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Stress, Fatigue, Lack of Privacy

Reserving an activity for the end of a jam-packed day is no way to make it a priority, but that’s exactly what many midlife couples do when it comes to finding time for sex. That’s understandable, given the multiple roles and responsibilities many women juggle, especially in their midlife years. And the situation isn’t helped by sagging energy, often due to sleep problems or stress and fatigue from family and work pressures.

There is no shortage of sources of stress for the midlife woman:

  • Struggles with adolescent children
  • Adjusting to an empty nest as children go off to college or move out of the house
  • The unexpected return of grown children to the home
  • Coming to grips with undesired childlessness
  • Divorce, widowhood, or marriage difficulties
  • Worries about aging parents
  • Caregiving responsibilities for elderly parents and/or small grandchildren
  • Work demands from shift work or as one’s career enters its peak years
  • Financial pressures from children in college and looming retirement
  • Increasing age-related health worries for oneself and one’s partner

If sheer lack of time isn’t an obstacle to intimacy and sex, exhaustion from all of these competing demands can be. And even if exhaustion isn’t an issue, the psychological toll of stress can leave you too distracted and worried to think much about sex or to relax enough to become aroused. The table below presents strategies for beating stress that are tailored to the midlife woman.


Strategies for beating stress

  • Set aside time for pleasurable activities, including sex.
  • Talk with friends regularly.
  • Eat three nutritious meals a day. Minimize fat, sodium, refined sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
  • Make time for some exercise every day.
  • Find or rediscover a creative outlet or activity that meets a mental or spiritual need.
  • Take pleasure in self-care activities such as a massage, a pedicure, or a leisurely bath.
  • Experiment with stress reduction and relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation.
  • Get enough sleep each night.
  • Laugh as much as possible.
  • Join a support group.
  • Seek counseling or professional help if necessary.

Adapted from Menopause Guidebook, 6th edition. © 2006 by The North American Menopause Society.

Privacy? What’s that? Ironically, while an empty nest can cause sadness and anxiety for many midlife women, others may find that the "fullness" of their nest prevents them from having sex when and where they want. As North American women continue to have children later in life, many end up with pre-teen and adolescent children in the home as they are going through the menopause transition. Younger children are oblivious to their parents’ sexual activity, and older children have either left home or are taken out of the house at predictable times by their own busy schedules. In contrast, pre-teen and adolescent children are likely to be around the house a lot—and to know enough to pick up on cues on when their parents might be having sex. They also often want to stay up late, leaving no private time for mom and dad.

Even for midlife women without children of this age, privacy can be compromised by caregiving responsibilities for young grandchildren or elderly parents who have moved in, or by “boomerang” grown children who have moved back home.

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