Again, I want to thank all of you who let me know what topics you want explored as we step into our next phase of Second Adulthood. It didn’t surprise me that “forging new relationships” was a hot pick. We Venuses spent all of our second gathering and significant portions of our subsequent meetings digging into this part of our changing. With that in mind, here is Part I of what we discussed and learned.
Forging New Relationships With Our Significant Others
Next to ourselves, the people most affected by our midlife changes are our intimates. Our spouses, life partners, and significant others are not sure how to relate to the entities who have seemingly taken over the bodies, hearts, and minds of their best friends. They want the sweet, loving, sexual woman they used to know to come back. Well, guess what, so do we. But she’s nowhere in sight.
One spouse, when feeling amorous one evening, told his Venus, “Honey, I just want to make you happy. I just want to give you pleasure.” All the Venuses hooted and hollered when she shared this – we’d been there. At this time of our life, when we are struggling with diminished libido, hot flashes, night sweats, and life-altering insomnia, pleasure seems an elusive dream. The first responses that had bounced into our heads luckily remained unshared with our well-meaning mates, but we voice them now. “You just want to give me pleasure? Then bring me a fan!” or “Great. Then just let me sleep.”
After the laughter died down, we set about confronting the real difficulties of reconciling the new us with the old them. Oh sure, they may be going through their own changes, but let’s not muddy the waters with that just yet. No, on second thought, we decided the waters were already muddy, so we’d better look at that too.
Leavin’ Libido Loca
One change that seems to surface with the “climacteric” (scientific name for menopause) in men is that they begin to “feel older”. They confront their own mortality in a very real way. No longer is death an abstraction. Time is running out. This can lead to questions (or obsessions) of virility. It seems to us as if they believe that if they can still get it up and working, they are not old yet. Virility = youth. As a consequence, they may suddenly be wanting sex a great deal more. “Hey, if I can do it 3 times a night, I’m still young.” This increased interest in ‘doing it’ is in direct collision with our waning or hibernating sex drive.
While we were on the subject of sex and pleasure, several of the Venuses blasted the so-called sexual performance drugs: Viagra, Cialis, and the like. Despite the Hallmark-esque commercials’ rosy pictures of happy, satisfied couples, our goddesses denounced the use of these pills as artificial. Worse, they felt that the drugs acted as a barrier to intimacy and sensuality, reducing this intimate act of sharing to a poor mimicry of teenage prowess, a contest of turgidity and longevity, a tractor pull between the bedsheets. Yeah, baby! We’re ready for ESPN!
Hey, guys! Even if our libido were running full tilt boogie, (which we think we’ve already established, it is not) we wouldn’t want a sporting event in our bedroom. We want closeness and sensuality – not endurance. It’s not about the thrill of victory vs the agony of defeat. It’s about being together physically, emotionally, and mentally. Forget chemically. The Stepford penis doesn’t work for us. It’s artificial and we hate it. Enough said. (Note: this feeling was BEFORE any of our spouses suffered true erectile dysfunction – the drugs can indeed be helpful in those circumstances. The trouble was when the pills were taken when not truly medically necessary. Live and learn.)
Sexuality issues are sensitive issues, not easily talked about in even the closest relationships. Yet until and unless we confront it in conversations with ourselves, we won’t be able to broach the topic with our intimates. The Venus group provided a way to learn and share together, to gain understanding and grow strength, compassion, and courage for the scary, delicious process of creating new relationships with our old loves.
Okay, so what do we do? How do we reconcile our diminished sex drive with their normal or increased drive? Lei-Venus was able to talk to her husband about the changes in this way. “Hormonally, it’s like I’ve become a little girl again. When I was a little girl, I didn’t really think about sex. And now, without the physical drive from my hormones, it just doesn’t come up on my screen. Emotionally, of course, I’m still a woman in love with her husband. So I just need to remind myself how much I love being physically close with you, and get myself in the mood for making love.” As we mentioned earlier in the Help Chapter, Lei gets herself in the mood by reading romantic literature or watching a movie love scene. Bobbi sets the stage with romantic dinner, music, and rose petals. Little touches of sensuality help get her in the mood for love.
Recovering from Lost Libido
A additional wrinkle for some of the Venuses involved an increased emotional sensitivity on the part of their lovers. These spouses expressed a desire for their mates to initiate lovemaking more often. Perhaps this was just another side effect of the mortality/virility question, wanting to know if they are still desirable to us. For our part, it isn’t that they aren’t desirable to us. It’s that we seem to have forgotten desire altogether. If we DID lust for someone, it would be our partners. Sandy-Venus summed it up when she said, “I forget that I like sex, until my husband approaches me, and we get it on. Then I remember – hey, this is great. We should do this more often.” Like so many of us, she suffers from a sort of sexual Alzheimer’s phenomenon.
Alas, our libido seems to have gone to some netherworld, maybe the land of lost socks from the dryer. Regardless of the lack of drive, we were going to have to find ways to maintain our physical closeness in our primary relationships. Additionally, to honor our partners, we would need to be proactive at times, not simply submissive. Most important, we realized that we have to TALK about physical intimacy with our mates, and how we are going to adapt and grow into the changes that we are experiencing together.
Bobbi-Venus and her husband set “dates” for enjoying one another physically to make sure that this aspect of their relationship isn’t neglected. For the upcoming year, the Venuses vowed to pay attention to nourishing the physical connection with our mates, for ourselves as well as them.
Beej-Venus and her husband follow their therapist’s advice. All they have to do is to set a date and both agree to show up naked with a smile on their faces. If anything happens, so much the better.
(This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.” These issues not only come up during menopause, but are prevalent after the Pause as well. A vibrant Second Act will mean creating new relationships in many arenas – we’ll talk more about intimate relationship re-creation and re-bonding in my next post in two weeks.)