Straight talking could spell a new lease of life for relationships

Last month we looked at how the menopause can affect a woman’s inner life and her self-esteem.

This article will focus on the impact this transition can have on a couple’s ability to maintain intimacy and closeness.

I see many couples where the husband still feels that it is “a woman’s thing” and feels uncomfortable to discuss what is happening to their wife or partner.

Although the menopause is more talked about in the media, I see many couples where the husband still feels that it is “a woman’s thing” and feels uncomfortable to discuss what is happening to their wife or partner.

Equally, many women feel guilty about some of the changes that occur in their body and avoid discussing these with their husbands.

Loss of libido is one of the aspects many of my clients feel guilty about.

Hormonal fluctuations can affect desire in women approaching the menopause and for some it can carry on for years.

The sense of shame some women feel about their low libido can make it particularly difficult for them to discuss what is going on with their husbands, with the result that their partner may end up feeling unloved and rejected, and this can have significant repercussions of their intimacy.

Communication is essential to a healthy relationship and the menopause is a time when it is vital for the couple to talk.

I have witnessed many relationships getting a new lease of life after the couple started talking openly and honestly about what was going on.

A woman is likely to feel less guilty and more supported if her partner shows interest in what is happening to her, asks questions and makes her feel she is still loved. Once an honest discussion is started, a couple can start looking at different ways to be intimate and improve their communication.

Tips for her:

• Don’t feel guilty about changes to your body and how you feel about sex. You are not alone.

• Discuss these changes with your partner so that he understands he is not being rejected.

• Find other ways to be close: cuddle more, hug and kiss and explore alternative ways to achieve intimacy.

• Discuss various options with your GP or investigate natural alternatives.

• If there are underlying relationship issues, this may be a good time to address them with an experienced counsellor, either alone or together with your partner.

Tips for him:

• If you think your wife may be going through the menopause, read about it so you can start to understand the impact it can have.

• Encourage her to discuss what is happening and make her feel that you are there to support her.

• Let her know you still find her attractive and that you love her. The menopause is a time when women are confronted with ageing. Their bodies change and it is common to feel unattractive.

• Take this opportunity to build a new intimacy: the menopause can be a new beginning.

Anna Dallavalle is a counsellor working with individuals and couples and has a private practice in Morpeth. For information visit www.steppingstonesne.co.uk