What do you do when you, your spouse, or significant other is going through menopause and answers can’t be found? Well, you do like our Openlove101 reader did and ask for help.
Several months ago, Openlove101 received a heartfelt email from a follower asking what knowledge we had about women going through menopause and how menopause affected those in the lifestyle.
You would think swinging and menopause would be something this oh so “open” lifestyle would be talking about, but like our reader, we too couldn’t find anything to address what effects (if any) menopause had on those in the swinging lifestyle.
How could Openlove101 help? How about a survey? Nothing scientific mind you, we’re not scientists nor doctors after all, but a survey, we hoped, would give us a peek inside the window of menopause.
We all know menopause is going to “hit” women regardless of what relationship model she engages, but as a swinger site, we were particularly interested in how menopause was affecting swinging. As a supporter of the “sisterhood in swinging,” I was hoping our request for help would be answered.
Our survey went live and within a week we had over 170 responses. The outpouring of support, honesty, experiences, and suggestions from both women going through menopause and their partners was overwhelming!
More than once I sat teary eyed reading through the brutal yet beautiful candor of those individuals who took the time to respond.
“It’s hell. Mood swings. Night sweats. I tried everything and I mean everything.”
Wrote one woman. She had a point, menopause does come with its share of obstacles. I remember more than once waking up to find myself (and the sheets) completely soaked due to the sweats. And my mood swings! All I have to say is, ask John. He was the first one to chime in at the doctor’s office when I was asked whether or not I thought the early stages of menopause were causing any changes in my mood. “Yes, she is,” would be his first out of the gate response.
This woman’s comment convinced me even more why our survey had been the missing link. Like so many other women answering, the emotional and physical changes can feel overwhelming, made even more difficult by our silence. You could almost hear the relief in being able to get those thoughts and feelings out, even if it was only through a simple survey.
Another woman had this to say, “Symptoms can be far-reaching, and very different woman to woman. You’re not going crazy! Talk to some trusted medical professionals about your body. There are answers, however they may take a while to filter through to see what works best for you.”
I love her approach about having patience with yourself. Hey, you’re going through a life altering change, give yourself a minute to adjust. Talking to your doctor was another great point. We discuss profusely about honesty being the backbone of swinging, well here’s your chance to put in motion honesty across every aspect of your life.
And another thing, if you’re married… make sure your partner attends those doctor meetings! If I learned anything from this survey, it was the incredible support and love (and confusion and pain) our partners are going through. We aren’t the only ones transitioning on this crazy menopause ride. Our partners are right there with us. They don’t know the ropes any better than we do, so why not lean into each other and work together!
I was truly blown away by how many men were also suffering alone, yet trying to stay present and willing to learn. One gentleman’s response in particular struck a note with us:
“Communication. Accompany spouse on doctor visits. Just tried to understand, tried my best to not be so selfish with my own sexual needs or LS desires. It’s real, she’s not making excuses for not wanting to go out, etc. There is a very dynamic change taking place within her body. Be patient, be supportive, help her seek advice from her doctor on different treatment options.”
I mean, who doesn’t want this guy in their corner! The one thing I did notice was all the ways in which he was being supportive. As women going through the change it can be easy to forget our partner’s love well needs filling too. While we gravitate towards the love and support and understanding our partner lovingly gives, let’s remember to give some back.
Sorry, but I had to laugh when I read one guy’s advice, as I’m sure he’s not the only one.
“Keep a sweat shirt or coat in the car. It can be zero degrees outside and she would turn on the air conditioner.”
Might as well throw in a tee shirt for us while you’re at it… lol!
Over and over again, as I read through all 171 surveys I kept having this, “OMG, I’m not alone” kind of wave wash over me. These husbands and wives were given a platform in which to share. Someone was finally asking the questions, someone was finally seeing them, acknowledging the process and giving them space to share what they’d learned.
These 171 individuals had walked the path, they had seen the pitfalls, and had learned the lessons. They knew what had worked (and not worked) for them and were happy to give us an up close and personal view into their journey. For this we are forever grateful.
So what were the results?
Well for starters we had 171 participants respond, 132 women and 39 partners. Menopause ages ranged anywhere from the late twenties through late fifties, with the majority in the forties through fifties.
Let’s begin with the results for those women who are going through or have gone through menopause.
76% of women said they suffered from sweats, 75% reported sleep issues, 73% stated mood swings, 67% acknowledged vaginal dryness, and 65% revealed weight gain. I think it’s fair to deduce that those going through menopause can expect most if not all the above symptoms to one degree or another… sigh.
52% of participants found relief through hormone therapy, 48% through exercise, 36% through a change in diet, 22% claimed no alteration was taken, and 10% relied on homeopathic treatments. No doubt about it, whether through hormone treatment, exercise, or altering one’s diet, these three avenues appear to have brought about the largest consolidation of beneficial results. I know for me personally, all three were ways in which I treated my menopause symptoms.
Menopause Sex Life Impact:
70% of menopausal women claimed a change in libido, 65% admitted to vaginal lubrication changes, 52% to mood changes, 45% said they had more difficulty in reaching orgasm, and 31% said more pain during intercourse.
There’s no doubt about it, going through menopause leaves a huge impact on a woman’s sex life. Unfortunately, these changes aren’t beneficial to our sex life nor are they easily acknowledged. The frustration we feel when our body appears to defy us can be earth shattering and scary.
For so many of us, sex is a stabilizing force in our lives and to have it striped away without our approval makes us feel lost and alone. This is when we, along with our partners, HAVE to join forces. It’s in these moments that we’ve got to throw aside our dismay and anger at our changing body and climb into the driver’s seat.
