Building Emotional Intimacy During Menopause | Stella
Sex & relationships
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Building emotional and sexual intimacy during menopause

byLee Pycroft

Psychotherapist Lee Pycroft shares ideas on how to find reconnect emotional intimacy in a relationship during menopause.

Emotional intimacy and sexual connection are what nourish a relationship and keep the lustre on sensuality and passion. Over the course of a long relationship, you may take each other for granted and the connection and emotional intimacy that seemed readily available may now seem elusive and hard to find. How do you bring back that lovin’ feeling when it’s gone, gone, gone? 

Building emotional intimacy again can provide a gateway to a more fulfilling and understanding sexual dynamic. Here are a few ideas to get you started in creating more enriching times if your partner feels more like a roommate than your Don Juan and finding the richness and depth that has seeped out of your relationship.

Find out more about how menopause can impact your sex life.

Remembering the original emotional intimacy

What was it about your partner that attracted you to them initially? Do you remember? A trip down memory lane can help recapture feelings that were alive in the past. It can transport you to a nostalgic time and place, remind you of what you had and help clarify what is still possible. 

Conjure up times that help you feel connected to your partner, strengthens your current feelings and revives your curiosity about them. Remember times you laughed together or maybe listen to music you used to both enjoy – this is one of the quickest ways to invigorate your emotional intimacy and bring back positive feelings!

Rediscovering mutual needs

Our core emotional needs are what drives us as humans and successful relationships depend on mutual needs satisfaction. Much of what leads to feeling disconnected in terms of emotional intimacy is when we don’t understand how to fulfil our own or each other’s needs in a healthy and sustainable way.

Needs could include safety and security, give and receive attention, feel valued and important and feeling known and understood. These needs are not negotiable but the boundaries and limits on how you meet them with each other are.

Couples can withdraw from each other when their needs go unmet and end up in a standoff, both unwilling to step forward and restore what has worn away. It is not uncommon to assume you are meeting your partner’s needs and that they should know what you need – but assumptions don’t move you forward in the way that honest enquiry and curiosity do.

So, it’s time to explore what you need to feel connected, loved and safe by asking some questions:

  • What do you need? 
  • What does your partner need? 
  • Is your partner a top priority? 
  • Do each of you feel respected and valued? 
  • What would be happening for you both to feel these needs were being met? 
Asking these questions will update what is meaningful to both of you during this life phase. Of course, both people need to be willing to work towards this to enable the relationship to grow”

Finding things to appreciate

The emotional intimacy in a relationship depends on the focus and attention you give it. It’s easy to slip into viewing your partner through a lens of scrutiny and irritation when adrift in the riptide of ongoing stress and when you might be lacking spare emotional capacity. 

To build connection, you need to create moments of appreciation and look out for your partner’s attempts to connect too. Notice your partner doing something positive, however small, and give genuine compliments and affirmation. This will help make a deposit in the relationship’s emotional bank account and encourage a culture of togetherness. 

Remember, what we don’t like is always available but so is what we can appreciate.

Begin courageous communication

It can take courage to open up if the connection and emotional intimacy between two people seems stagnant or you are feeling vulnerable. The truth is vulnerability is the golden thread that weaves a web of connection to one another when you can recognise each other’s discomfort and fragility. 

It requires taking risks but can be filled with riches and inspire others to do the same. It can create a deeper understanding of one another and see past the armour we can shield ourselves with.

Emotional sensitivities and past experiences can increase our fear of being hurt, abandoned or misunderstood. The brain is a pattern-matching organ and we can behave in reactive and unhelpful ways if there is a hint or signal that alerts us to a past experience that has a painful emotional tag. Having an awareness of what your triggers are can help bring them into your awareness and enable you to respond more consciously.

Start with a small and manageable conversation that will begin to craft the habit of being more vulnerable and minimize the risk of becoming activated. This could be as simple as being willing to show positive emotions around your partner, expressing physical affection or sharing how deeply you feel about something.

Rather than seeing this as only being a success if your partner responds in a manner that meets your hopes and expectations, look at it as a way of strengthening parts of yourself that will lead to more growth. It is a start to building a bridge to each other’s hearts and rekindling emotional intimacy.

 How to increase physical intimacy in a relationship

Any area of life that you want to develop needs some intentional action. If your relationship is at the bottom of the to-do list and without sustenance, it will decay over time. Intimacy can become dulled with the humdrum, monotony of a domestic routine, so you need to be aware of what you are doing to enrich your relationship. Beginning to create rituals provides an opportunity to do this.

Rituals are repeated ways of engaging with each other that carry a positive emotional component that distinguishes them from a routine. They can be small but the accumulative effect is potent. 

Try setting up some gentle rituals that are easy to do and cultivate the habit of laughter, playfulness and touch:

  • Explore by leaving some love notes or send some flirty texts
  • Make being present to each other a priority by stopping to greet each other properly every day or after dinner
  • Consider a few minutes of connecting conversation rather than problem-solving any issues

The sizzle of sexual attraction will ebb and flow but friendship, respect, fun and loving intention, along with the ideas above, can traverse the path to restoring intimacy and sensuality. Be creative and put your imagination to positive use and reclaim that loving, sensual feeling.

Find out more about the stages of menopause, and more on our blog. Want to know more about menopause symptoms? Head to our symptoms library.