Relationship problems? How to get through rocky relationship season

It’s no wonder that January is a time when so many relationships hid the skids. I mean – let’s face it, there is nothing about January that is romantic and everything about it that is totally grim making it fertile ground for relationship problems.

When all around feels bleak and depressing, it can be pretty hard going keeping the flame alive when quite frankly, we’re all just dragging ourselves through the day until we can shut off from the world and hibernate in bed away from the dark coldness which seems to engulf us at this time of year.

Research from Richard Nelson solicitors found that searches for ‘I want a divorce’ rose by 230 per cent in the first week of January alone. But what if we are feeling all out of love, but not wanting to be so hasty?

Here at 40 Now What we’ve called in the experts to help us with some much needed relationship maintenance to help you keep the love alive and counter any relationship problems you might be experiencing right about now.

Why do relationship problems crop up in January?

According to Carolyn Hobdey, author of All The Twats I Met Along The Way and founder of the Redefining SELFISH community, ‘Relationships typically suffer in January from the ’New Year, New You’ pressure. It’s a time when many individuals look at their lives and decide that change needs to occur: “this year, things will be different”. We find it hard to blame ourselves for the issues in our lives, frequently seeking external factors – such as our partner – as the cause and what, therefore, needs to change.

Take time to really consider what it is about the relationship that you would like to be different and better, rather than it being the entirety of the relationship! Remember, you can only change YOU and your behaviour, so look at the things in your relationship that are currently irritating, annoying or upsetting you and think about how you could behave differently to prevent them occurring, or choose to respond differently when they do. This is the time to make peace with your partner’s imperfections.’

Relationship problems

Avoiding the blame game & the power of apologising

‘It’s critical to take care of our relationships after any difficult time’, highlight relationship coaches Matthew and Emma Pruen. ‘The first step is to move out of the blame game, where everything is our partner’s fault, and see our own part in things. It’s an inner awareness: ‘He might have ignored me all week but then I’ve been telling him off whenever he came home’.

The next step requires courage, although simple it’s a game changer: saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank-you’. It’s that easy. For example:

  • “I’m sorry for being critical and blaming.”
  • “I’m sorry for disappearing into my cave.”
  • “I’m sorry for leaving on your own at that party.”
  • “I’m sorry for doing my emails instead of helping you.”

Follow this apology with a swift thank you to acknowledge them for something you authentically appreciate. (Don’t just be nice, you have to mean it. We can feel when it’s real and when it’s fake.) This could sound like:

  • “Thank you for working so hard to make Christmas special”
  • “Thank you for being such a great mother to our children”
  • “Thank you for being so kind to my Dad”
  • “Thank you for helping me do all that washing up without a word of complaint.”‘

Feeling seen and acknowledged

According to the Pruens – who run relationship retreats – feeling seen and acknowledged ‘creates an opening, a window of humility (which can pass quickly) for courageous conversation.’

‘This conversation can heal the resentments and hurts which destroy relationships. The key thing is to speak from ‘I’. The world ‘you’ is toxic.  This might sound like “I notice I’ve lost hope of being heard,” as opposed to “You never listen to me. You’d rather look at your phone than talk to me.” Or: “I notice that I’m keeping my feelings to myself because I’m frightened of how you might react,” as opposed to: “You just bite my head off whatever I say.”

When we speak from ‘I’ it removes all blame, and blame gets people’s backs up and closes down communication. This is also the time to express your needs and make requests. Requests as opposed to demands though, which kill intimacy. The word please, when spoken authentically, can be very helpful.

We define intimacy as sharing your authentic thoughts, feelings (emotions) and life-experience and witnessing the authentic thoughts, feelings and life-experience of the other without agenda. What would that look like? Imagine if you could say to your partner: “Last Wednesday I experienced you as telling me I am wrong, dismissing my feelings and then disappearing all day without answering my calls. I heard you say I was wrong to feel angry and that I never think about anyone other than myself. I felt resentful, anxious and lost. And how this brings out the worst in me is I become oversensitive and play the victim. I withhold my affection for days at a time and escape by fantasising about another life without you, comfort eating and nit-picking.” 

