According to the one and only Miley Cyrus, people over 40 are “not sexual.” Along with all other self-respecting people over 40, you’re outraged on principle. (At 20, what does America’s favorite twerker know, anyway?) But if you’re like many “women of a certain age,” you might secretly be wondering if there might be a grain of truth to Miley’s assertion. Because of the way your post-menopausal body has changed, you don’t feel as attractive anymore. And frankly, your libido seems to have left the building. What gives?
According to Dr. Carmella Sebastian (aka Dr. Carm or “The Wellness Whisperer”TM), nothing has to—certainly not your sex life!
“Being post-menopausal doesn’t mean that you’re post-sexual,” says Dr. Carm, author of the new book Sex and Spaghetti Sauce: My Italian Mother’s Recipe for Getting Healthy and Getting Busy in Your 50s and Beyond (CreateSpace, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-4823-8479-6, $15.95, www.drcarm.com). “Trust me, great sex isn’t reserved for the young. In fact, believe it or not, many women over 70 (yes, 70!) say that with the right partner, the sex they’re having now is the best they’ve ever experienced.”
As she recounts in her book, Dr. Carm first learned this lesson from (gasp) her mother.
“Mom called me at work one day to ‘complain’ because my father—who was in his late 70s at the time—wanted to ‘fool around’ so much that she couldn’t get anything done around the house,” Dr. Carm recalls. “Believe me, I tried to change the subject…but not before Mom also confirmed that Dad didn’t have a problem with erectile dysfunction. Talk about a blinding mental vision!”
These days, Dr. Carm says, she and her husband send the same general message about post-menopausal sex to their daughters, though in a less-explicit way. (“I’m sure they’ve noticed that quite often, the bedroom door is locked…and we are not in there fighting,” she comments.) However, she also admits that at times it was challenging to renegotiate how she approached and enjoyed sex after menopause.
“The work is worth it, though,” she promises. “Sex is good for your body, mind, spirit, and relationship. It releases endorphins and burns calories, so not only will it boost your physical health, it can also improve your mood, help you sleep better, and give you more energy. Plus, it’s fun!”
Here, she shares eight tips to help you get back in touch with your inner “sex goddess” after menopause:
Remember that your “viewing audience” is remarkably forgiving. Maybe you’re thinking, I am 10 (20, 30) pounds overweight. There are wrinkles and bulges all over my body that didn’t used to be there. And I’m at the stage where I’ve traded in my bikinis for those “slimming, tummy-flattening” one-pieces. Why would my partner want me? I’m not the sexy young thing I used to be. If that line of thought sounds familiar, Dr. Carm wants you to nip it in the bud.
“Let’s be real; most of us were never Angelina Jolie and our spouse loved us just the same,” she comments. “You may not feel attractive, but I guarantee there are still many things about you that your partner still finds attractive. And no one is asking you to walk down the Victoria’s Secret runway. You have an audience of one, who, by the way, has aged at the same rate as you!”
Review your résumé. Okay, so you may not have a twentysomething’s hormone-fueled libido. That’s fine. Just take stock of everything else you do have (things that those youngsters will have to wait decades to acquire!). To wit: You know what you like. You have a lot of experience making sure that you get what you want. You have more patience.
“You’d have to be pretty crazy to do something over and over again for a decade or more and not learn as you go,” comments Dr. Carm. “I often say that the most important sex organ is the brain, because so much of good, satisfying sex goes beyond the ‘mere’ physical portion. At our age, not only do we think we are ‘all that and a bag of chips,’ we really are! And we have the résumés to prove it.”
Invest in some synthetic “help.” When menopause and its symptoms hit, many women assume, I’m…well…dry. I guess this marks the end of my sensuality. That’s so not true, assures Dr. Carm. This just means that sex will take a little more work, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“This is a great excuse to extend the foreplay,” Dr. Carm suggests. “You might be surprised by how your body will respond after a few minutes. And don’t be afraid to seek a little help from a personal lubricant like Astroglide. Let’s just say that I bought stock in that company after menopause.”
Revisit your dating days. What if, after years and (possibly) several children together, you and your partner just aren’t feeling the magic anymore? You like each other as friends well enough, sure, but the sexual chemistry seems to have faded. While it’s common for partners to fall into a rut over time, Dr. Carm says that climbing out might not be as difficult as you think.
