Menopause remains a taboo subject for some women and their partners. Some men feel that the menopause is ‘women’s business’ and there is no need for them to be informed or involved. Yet the menopause can have a profound impact on a couple’s relationship.
For some women, the menopause brings with it a sense of sexual liberation, not having to concern themselves with unwanted pregnancy. And more than 50% of menopausal women report no decrease in sexual desire. But, for others, the menopause can mean a significant decrease.
Declining levels of oestrogen result in less vaginal lubrication which can result in intercourse becoming painful. In anticipation of pain, some women develop vaginismus (a reflex where the muscles of the vagina contract so that penetration isn’t possible). These conditions often cause a woman to want sex less – coupled sometimes with low appreciation of body image from ageing, or a perception that her partner is less interested. Partners feel rejected and this can cause them to give up initiating sex.
It’s times like these when understanding and patience are tested. Relationships become adversely affected by lack of sleep and intimacy, a lack of understanding and little or no communication. It’s tough to get close to someone who is being moody, anxious, bad-tempered, non-communicative…
Talking about menopause
Sex counsellors at Relate try to help couples understand that the menopause is natural and normal. It’s a milestone in a woman’s life which can mark the beginning of a new era. Each woman experiences menopause differently and it’s important not to use comparisons with other women at this time.
Fear and anger may be two of the emotions felt by both partners. Other contributory factors may be ’empty-nest’ feelings, retirement, ill-health – and also many women may be looking after elderly parents which can add to the stress.
Couples may need to discuss who does what as energy levels and motivations change, especially if depression becomes an issue. They may need to experiment with different sexual positions that make intercourse more comfortable.
Things to do
- Listen to concerns, fears and frustrations; be there for your partner.
- Research the menopause together. You may find tips on diet that will help.
- Be patient, with your partner and yourself, if mood swings occur or if forgetfulness is an issue.
- Exercise may help reduce some menopausal symptoms so joining an exercise class together, going for a swim or walking together may help
- Talk about concerns and changes – it’s not just the woman who’s changing at this time of life.
- If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about the menopause or other relationship issues why not give our confidential, friendly appointment team a call on 01234 356350.