This sort of agenda-free sharing transforms relationships. This is taking responsibility for your own part in things which is all you have control over anyway. This is what a good relationship looks like.’

How to sustain a happy and healthy relationship

According to the experts, the first step to avoiding relationship problems is to be aware of them in the first place (move over denial then!). So if you’re already feeling the strain, all is not lost. However, it does mean it’s time to take action before things spiral further downwards.

Here, Sara Davison, The Divorce Coach and creator of Heart Break to Happiness Podcast shares some things you can do to help strengthen your relationship:

  • Don’t rush into a breakup. Give your relationship time to adjust after isolation. It will take some time to get back on track as you establish a new daily routine. When other distractions come back and you can live more independently you may feel your connection reigniting.
  • Commit to take some action. Good relationships don’t just happen, they take work and commitment. Decide to do everything you can to rescue your relationship so you know in your heart of hearts that you have done your best. The worst-case scenario is you leave with a lot more clarity and with less guilt having tried your best, but the upside is you could save your marriage.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let go of the little things that have upset you and drop minor grudges that may have been stacking up irrationally due to ‘virus stress’. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about issues that really don’t matter.
  • Refocus your mind. Write a list of all the things you love about your relationship, including the things you are grateful for. It is easy to only focus on the negative points so this will help you maintain a balanced view.
  • Kindness is king. Kindness is often the first thing to disappear during rocky times in a relationship however it is key to a strong marriage foundation. Finding ways to be kind and loving can often melt tension and rekindle romance.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Being the change you want to see in your partner can be the most effective way to bring them around. You may find they reciprocate and make more effort with you without you actually having to ask them.
  • Be spontaneous. Surprises can be very romantic so take advantage of being able to eat out in your favourite place again or have drink in your local to rekindle your connection. It’s important to get your sparkle back so be creative!

Recent challenging times will have had an impact on both of you and maybe changed the way you think about life and the priorities that are most important. Take this time to get to know one another again and rediscover who you each are. These steps won’t always be the easy option and sometimes you may feel like throwing in the towel and walking away. Bear in mind nothing worth having ever comes easily and a good relationship needs nurturing. If things have gotten off track it will take some time and effort to restore it. But the good news is that it is possible and it could even make the relationship stronger and happier than ever.

Relationship problems

Actionable examples on what you can do to fortify your relationship

If your relationship feels like it’s limping along at the moment, Carolyn Hobdey suggests trying one of these small and easy ways to give it a little boost:

  • Make a point of telling your partner what is good about them. When they do something you appreciate – especially the small things – make sure you tell them. Catch them doing something right rather than complaining about what they do wrong.
  • Take yourself back to the start of your relationship and make a list of all the things you were drawn to about them in the first place (get them to do the same if you can) and then try seeing them now through those same eyes.
  • Time is the great need in any kind of relationship – it’s not about lots of time, but quality time. Seek to carve out specific time together and take it in turns to plan what you do. Remember, it’s not about grand gestures but thoughtful ones.
  • Try learning something new together – something neither of you have done before so that you can support and encourage each other. Make it fun and aim towards a goal such as learning a language for an upcoming holiday, how to do something practical so you can make-over your home or garden, learning to dance for a family party. It doesn’t matter what it is, but doing something that evolves you as a couple.
  • Know that time apart can be as good as time together. Support, encourage and take an interest in each other’s individuality. Make a point of listening to each other with the aim of finding out something new about your partner every week.

Have you been struggling with relationship problems this month? Remember although things can feel bleak now, Spring is on its way and life will begin to feel better again soon and that in itself will help things to feel more positive again. Follow us on Instagram here where we will be keeping the conversation going.

Family photo created by wayhomestudio, prostooleh, marymarkevich –

Sex in your 40s? Here’s what you need to know

One thing I have loved about being in my 40s, is the confidence it brings with it. And we all know that confidence = sexy. But when it comes to sex in your 40s, is it true it actually gets better? Say you’ve already been with the same sexual partner for a while….how do keep things fresh after so long? Then there’s the fact that our hormones start having a mind of their own leading to both mental and physical changes which can have a knock on effect on our sex drive and relationship.

