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Relationships and the Menopause
In this session we interviewed Individual, Couples, Psychosexual therapist and expert on all things menopause, Martina Bador. In this blog find all you need to know about relationships, Menopause, women in mid-life, couples and sex.
The decrease in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can cause physical and emotional changes – also known as the Menopause. The menopause can bring about differences in energy and sleep patterns, it can cause mood swings, weight gain, decrease in libido and lower sex drive as well as vaginal changes such as vaginal dryness and painful sex.
Going through the Menopause can be an incredibly trying time and its associated symptoms might not always contribute towards a stable and cordial relationship. Some people have a challenging time but be reassured, that’s not the case for everyone… however, if there are challenges, there are ways to make things easier.
Women in mid-life
Women in their mid-life tend to be in longer standing relationships and there are many factors that can add to the challenges of going through the menopause.
See the below factors:
- Children reaching teenagerhood, moving out of the family home, or going off to university.
- The bank of mum and dad – children depending on them financially.
- The start of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and concomitant mental health conditions including anxiety and / or depression.
- New medications such as blood pressure medications and anti-depressants.
- The loss of elderly parents or loved ones, and changes within their life such as needing professional care or moving into a care home.
Although a busy and challenging time in a woman’s life, it can also be an opportunity – to reassess, and maybe start something new
Will my relationship be affected?
If you have been with someone a long time, you might have a familiar sexual script and between you, you might not be trying as hard to add spark and encourage sexual relations. Day to day routines can become a lifestyle – getting home from work, minimum communications, more time spent on mobile phones and social media, lack of effort made and no sign of quality time and dates.
Sex can become repetitive and unexciting, or non-existent. Communication is essential, and if you can communicate with your partner about trying other ways of having sex, this can invite that lost spark.
If you cannot communicate with your partner and you are experiencing pain during sex, understandably, sex isn’t going to be something you want to do! If you reach a point in your relationship of not wanting sex with your husband – It is time to flag it. Get therapy. Do not stop talking.
Couples who are struggling with the changes that come alongside menopause should ask themselves – how do we as a couple manage a transition? – do we need to take steps to better our relationship?
Couples that find themselves in a similar routine should think about communicating more and making space for quality time. Relationship therapy can be a wonderful place to start in building a new and improved connection.
How will the menopause affect our sex life?
The menopausal effects on a woman’s sleep pattern, energy, and mood as you can imagine may not encourage sexual desire, not to mention hot flushes and vaginal changes that can cause sex to be uncomfortable and painful.
Couples within our society tend to fall into a pattern where reaching an orgasm is the end goal of sex. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Sex can be whatever you want it to be! Why not lean towards fun, pleasure, and connectedness. Sex can look like many things including foreplay, oral sex, masturbation, affection, and using sex toys. Take your time, ensure you are comfortable, be vocal about what feels good, and consider the others fears and desires.
Going through menopause may mean your sex life no longer looks the same but does not mean it cannot be just as pleasurable. Remember sex is worth the effort! The more you have, the more you will want If there’s any pain however, please don’t ‘tough it out’, address it immediately, see your GP, and then a sex therapist, if appropriate.
Psychosexual therapy or relationship therapy can be useful in encouraging openness and honesty when it comes to sex.
Same Sex couples and Menopause
Lesbian couples going through the menopause can sometimes be an easier transition as both parties will be aware of what to expect, however there could be a clash of two sets of symptoms!
When both partners are experiencing mood swings, sleep loss, hot flushes, and lack of energy, it may cause confrontation and create a tense atmosphere.
Communicate. Try to always come from a place of understanding. Why not discuss or compare symptoms and changes! It is essential to keep your partner’s symptoms and challenges in mind – not just your own. Be understanding and curious. Be aware of the other person and ensure they know you are there for them. If everybody is suffering and its untenable, try therapy. Therapy will help couples to move forward and find a place of accord.
Partners and Menopause
If your partner is going through the menopause, it can be a confusing time and invite many questions. ‘I thought things were fine between us. What has changed?’
It can be a challenging time feeling that your partner is not happy with you or does not want to have sex with you. It can also cause anxiety, concern, unhappiness, and frustration, which can be heightened due to lack of communication.
During this challenging time for women, it is essential their partner is understanding, supportive, and patient. It’s also useful to have a space to talk about how you, as a partner is feeling, and therapy can be a good place to have some of those conversations.
Partners should be encouraged to be curious about what is going on, be kind and do the research. Talk about it! Initiate conversations, ask how they feel, make the subject comfortable and be mindful.
What can help?
- Hormone Replacement Therapy.
- Vaginal moisturiser, vaginal oestrogen, and lube.
- Regular exercise including pelvic floor will encourage blood flow.
- Sex and masturbation – Masturbation is a wonderful place to start when going through the menopause. Self-pleasure can be the key in discovering what feels good whilst experiencing many changes, before trying sex.
- Psychosexual therapy, couples therapy, or relationship therapy.
Whatever is going on, don’t give up hope, get help! At the Leone Centre, our specialised therapists will support you and your partner by providing insight about the menopause, encouraging communication, and discussing boundaries.