I remember being VERY hesitant about taking medication, even if it was biomedically designed for me. I saw medicine as a sign there was something wrong with me, and I hated that thought. It was only through the patience of my doctor (and John) that I was able to work my way through acceptance of my changing body, and to take the advances in science and use it to my benefit.
Menopause Swinging Impact:
46% reported a decrease in sexual libido, 32% checked they had a decreased desire to go to play parties and/or clubs, 31% claimed a decreased desire for play partners, and 24% reported an increased desire for play partners (you go girls).
While I tip my hat to the almost 19% who were able to not only retain but increase their swinging lifestyle while going through menopause, the larger chunk of us, unfortunately, saw our libido hang out somewhere in the basement, hidden and packed away in some dark dingy corner.
Again, this sometimes drastic change can feel as though we’ve been the target of a bullet. A fast moving, never had time to get out of the way projectile that entered smoothly, yet left carnage when it exited.
We WANT to play, we WANT to engage, but yet somehow there’s a disconnect between our body and our brain. But we’re not alone, even though it feels like it. This survey is proof. There’s a whole bunch of us, a slew of other women in need of support, but we’ve got to do like Elizabeth, the woman who wrote all those months ago and asked, we’ve got to talk and share with each other.
Okay, now onto the partner section of the survey.
Partner Menopause Symptoms:
87% of our partners saw a change in our libido, 85% noticed mood changes, and 56% checked sexual discomfort as a symptom.
I’ve got to admit, when I very first put this survey together, I hadn’t really expected to hear from the men. The focus so often is that this is the woman’s problem, that the men wouldn’t understand or that they were somehow unaffected by the change. I mean, when you’re the one going through the symptoms, it can be difficult to see that anyone else could be affected.
To see all these men taking time out of their day to give us their voice left a powerful impression on me. I mean, it’s hard enough for us women to gather a support group, just think how difficult it must be for the men?! Who are they supposed to talk too? Where’s their ventilation through our life changing change?
So, before I go any further, I want to say thank you to all those spouses, partners, and boyfriends who stick it out, who go to the appointments with us, who hold us when we’re crying, or patiently sit while we babble on and on about whatever emotional episode in which we find ourselves. You really are the best, even if we forget to tell you!
Partner Menopause Sex Life Impact:
69% of our partners marked a change in frequency, 62% saw a change in libido, 36% said there was less desire to go out, and 33% said their partner complained of sexual discomfort.
I think the trick for us women is to be able to look at these results and not feel attacked, or that we’re somehow less because our partner notices these changes. How can we as the recipient of our partner’s information use it to our benefit? If we’re both noticing changes in frequency, what steps can we put in place that could address this?
Maybe, as the woman, I could remind myself about all the benefits of sex. The chemical release of oxytocin and dopamine during sex and the release of the day’s stress with each orgasm could be wonderful reminders as to why it’s so important to our mental and physical health to engage in this naturally beneficial activity.
Think of sex as a beautiful vacation, a way to wake up our bodies. And what about our partners? They could suggest different sexual positions to combat the discomfort, or use lube, anything to bring about a more enjoyable experience for both partners. The trick here is communication and remembering we’re all on the same team.
Partner Menopause Swinging Impact:
36% saw a decrease in sexual libido, 31% notated a decreased desire to attend play parties and/or clubs, 31% also checked a decreased desire for play partners, and 18% noticing an increased desire for play partners.
Decrease, decrease, decrease.
It’s difficult to read through the survey and not be discouraged. Everything seems to imply a deficit, a less than, a decline. These descriptions are wonderful if we were talking about weight loss, but not so much when we’re talking about sex. This can be particularly troublesome when you’re talking about those in consensual non monogamous relationships.
A large chunk of the union is centered around this freedom to explore others. If all of a sudden one of the partners has a decreased desire to engage with others, the impact is felt by both. Again, being able to work together as a team is vital. As JJ (one of the partners) said so eloquently,
“Life is a dance, learn to enjoy the music and keep the beat … it’s much more fun when you don’t have the pressure to perform.”
Partner Menopause Support:
67% of partners offered support through communication, 64% through listening, 51% through intimacy, and 21% of partners accompanied their spouse on doctor visits.
I’m not sure how our swinging spouses stack up against other relationship models in the area of support, but I found it quite refreshing to see so many men wanting to show support in some way. Even if they falter, as one surveyor was honest enough to admit, “Don’t be selfish like me. We’re in the middle of menopause and I’m not always understanding,” we can still be empathetic to what our partners are going through.
Sure, it’s not our husbands bodies enduring the hot flashes, or mood swings, or weight gain. No, they get it one better, they get to be on the receiving end of someone going through all that! Yipes!
Taking a moment to applaud our partners for trying their best to support us, through patience (even when they stumble) their undying love, and yes even their innate desire to “fix” things can be one way to show our appreciation.
What did I learn about swingers and menopause?
I learned that there’s a wealth of untapped knowledge just waiting to be unveiled. The degree of information so many of our surveyors were willing to reveal was humbling.
As much for themselves as for our reader, Elizabeth, these fellow followers of Openlove101.com opened their hearts and discussed without barriers the hard truth of menopause. They dove right into the trials and tribulations we’ve all traveled through on our menopause journey. But they also shared the silver linings.
“Menopause isn’t for sissies! Try to make lemonade out of lemons and remember that you no longer have to worry about birth control, cramps, PMS, or wearing white!”
Whether the responses were from the women going through it or the spouses, they were all honest and forthright. They shared what worked for them and how they recovered. We even had a doctor or two complete the survey offering their own medical input. We saw men open up about a subject they all too often are excluded from, only to see the abundance of knowledge they were willing to contribute. I realized that as much as the women need an outlet of information and support, so do the men. We all do.
I hope you’ll take time to access the survey results along with respondent comments and their words of advice.
John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins”, Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award winning blog Openlove101.com.