There are so many factors at play here, which is why here at 40 Now What, we’ve decided to put together this deep dive on sex in your 40s. Here, we’ll address common issues and challenges that come along with intimacy in your 4th decade.

Defining sex

I wanted to start out with this wonderful summary by Anna Sale, author of Let’s Talk About Hard Things: Death, Sex, Money and Other Difficult Conversations.

‘Sex is one the most potent ways we communicate with one another. It’s a wordless conversation, but managing its power takes words. Whether it’s a one-time fling or a sixty-year marriage, sex requires us to articulate our own needs while attending to someone’s elses.’

You think after 40 years, we would have gotten better at this, but for many even in our 40s, talking about sex, what we do or do not want or issues surrounding sex can still be cringey. Which brings me on nicely to my next point….

Sex in your 40s: The big issues at play

‘During their forties women can experience the symptoms of perimenopause, which comes before the menopause and is a time of transition for women, it occurs when the ovaries gradually start to produce less oestrogen and is when they are running out of eggs and as a result they only release them on and off’, says Cosmetic doctor and menopause expert Dr Shirin Lakhani of Elite Aesthetic.

‘While the symptoms can be less severe than the menopause, they can still see you suffer from things such as irregular periods, hot flushes and mood changes. It’s important not to underestimate the impact that the perimenopause symptoms can have on intimacy.  People can experience uncomfortable sex (and decreased libido as a result) due to the lack of lubrication from the vagina because of decreasing oestrogen (and testosterone) levels.’ 

‘Physically these may impact your sexual health and your physical ability to enjoy sex, combined with the mood swings which may inhibit your desire too. It’s important to try and be aware of these changes that will occur so that you can address them accordingly rather than suffering in silence. Nowadays there are plenty of options for addressing all of the symptoms of peri-menopause so that your ability to enjoy sex is not inhibited. Women in their 40s may also be experiencing the effects of child birth ie vaginal laxity and stress incontinence, which can also impact their sex lives.

Dr Ruth Maher, co-inventor of pelvic floor experts INNOVO adds to this that, ‘65% of women with SUI leak urine during sex. Leaking during sex dramatically impacts their sexual quality of life, affects their relationships with their partners, and can cause social withdrawal and depression. Many of these women suffer in silence and never report this to anyone.’ 

Sex in your 40s

The solutions

So what can women who are experiencing the above do to help reduce any discomfort and increase pleasure levels during sex in their 40s?

‘There are a number of effective treatments available to treat the symptoms. PRP Therapy with treatments like O-Shot have shown to have a positive result in treating atrophy as well as incontinence while hyaluronic acid injections and localised oestrogen can also effectively offer relief from symptoms. Meanhile, women experiencing vaginal dryness because of the menopause can experiment with lubricant that can be bought in most chemists and supermarkets. Some women find lubricants messy and troublesome so there are other options. Hormone replacement (localised and systemic), vaginal growth factors or hyaluronic acid injections can give longer term relief’, advises Lakhani.

‘There are also various supplements that can be taken to help with symptoms such as DHEA, Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) from cruciferous vegetables, DIM (diiondolymethane), above all else it is important to eat a balanced diet and not too low fat as we need cholesterol to produce sex hormones. Addressing intimate medical issues affecting many women over 40 will ensure that many experience their best sex ever.’

Meanwhile ladies, don’t forget it’s important to keep doing your pelvic floor exercises! ‘As our bodies age and change our pelvic floor – the key set of deep muscles situated in the pelvis – can become weakened, which can lead to an inability to control urination. Unfortunately, we can’t control when these leaks happen…sexual stimulation can put pressure on your bladder or urethra and when combined with a weakened pelvic floor muscles can lead to dribbles’, says Maher.

‘Our top tip to avoid this: pelvic floor exercises! It’s possible that strong pelvic floor muscles could not only prevent leaks, but it can also increase sensitivity during sex, giving you stronger orgasms. So get squeezing and if you need some motivation, check out our ‘Music For Your Vagina’ playlist, perfectly crafted for you to get the most out of your pelvic floor exercises.’

