IT is something every woman goes through – but the menopause is still shrouded in stigma.

Particularly when it comes to how it affects our libido. That is why comedian Jenny Eclair, 60, has written Older And Wider: A Survivor’s Guide To The Menopause. Out on Thursday, it is a laugh-out-loud, no-holds-barred account of what it is like to go through The Change.

Jenny says: “Us ladies have changed. We no longer wear hats and girdles, we’re letting it all hang out. And we’re no longer whispering behind closed doors about our ‘down-theres’. The conversation has begun and, as long as women continue to wake up feeling weepy in a soaking nightie at 3am, it’s in everyone’s interests to listen.”

Here, in an exclusive extract from the book, Jenny reveals how sex can change in menopause – and how men can help . . . 

"There are huge numbers of women who are going through the menopause without an “other half” — and many of these will be going “solo” by choice. But having someone by your side at this time can be a massive help. As long as that someone isn’t a bit of a tw*t.

Fact: All women who are lucky enough to live long enough will eventually become menopausal; this might be tricky for their other half to come to terms with but, guess what? We never saw the receding hairline, expanding waistline and nose/ear hair coming, either.

So let’s cut each other slack here. Growing old is messy for everyone. Most couples are in the same boat and you can either take an oar each and work as a team, or get out. All we really want is someone to make things feel better.

Sometimes this can be achieved with some-thing as simple as a cup of tea in bed, a nice (non-gropey) hug or a small bunch of flowers. We just want someone who is on our side and will bat for us like they really mean it, and won’t ever tell us our best dress looks a bit tight.

In my partner’s case, what unnerved him the most was that I became very weepy and un-confident. He could deal with the swearing and the pot-banging, but he didn’t know what to do with the new, snivelling me. I reckon hormone-replacement therapy saved not just my sanity, but my career and my relationship.

And both of us are just so hugely relieved that it’s available and I’m medically compatible with it. Feeling sexy throughout the menopause is easier for those who are blessed with high self-esteem and a great body, but for those of us who are plagued even at the best of times with insecurity and flab issues, the menopause can wreak havoc with how we feel about ourselves sexually.

Every night, up and down the country, thousands of men and women pretend to be fast asleep in case the other half should get “ideas”. How you get around this predicament is up to you.

For a number of women, the problem is a simple case of feeling too physically tired to bother and they find that if they just give it a go — a bit like exercise — it’s not that bad and by the time it’s all over they’ve rather enjoyed it, and might even do it again next week.

But try and keep the conversation suitably sexy. For example, it’s very bad form to interrupt the flow by suddenly asking, “Did you remember to put the bins out?” Weirdly, in 2020, publicly admitting to not enjoying sex is one of the last taboos.

We are oh, so tolerant of everything else but fall down when it comes to acknowledging that for many people, sex is just not their thing. A bit like golf. Of course, as with golf, if you don’t like it and your partner really does, you do run the risk of him going off and playing with someone else.

This is something you have to weigh up. Some couples can survive extra-marital golf playing, others can’t. “Why can’t they play golf on their own?” I hear you cry. Exactly, but if that is the solution, then you can’t complain if you come home one day and find him practising his swing in the sitting room.

My friends fall into many camps when it comes to sex. Some find no longer having to worry about using contraception incredibly liberating and take full advantage of their new-found infertility. But with a few exceptions, most aren’t as rampant as they used to be.

Although, that said, HRT has put the sparkle back into the duvet doldrums for some. The truth is, whilst lots of middle-aged women are happily enjoying a healthy sex life, there are millions doing the deed through gritted teeth and faking orgasms as quickly as possible.

Because, for them, the alternative is unbearable — actually owning up to the truth of not really enjoying it and having to deal with any possible sulking and recrimination. This isn’t fair but, as a mate of mine once said to me, “I hate having to defrost the freezer — but now and again that needs doing too”.

Women feel hugely guilty about not fancying sex, but the fact is that some of us couldn’t care less if we never did it again. All couples have their way of showing each other they care and, whilst for some this includes a regular, healthy bonk, for others it’s picking up their partner from the airport at 4am without whining.

Fortunately, I reckon the vast majority of couples reach some tacit, silent agreement that sex is something that is inevitably going to happen less frequently, but that it’s nothing to get your knickers in a twist over. In any case, it’s quality and not quantity that really counts. We all know you don’t need a partner to have a sex life — there’s no age limit for masturbation.

Jenny’s dos & don’ts for men

  • Don’t laugh when she is trying to be serious.
  • Don’t get embarrassed, even if you feel so.
  • Don’t paint a window frame so that the window won’t open. If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you when she smashes it open with a shoe.
  • Do make sure there is a chilled bottle of something nice in the fridge at all times.
  • Do think before you do or say something stupid.
  • Don’t compare your mother’s menopause to her menopause – never say, “Well, my mother says some women just like to make a fuss.”
  • Do remember, you are capable of buying lubrication on your own.
  • Don’t make jokes about her over the garden fence when you think she’s out of earshot. She might be inside the house, but remember every window is now open.
  • Do talk with your mates about what’s going on.
  • Do compliment her. Say she’s the bee’s knees, that her hair looks nice and that dress suits her.
  • Do help. Do some of the cooking – because, face it, it’s the easiest way of getting what you fancy.
  • Do encourage her hobbies. Even if you think jigsaws are a waste of time, if it’s helping her, shut it.
  • Don’t gaslight her. If she is going through a forgetful phase, don’t make comments that imply you think she might have early-onset dementia.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of self-love, though as an audience member once told me during a show, the only drawback to providing your own sexual pleasure is “when the arthritis kicks in before you’ve finished”.

  • Older And Wider: A Survivor’s Guide To The Menopause, by Jenny Eclair (£16.99 at amazon.co.uk) is out on July 2.
  • The Older and Wider podcast with Jenny Eclair and Grumpy Old Women producer Judith Holder is available on Acast, Spotify and iTunes.

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