacting things in the bedroom. After all, this is a couples issue and not just an issue for the person going through menopause.
And if you don’t have a male partner, you may not be the only one going through menopause. This makes it all the more important to discuss.
For a primer, we’d recommend taking a look at our guides to perimenopause and menopause, along with our libido symptom guide. We’ve also got a fair share of blog content worth checking out, including:
- Low Libido: The Unspoken Menopause Symptom (let’s fix that)
- Sex Should *Never* Hurt. So How Come It Sometimes Does During Menopause?
- Setting The Record Straight On Orgasms During & After Menopause
Always encourage your partner to ask questions if they don’t understand something!
If it’s a difficult conversation for you, don’t be afraid to say that
Kicking things off with the acknowledgment that you feel awkward or anxious but want to bring it up anyway will lead to a dynamic of mutual compassion. Plus, it’ll reaffirm to your partner that, despite the discomfort, you acknowledge the importance of sex in your relationship and want to put in the work to get to a place where you both feel fulfilled, whatever that might look like.
Be clear about what you’re looking for
On menopause support:
Maybe you just need your partner to hear you out and listen. Or perhaps you’re looking for more concrete support and accountability in working through this menopausal symptom. Whatever the case, be clear from the get-go to set the conversation up for success.
And on intimacy:
Be concrete about a frequency of sexual intimacy that is realistic for you right now and what you’d like to work towards.
Try scheduling sex (and not sex)
Some women struggling with libido find themselves avoiding any sort of touch (shoulder rub, pat on the arm, hug) out of fear that it may be perceived as an invitation for sex when, in reality, that’s the last thing they’re looking for. If you’re finding sexual avoidance to be the case, it may be worth considering an honest conversation around scheduled sex… and when you won’t be having sex (yes, really).
We know, we know…that can sound super unsexy because of the lack of spontaneity. But it doesn’t have to be! If there are clear expectations around when and how often you’ll be having sexual activity — whether weekly or bi-weekly — then you may feel more comfortable with touch outside of a sexual context.
Things to keep in mind
Yes, the conversation may be awkward at first. But it’s way better than not having one at all.
Remember, these conversations — while difficult — can lead to deeper feelings of emotional intimacy and connection. Plus, they’ll help strengthen that relationship problem-solving muscle and build communication skills, which is beneficial whether you’re in a long-term relationship or are single but dating and thinking about intimacy with a new partner.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all, “normal” sex life
So while it’s easier said than done, don’t let TV or movies or social media or magazines tell you otherwise. The spectrum of sexual desire looks different for different people, and the benefit of having these conversations is that they’ll help you get to the sex life and healthy relationship that feels right for YOU.
You may not be the only one struggling with sexual issues
Men often struggle as well during these years, which can compound self-esteem issues/insecurities, avoidance, and strain on the relationship. If you have a male partner, it may be worth asking him about this as well.
There’s no magic solution to fix things overnight
Like most relationship hurdles, working through libido struggles is a process, not a one-and-done conversation that magically cures all. So be patient, be kind to yourself, and — if necessary — consult with a certified sex therapist/counselor for additional support. For help finding one, refer to this database from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors And Therapists.
Resources to get the conversation going
- BestSelf Intimacy Deck
150 prompts that’ll help spark deeper, more meaningful conversations. Questions fall into 1 of 6 categories: past, random, life, relationship, intimacy, and about you.
- Gottman Podcast
These 3-min episodes are great for quick tips and suggestions for strengthening communication in a long-term relationship.
- Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, PhD
This fascinating read dives into how every woman has her own unique sexuality and how the complications of everyday life can influence the context surrounding arousal, desire, and orgasm. There’s also a corresponding podcast, which is worth a listen!
Products to get the intimacy going
Bonus points for the fact that many of these products can be used in the context of partnered sex (😉 hello, foreplay 😉) OR intimacy with yourself.
Here you’ll find a whole slew of products, including couples vibrators, suction toys, and g-spot vibrators.
- Unbound sex toys
This rebellious sexual wellness company makes vibrators, vaginal lubricants, and accessories — all with body-safe ingredients. We’re also big fans of founder Polly Rodriguez who, in addition to selling top-notch sex toys, has rallied her trailblazing team at Unbound to fight the MTA over sexism in NYC subway ads — and send members of Congress vibrators (!!!)
MakeLoveNotPorn is the world’s first and only user-generated, human-curated social sex video sharing platform. Founder Cindy Gallop explains it as pro-sex, pro-porn, and pro-knowing the difference. Through their videos, MakeLoveNotPorn socializes and normalizes sex in the real world to promote consent, communication, good sexual values, and good sexual behavior.
For some women, pain during sex can be caused by penetration that is too deep. The Ohnut is a wearable designed to be worn at the base of the penis, and can be adjusted to limit depth of penetration.
- Organic coconut oil
This natural moisturizer decreases friction via vaginal lubrication to allow for longer-lasting sex. Opt for the unrefined version, which is less processed and doesn’t undergo the same bleaching process that refined coconut oil does.
- Arousal oils
Arousal oils are designed to be applied to the labia, clitoris, and inside the vagina in order to help stimulate a sexual response. Foria and Zestra are two Elektra favorites.