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14th Feb 2024

What is a ‘couplepause’? The sexual health term explained

Jody Coffey

The term should not be confused with a ‘pause’ in a relationship

While Valentine’s Day is all about the romance and the lovey-dovey side of being in a relationship, not all couples may be feeling that way.

This can particularly be the case with older couples, who may be experiencing changes in their body with age.

The term ‘couplepause’ is mainly associated with older partnerships, when menopause and andropause have started.

The relatively recent term was coined by researchers to refer to the decline or pause in the sex life of older couples due to age-related sexual dysfunction and/or hormonal decline.

In 2018, researchers at Sexual Medicine Reviews studied the impacts that reaching midlife, and beyond, can have for both men and women in terms of their sexual function.

For women, these included ovarian exhaustion, which causes estrogen deficiency, leading to the genitourinary syndrome of menopause, which may include vaginal dryness, irritation/itching, inadequate lubrication, and dyspareunia, as well as hypoactive sexual desire disorder also can result from biopsychosocial factors.

For men, erectile dysfunction frequency increases with age, and some men can develop testosterone deficiency.

Both genders, experiencing any of the above while in a couple, can impact sexual health.

Researchers in this particular study aimed to describe a new paradigm — couple-pause — for addressing the sexual health needs of the aging couple as a whole.

Meanwhile, further research published in November 2023 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, supported the conclusion that the physical, psychological, and relational changes faced in middle age and beyond can affect the sexual health of both members of a couple, leading to a ‘couplepause’.

This research recommended that experts in sexual medicine, who treat menopause or andropause symptoms, need to begin thinking in terms of couplepause.

It added that this new paradigm should encompass the needs of the aging couple as a whole to align with a holistic perspective.

How is ‘couplepause’ being treated in health?

The more recently published study determines that seeking medical help and discussing sexual issues may dramatically affect the ability of a doctor to help their patients in ‘couplepause’.

It also concluded that more education around the paradigm was required so that aging couples could better understand the organic changes that happen throughout life and their impacts.

Researchers added that educational efforts should also be directed at health professionals who diagnose and treat ‘couplepause’, and that professionals should acquire, at least, the basic skill to address sexual health during consultation with one or both members of a couple.