“At our age, children are either out of the house altogether or are reasonably independent,” she comments. “That means you can find the time to ‘date’ your spouse again. Do the things you enjoyed when you first met. For instance, go out to dinner and vow not to talk about the kids or whose turn it is to take the car in for maintenance. Share a bottle of wine instead! Or take a walk through a local park and try ‘necking’ on a park bench. You might even want to go to a concert or schedule a weekend away at a B&B. Often, all it takes to get the magic back is reconnecting with your partner or spouse in a context that doesn’t involve bills and household chores.
“But don’t ever think you have to settle or be ‘stuck’ in a relationship,” Dr. Carm adds. “If your relationship has run its course, and you and your spouse both know it, give yourselves permission to move on.”
Schedule time between the sheets. In the movies—even in the (sadly rare) films that star actors and actresses of a certain age—sex is usually mutually desired and spontaneous. But in the real world, that’s not always how it works. Your partner wants to fool around, but you have a headache (no, really!). Or you’re in the mood, but your partner has to work late. Or both of you are so tired you just want to collapse.
“In the real world, waiting on spontaneous sex might mean that you have to wait a long time,” comments Dr. Carm. “Consider scheduling sex—say, every Tuesday and Saturday—and stick to that schedule whenever possible. I know, it doesn’t sound romantic. But guess what? You’re having sex twice a week! How many bright young things can say that? (Well, Miley?) Plus, once you get back in the saddle, so to speak, the spontaneity will probably follow.”
Fake it till you make it. (Just don’t apply that strategy to orgasms, Sally!) But what if I just don’t feel like having sex, whether it’s on the calendar or not? you ask. Give it a shot anyway, Dr. Carm urges.
“It’s just not true that if you don’t feel like having sex when you start, you won’t get into it at all,” she says. “Give foreplay five or ten minutes before you throw in the towel. In most instances, after a few minutes of faking it, I’m betting that your feelings will have changed.”
Put your partner first. Hopefully, you and your partner practice the Golden Rule inside and outside of the bedroom: Do unto others what you would have them do to you.
“Even if you yourself are not sold on the idea of post-menopausal sex, if you really like or love your partner, you’ll want to please him or her,” notes Dr. Carm. “And that will make him or her want to please you right back. After a while, I’m betting that you’ll be a lot less reluctant to get busy in the future!”
Take inventory of what’s working for you. From your post-menopausal vantage point, you may be looking wistfully back at the sex you had in your younger years, telling yourself that it can never be that good again. I was more energetic…more flexible…more lots of things! Wait a second, says Dr. Carm. There’s still a lot working for you in the sex department. You just have to focus on the present long enough to identify those things!
“For instance, I get my hormones at the drugstore rather than from my ovaries, and my body almost can’t tell the difference,” she shares. “In addition to that, I exercise and eat well, and my butt is tight. And I have no worries about pregnancy. ’Nuf said!”
“I think that we have the capacity to love and be loved from the time we are born till the time we die,” Dr. Carm concludes. “As I’ve shared, my parents had sex well into their 70s and early 80s, and I hope to, too. Oh, and I have a final message for Miley, should she ever read this: I don’t care if you twerk in public as long as you know that I am twerking in private.”
About Dr. Carmella Sebastian:
Dr. Carmella Sebastian (known as Dr. Carm or “The Wellness Whisperer”TM) was born and raised in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and received her MD degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She earned her master’s degree in healthcare administration from King’s College in Pennsylvania. She is board certified in internal medicine and was in active clinical practice before joining Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she was VP of medical affairs and chief medical officer.
Dr. Carm served as market medical officer with Humana for central and north Florida and joined Florida Blue in 2010. She is a renowned expert in workplace wellness and enjoys WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) certification. At Florida Blue, she oversees the National Committee for Quality Assurance-accredited wellness program “Better You from Blue” and manages over 100 client consultations per year.
Dr. Carm is also a nationally known wellness educator with a special interest in women at mid-life and women’s wellness. She frequently speaks on a range of wellness topics and is admired for giving her audiences practical, achievable wellness strategies and solutions (all of which are served with a liberal dose of humor!). She recently published her first book, Sex and Spaghetti Sauce: My Italian Mother’s Recipe for Getting Healthy and Getting Busy in Your 50s and Beyond.
Dr. Carm lives in Tampa with her husband and two daughters, who are ongoing (and somewhat reluctant) beneficiaries of her wellness wisdom.
For more information, please visit www.drcarm.com.