The importance of intimacy

As we’ve probably all learnt by now, intimacy is all important in our sex lives. While it’s true that sex can create an intimacy feedback loop, sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your partner. So how do we up our intimacy stakes in our 40s?

Ana Mikaela Silva- Founder & CEO of Pleasy Play advises, ‘You can be more intimate by increasing desire and moving to a deeper level of understanding of each other. It’s about moments of connection and affection in a less-physical way: making eye contact, listening to your partner, small touches on the hand, kissing, hugging.’

‘Communication plays a big role in developing intimacy. It´s how couples are able to connect and to speak about their deepest desires and also about their boundaries. However, it can be hard to communicate to your partner your needs and wants, which is how the Pleasy Play app can help. If you don´t want to try a challenge or if you do, you simple reject / accept a challenge and your partner will be notified. It´s a simple way to communicate that can accomplish so much in the relationship.’

Sex in your 40s

Sex in your 40s: Mixing things up

How can you keep things exciting when you’ve been with the same sexual partner for some time, and feeling generally knackered and harrassed by life? How do we break out of our existing sex routine (yup, we all have our trademark one don’t we?). To break out of the monotony, Silva says, ‘A great way to do this is to introduce sex toys as not only do they help to improve both of your pleasure, but also your confidence. Incorporating toys, like vibrators or couples toys, can increase sexual stimulation and pleasure in a way the human body sometimes just can’t. For example, Pleasy Play is a subscription service consisting of a personalised and specially curated box of intimate products and an interactive game with fun and sexy challenges through a mobile app.’

‘The great thing about introducing toys or intimate products like massage oils and lubes is that they can be used in diverse ways. which helps couples work on intimacy and communication, all the while having a lot of fun.’

Sex in your 40s

With us living longer, healthier lives, it’s common for women and men to have several sexual partners, and through divorce or death of a partner, people are embarking on new sexual relationships later on in life. People are no longer accepting that their sexual lives should end beyond a certain age. It is therefore far more important to minimise the negative effects of ageing, allowing people to continue to enjoy all aspects of their lives no matter what their age.

While in some ways your 40s are not exactly kind to your sex life, in many ways sex in your 40s CAN be better. So what’s the final word? We say now’s the time to revel in foreplay, use lube, get curious, address any health issues and keep exploring and investing in your sex life.

What has been your experience of sex in your 40s? Do share in a comment below.

People photo created by yanalya, Technology photo created by jcomp, People photo created by pressfoto –, Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Are you lonesome tonight? Making friends after 40

When did you last feel lonely? Maybe it was yesterday, earlier in the week, one evening when you partner was working late and the kids were tucked up in bed. Perhaps since the pandemic, your social life feels like it has been reduced down to the size of a pea, and you’re wondering whether if you disappeared off the face of the earth with a little *poof* of smoke, if anybody would even notice. Maybe you’ve recently left your partner or husband and wondering whether there is any hope for making friends after 40 or if you’ll just be left on the friend shelf like a defective raggy doll. Or could it be that you have an absolutely raging social life still….in which case, I salute you!

Whatever the above, loneliness has reared its head in all corners of world, as we got robbed of our normal way of living with 79% of us now feeling lonelier than we did before Covid came and smacked us and our social lives full-on in the face. That’s felt even more keenly among single people, where the figure rises to a whopping 87%. And if you already struggled with social anxiety before? The bets are on that you are now feeling lonelier than ever before as the struggle to maintain friendships becomes even harder.

Is the forties the lonely decade?

So you’ve hit your 40s, and they say that life begins at 40, expect a study has found that people in their 40s feel the most lonely of all, god help us. But why is this? This Loneliness Awareness Week, I asked best-selling author, Gill Hasson of Lonely Less: How to Connect with Others, Make Friends and Feel Less Lonely why exactly this might be and here’s what she said:

Typically, you can become lonely either because of a gradual change in your circumstances or a because of a sudden change in your circumstances. You then either gradually become aware that you’re lonely – you feel disconnected, separate and maybe even isolated from others – or you are aware of a sudden loneliness.

