Menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disruption, fatigue and crankiness. It surely can make any woman feel less than sexy. But don’t believe that “Menopause took my libido away” line as the primary reason for a loss of sexual interest.

There are often other factors at work that can diminish your sex drive long before menopause—for starters, the quality of your partnership and your attitude toward sex.

Some women have never had much of a libido. They feigned sexual interest in order to date and mate and reproduce. With children came exhaustion and the nightly prayer, “Oh Lord, not tonight,” while their partners prayed for sex. This dance of unbalanced desire continued until these women found their big out: “Menopause took my libido away.”

On the other hand, there are women who were always interested in sex, but bored or sexually frustrated in their marriage. When they reach menopause, they’re more than happy to give up unsatisfying sex. Now, they can claim “Menopause took my libido away.”

Women who liked sex and were happily orgasmic can lose interest in sex if their relationship becomes dysfunctional, or an affair has eroded the trust in the marriage. These women actually look forward to saying “Menopause took my libido away.”

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are many women who keep their libido in great shape after they reach menopause. They like sex for the sake of sex. To them, initiating sex is both a right and a turn-on. Shared sexual power and a mutual interest in setting aside time for making love has kept their menopausal libido alive and well. Menopause did not “take their libido away.”

What can you do to take charge again and ensure a healthy libido well after menopause?

  • Plan for a fulfilled sex life well before you reach menopause. Don’t wait until a pattern of denial and poor behavior in your relationship make isolation in bed inevitable.
  • Talk to your partner about finding time for emotional and physical intimacy. Develop or continue a little public display of affection.
  • Discuss the issues of physical change that will come to both of you with age, like vaginal dryness, thinner genital tissue, and potential erectile dysfunction. Face it before it happens. Don’t let shame and embarrassment ruin your sex life later on.
  • Most importantly—and I can’t emphasize this enough: Avoid women who complain that all their husbands ever want is SEX. These women are toxic. Choose friends with happy couplings. Choose to spend time with women who like to laugh about sex and themselves, and still notice who is hot and who is not.

Sex doesn’t cost a thing. It improves longevity, quality of life, and overall health. Menopausal sex without the fear of pregnancy, the mess of the monthly cycle, or young children knocking at the bedroom door can be a spontaneous and joyful part of the second half of life.

Don’t let anyone tell you that “Menopause will take your libido away.”