As a gynecologist focusing on menopausal and sexual wellness, as well as being a woman over 50, I can wholeheartedly tell you that the second half of life promises to be MUCH more exciting, happier and more full of opportunity than the first. This might sound paradoxical, as we face illness, loss of friends and family, loss of physical abilities, and our youthful appearance. But the fact is, most of us slept through the first half of life without really paying attention. Personally, if it weren’t for the magic of digital photography, I wouldn’t remember much of it at all. It seems like I blinked, and the kids are going to college, gray hairs are too many to pluck, and my Botox appointments are becoming more frequent. Not to mention, I am not longer fertile. I don’t have periods. The God of reproduction says I am not longer a useful member of biological society.
We are conditioned to think that menopause is the end of relevant life, that we should accept being pushed out of the picture of everything that matters and replaced by someone younger. But here’s the truth- jumping (or being pushed) off the hamster wheel is the best thing that ever happened to me. Finally, I have the wisdom and the time to follow my own agenda, no longer dictated by children, society, or the media, and to just be myself. All of a sudden menopause becomes a world of open possibility in which to play and explore. And boy, is it fun. Let me share my top 5 reasons why life changes for the better after menopause.
- Finally, I have some wisdom. In my 20’s I resisted change and thought everything “should” be a certain way. I was constantly blown around by the winds of reality and wanting things to be different. More, less, more significant, smaller… just different. As I entered midlife, I began to understand that change is inevitable and that everything is impermanent. Rather than being a depressing insight, this has added so much richness and calmness to my life. If everything is going to end, including my own life, then I better savor every moment. And when things change, well, yes, that’s what happens. I waste way less time fighting with reality and enjoy the flow of life as it comes. That’s just a much more peaceful and happier way to live.
- My time is becoming more and more my own. Sure, I still have a job, a family, and plenty of responsibilities, but I view the way I spend my days much more like a choice than an obligation. I stopped blaming others for what I was doing with my precious time and took responsibility for it. I catch myself when I say that I “have to” or “should” do something. Rather I think about what I “want to” or “choose to” do. Even those things that really need to get done, I can see as my own choice, and that I am ultimately 100 percent responsible for my own life.
- Not having periods. Well, that’s just a no brainer. Unless you are actively trying to get pregnant, who on earth would want to deal with monthly uterine bleeding? After more than 30 years of dealing with this mammoth hassle, throwing those tampons and pads in the trash is incredible freedom. And while saying goodbye to fertility may come with an element of grief about the loss of youth, what a relief to not have to think about getting pregnant anymore! After years of desperately trying not to get pregnant, followed by years of equally desperately trying to conceive, finally, that desperation (whichever way it was directed) centered on monthly bleeding is over. No more counting the days, no more worrying about this birth control or that one, no more stained undies and ruined white pants. I just got almost ¼ of my life back!
- If you are in a committed relationship, finally, you have some time to look at the person you have been sleeping with all those years and get reacquainted. Between work, kids and a hundred other more important things to do, the second half of life offers an incredible opportunity to see each other in a new way. If you take away the hats of the mother, career woman, household manager, pet wrangler, taxi driver, and all-around super-woman, you can finally start to see who is really there. And if you take those hats off your partner too, an incredible opportunity for genuine reconnection can emerge. Two real, deep, and vulnerable humans might actually have to opportunity to come out and play, to learn about themselves and each other, and begin to build a deeper relationship than you could ever imagine. This is the field in which “co-creation” can emerge, which I define as the opposite of co-dependence. No longer do we need someone to fill an endless void in our soul, constantly depleting energy from the relationship and building resentment. Now two, fully formed, mature and independent adults can come together to enjoy the relationship as a third entity, both feeding that relationship with energy that continues to grow and create more energy over time.
- When it comes to my favorite subject, sex, my own experience as well as years of research shows without a doubt that sex after menopause can be better than ever. Sure, there are anatomic realities that we might need to address, such as vaginal dryness, loss of libido, and erectile dysfunction to name a few. But luckily, with very few exceptions, those “complications” of aging can be safely corrected with bio-identical hormones and other safe and highly effective options to keep the shop open for business. And importantly, sex is absolutely not just vaginal intercourse, which was obviously designed with pregnancy in mind. I define sex as any intimate physical connection. It comes in hundreds of flavors!
To sum up, why sex is better than ever, I am simply reflecting on points 1-4 above. With some wisdom and personal responsibility, I view sex as an incredible opportunity for connection rather than a chore. It has moved from the “should do” to the “choose to” column. And because I know that everything is impermanent, I am going to enjoy it as much as I possibly can. Not worrying about conception or thinking of sex in terms of pregnancy changes the game entirely. Sex has absolutely no purpose anymore, except as a true opportunity for the deepening of love and connection. Aww.
To learn more about my insights about midlife, check out my new book “Sexually Woke” or visit my website at www.drsusan.com