I’m almost finished with my book, Inviting Desire, a unique approach to bringing desire back into your life–at midlife, or at any stage of life. [UPDATE: Inviting Desire is now for sale on Amazon!] One chapter looks at the stories we make up about our sexuality–and how these stories keep us from showing up the way we want to be. We all have those old stories that keep us from embracing our sexual self. The first step to rewriting those stories is to uncover them.
I’m thinking about stories, mine and others, and examining how they impact our sexuality (and other parts of our lives) as I get closer to publication time. This article, What’s Your Sexual Story? How Can You Change It?, first appeared at Midlife Boulevard.
The art of storytelling is a valuable tool, until it gets in our way. There are the public stories and there are the stories we’ve made up about ourselves. Those personal stories may be good, affirming, and goal-directed. But most of the time, the stories serve to keep us from living our best lives.
What story have you made up about your sex life? About your sexual desire? Your sexuality?
We live in a society with few positive messages about aging or sexuality. Many women find themselves stuck in these distorted and unhealthy perceptions about female sexuality:
- Menopause leaves you dried up and uninterested in sex.
- Sex is for the ‘young’.
- My marriage failed so I must be bad at relationships.
- Women aren’t supposed to want sex.
- Men initiate sex.
- My body is too fat/saggy/ugly, too old—no one would want me.
What is your story? What have you made up? Is it an old story that haunts you or a new one, crafted to make you less uncomfortable with aging?
It can be difficult to look at your sexuality in a neutral, or non-biased way. We don’t talk enough about healthy sexuality–at any age—to provide older women with inspiration, support, or resources for how to embrace their sexuality. This is the reason I began to focus my writing and public speaking on midlife and older women. I saw women who didn’t have the language to talk about what they wanted. Women who were shutting down out of fear. Women who didn’t know how to tap into their sexual desire. Women living their old stories of shame and fear about sex, self-image, relationships, self-esteem.
Take the horror stories about menopause. The public message that menopause is this awful thing to be medicated and endured, with hand-wringing and dread, causes many women to adopt a fearful attitude before they’ve even entered menopause. There are women who suffer from this natural change of life—but not the majority of women. Nor does menopause mean that sexual intimacy comes to a screeching halt. But if you’ve made up this story about how things will be as you go through menopause and aging…
How can you change your story?
Here’s what I did. I journal every morning and it was there that I began to uncover the threads of my story and create a little distance from the stuff of my childhood that was in my mother’s voice. That was the first step. I discovered the origin of my story and realized I had absorbed those messages over time. The childhood message that I was unlovable and not attractive enough to find or keep a man had taken on new meaning post-divorce, finding myself peri-menopausal, and single.
When we figure out our story we can acknowledge it, label it, and find compassion for ourselves. We can unravel the story—look at how we embellish and feed those negative messages. And then we create new stories for ourselves.
The work of rewriting our stories happens every day. It’s not simple, but the first step is awareness. The next step is to choose—to let go, to embrace the temporary void, and begin to create a new story for the next phase of our lives.