The research findings of a recent study were published in the U.K. last week suggesting that women of a certain age should be given testosterone on the NHS. It suggests that it might enhance women’s libido and possibly improve their energy and mood.
However, the researcher Mr Panay, consultant gynaecologist, stresses that it should not be seen as Viagra for women and he goes on to say that women are more complex than men and that they do not respond to the on/off button of Viagra. A similar comment from a GP supported the fact that for women a successful sex life begins with the quality of their relationship with their partner. It is the relationship aspect of libido that I want to explore in this post.
As the research suggests, the loss of libido affects a percentage of menopausal women. There are other physical causes for a loss of libido and I will devote a post exclusively to the topic of menopause in the future as it continues to be a rather delicate subject for most and tends to be avoided or talked about only behind closed doors.
In support of the argument that relationships matter, researchers at Harvard University have conducted a longitudinal study over a 75 year period. It makes fascinating reading and the findings can be seen on TED in a talk given by Robert Waldinger, the current Director for the on-going study. In essence the findings of the research proves that social connections with others lead to health benefits and increase our longevity. In fact as Robert Waldinger suggests; it is the knowledge that someone has your back, someone you can rely on when the chips are down.
There is a direct correlation between the warmth of our relationships with family, friends and a connection with the community and healthier and longer lives. The converse is also true. Those who either don’t have those connections or whose relationships are not rewarding are more likely to die younger and suffer more ill health. One of the many reasons is that the quality of our relationships increases our immunity as well as our general levels of health.
As women, our levels of happiness and satisfaction in our relationships are as important to our libido as our levels of hormones. As we get older, we may very well have been in a relationship with our partner for many years. The length of the relationship may lead to familiarity and comfort and possibly, complacency.
There is for me another relationship that has a significant affect on our relationship with others and that is the one we have with ourselves. To me this relationship begins with acceptance of who we are and is equally as important when we are older than when we are in the flush of our youth.
It sounds so selfish, I hear you say. We are socialized from the minute we come into this world to nurture and look after others. It is our raison d’être, the reason we are on earth. As women we are the ones who have the babies and therefore do most of the nurturing. It is a biological fact. And, of course, to do so is a fundamental part of what makes us human and women. However, I also believe that we need to nurture ourselves in equal measures.
Let’s take the analogy of a well. Unless the well is continuously replenished with the life giving water for others to come and draw on when needed, the well will become dry and dusty. It will therefore be unable to serve its purpose by sustaining those who rely on it. Like the well, you need to replenish your own needs in order to have the strength, energy and resources to support others. In fact, it is selfish not to. The upshot is that we need to be emotionally available to ourselves in the first instance before we can be emotionally available to others.
Accepting ourselves warts and all is a tall order for most of us. I certainly do not suggest for one minute that we need to strive for perfection, we are constantly evolving and developing, but it is being contented with where we are at any stage of our lifelong journey. Don’t take this as a licence for not taking others into account or not working on your rough edges. It isn’t, but it is also not a licence for ignoring your own needs and wants at the expense of others.
For those of you that have read my tribute to my brother, you will understand when I say it is exhausting to constantly edit ourselves to comply and conform to the expectations of others. The danger is that we may move so far away from our own centre that we may not find our way back again, or have an arduous journey in an attempt to do so.
So, in conclusion, my reflections are that we have many relationships with many different facets to each of these relationships. However, all our relationships flow from the relationship we first of all have with ourselves.