When I was younger there were few things more annoying to me than being told something I was suffering with was "all in my head". Whether I was in pain or beleaguered with self-doubt, my problems were very real to me, and being told they were imaginary or within my control was maddening. As I age, however, I realize how much of my own experience really is within my control, and a lot of it has to do with the dissipation of that very self-doubt I was once afflicted with. Given the age-related changes to my body I'm now experiencing and that my younger self dreaded, I'm surprised to say this positive self-determination extends to sex.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who was experiencing some urine loss during exercise, following the birth of her child. Putting on my gynecology hat, I asked her if she'd tried kegel exercises yet. Her response was classic—“I hate working out, so why would my vagina be any different”? Her response intrigued me. As a clinician, recommending a treatment as simple as a kegel squeeze is a no-brainer.
Occasional fashion disasters notwithstanding, we take pride in our originality. Nonetheless, we find that an old adage still rings true once in a while, and “you’re only as old as you think you are” is a phrase we find ourselves throwing around on a daily basis. Our bodies and minds are on a feedback loop—if you give in to feeling old then your body is quickly going to follow suit. But if you adopt the “50 is the new 40” (even better, 30!) way of thinking, then you’re likely to find your physique complying.
When you hit menopause, it can seem like you're living in a stranger's body. New sensations, new challenges, new feelings and new realities can take hold. Because of this, many women view menopause as a frightening experience.
Our culture is one of the main culprits in this negativity, often touting menopause as the end of a woman's “enjoyable” life as she’s known it—the point when her sex drive, beauty, capability and health all take a nose dive. When messages like this are so pervasive in popular culture and media, it's not surprising that many women who are nearing or experiencing menopause feel bad about their bodies and their relationships.
When I was a new mom, I dreaded the first time that my daughter said she hated me. I was sure it would break my heart and strip all of my maternal confidence away. Inevitably, it happened. She was coloring on a wall (as young kids do) and I told her to stop. In her little 4-year-old voice, she looked me dead in the eye and said it: I hate you.
Relationship discussions are not sparse, by any means. In every corner of the internet and in every coffee shop around the world, you’re bound to find people talking about love, what it means, and how to get better at it. But when it comes to women who are over 40, the resources seem to dwindle. Women who are no longer in their thirties should know everything there is to know about relationships, right? Hardly.