The following circumstances can leave you feeling lonely:

  • A deteriorating, unhappy relationship or divorce.
  • If you have teenage children they need you less and less or they may have left home for university or work.
  • Becoming a parent for the first time – when all your friends’ children are much older
  • An unfulfilling job, having to now work from home, redundancy and unemployment.
  • A change in family and friends’ circumstances – maybe they move away, have a new relationship, start a family.
making friends after 40

Well that all makes sense. But without a tribe around us, shrinking social circles and confidence resulting in that feeling of withdrawal from life what is the remedy here? Is it making friends after 40, which in itself probably makes your insides cringe, but is probably the loneliness remedy here? The answer is categorically, yes.

Making friends after 40

So once we have chewed the cud and swallowed the horror that we need to put ourselves back out there on the friend market in our 40s, the question is – how the hell do we go about making friends after 40 anyway?

Firstly, fret not! Gill quite rightly points out, “There are people who are open to meeting others and making friends too. You’ve just got to find them. It takes effort on your part; you need to be willing to meet others, to be yourself and give something of yourself. A good way forward is to start with your interests. When you have interests and activities you enjoy, you can meet and join in with people with similar interests. Whether it’s playing or watching a sport, a creative activity or an enjoyment of arts and culture, getting together with people who like and enjoy the same things as you makes it easier for you to talk to them and make friends because you’ve already got something in common; you share similar interests and values.”

I asked her to share her top tips for making friends after 40 and this is what she said:

Go to a Meetup event

Have a look at which enables people to find and join groups of others in their local area who share each other’s interests. There are Meetup groups to fit a wide range of interests and hobbies, plus others you’ll never have thought of: Book groups, art groups, film and theatre groups and sic-fi groups. Hiking and running groups, football groups, netball groups and cycling groups. There are groups centred around particular age groups, cultures and identities; ’40’s – 60’s’ groups for example, Japanese appreciation groups, conservation groups, singles groups, LGBT groups and so on.

People who go to ‘Meetups’ do so knowing they’ll be meeting people who are also open to meeting other people with a shared interest or identity and making new friends.

Take a class

Meet people who want to learn the same things as you. You can search for courses by going to your local council’s website and searching ‘adult education’ or ‘adult learning’ in the search bar. You can also find courses in your area by searching on FindCourses And the WEA have classes in almost every area of England and Scotland.


Volunteering for a cause or local community initiative that interests you is another way to connect with other people. As well as helping and meeting others, you’ll meet other volunteers who could become friends.

Volunteers can do almost anything; there’s a huge range of volunteer opportunities available to you. Whether it’s serving tea at a local hospice, helping at a local community food project or an animal rescue centre, working with refugees, advocating for someone with a learning disability or mental health problem, not only can you do something of worth and value, but you can be involved in something that’s relevant to your values and interests. Go to

Look out for organisations that connect people

As well as the Meetup groups, courses and classes in your area, there are national organisations with local groups and clubs whose specific aim is to bring people together so that they can connect and make friends.

Mens Sheds

The Women’s Institute

The Townswomen’s Guild

Apps that connect people with others:



Meet My Dog


Remember; you can make new friends, but you have to get out there!

Have you been feeling more lonely in your forties? How do you feel about making friends after 40? Do leave a comment and connect with us on Instagram here where we love to chat all things being in your 40s.

About Gill Hasson

Gill Hasson is the author of Lonely Less: How to Connect with Others, Make Friends and Feel Less Lonely (published by Capstone, June 2021). She has 20 years’ experience teaching and writing on a range of issues to do with personal and professional development, mental health and wellbeing. She is the author of more than 22 books; the bestselling Mindfulness, Mindfulness Pocketbook, Emotional Intelligence, Positive Thinking, the Sunday Times bestseller How To Deal With Difficult People, plus other books on the subjects of resilience, communication skills, assertiveness, and Careers. Follow: @gillhasson

Photo by Designecologist,  Polina Sirotina, Felipe Cespedes, RODNAE Productions from Pexels