Women may be in many different kinds of relationship when they come to midlife and menopause. These may be long term or new relationships, satisfying or unsatisfying relationships. With divorce statistics around 50% in Australia, it is not surprising that many women express mixed feelings about their relationships. For some, midlife is a time to spend together and relax in the comfort of the relationship. Others may find there is little communication and support, partners may have grown apart over the years, or they may be spending more time together after children have grown older.
Changes associated with ageing and menopause can and do affect aspects of the relationship including the sexual relationship. Changes to the vagina (vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal wall) can mean women are less likely to want penetrative sex because of associated pain and low libido.
It is important that women talk about these experiences and seek help when necessary so that miscommunication is avoided. Sometimes male partners fear hurting their partner. Rather than ignoring the problem, it is better for the relationship and future sexual experiences to discuss the physiological and emotional changes that may result from menopause.
Improving the Relationship with a Partner
One of the most important things is to be able to discuss your thoughts and problems openly. It can be helpful to think about your own values, expectations and needs of the relationship and then compare notes with your partner. Sometimes we forget to treat our partners as if they are friends and it is so easy to take each other for granted. Try to remember to treat each other as friends and plan things to do together.
If sexual problems are causing difficulties in the relationship, it is helpful to sort out how much are due to the physical symptoms of menopause and how much might relate to other issues or both. When you have worked this out, then you can seek the help you might need. Remember there are many ways two people can be sexual with each other that do not involve penetrative sex (use your imagination). It is helpful if both partners read relevant books and seek out other resources together.
Talking about the changes and issues with other women friends who are supportive can sometimes be helpful. If you are finding it difficult to discuss things with others including your partner then you may like to seek support from a qualified relationship psychologist.
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Relationships Australia - http://www.relationships.com.au/
Content updated 6 November, 2009