Menopause brings a host of different symptoms: night sweats, hot flashes, irritability and vaginal dryness. Many times even you don’t understand what is going on so it seems impossible to let your partner know how you feel.
Obstacles to open communication
Some problems, such as vaginal atrophy, can cause pain during intercourse, possibly causing you to avoid sex with your partner. You want to explain what is going on, but you aren’t sure how. You might be embarrassed to talk about “private areas” with your partner. Even in the best relationships, discussions about female anatomy can be awkward.
You might also worry that your partner won’t understand. If you are feeling discomfort or pain, you might be concerned that your partner will be unsympathetic or think you simply aren’t attracted to him any longer. You might worry that your partner’s feelings will be hurt. You might find it difficult to explain that you aren’t avoiding sex, you are avoiding the pain you feel during sex.
The importance of communication
The key to any successful relationship is communication. Without communication, your partner might feel left out, abandoned or think you are no longer physically attracted to him. He might equate menopause with irritability or hot flashes. He might not see a lack of interest in sex as a product of menopause. Letting your partner know what you are feeling, physically and emotionally, can make the difference between successfully navigating menopause together or you feeling alone.
Tips for talking to your partner about vagnial atrophStart the conversation outside the bedroom._ Often conversations inside the bedroom are more emotionally charged. Talk with your partner in a more neutral location, at a time when both of you can pay attention to what each person is saying, without attaching negative emotions.
Reassure your partner. Make sure your partner knows that your symptoms do not negate your love and attraction. Let him know that many of the symptoms can be overcome with a little extra work and that together you can work through any difficulties.
Explain the symptoms you are experiencing. If you are experiencing discomfort or pain, explain how it feels (burning, pain, itchiness, etc). Giving specifics will allow you both to work on solutions or alternative ways to combat symptoms.
Provide alternatives and solutions. You might feel better when using a lubricant, if so, explain that this is needed and that you might need to stop to reapply during lovemaking. You might need your partner to be patient while you try different positions to minimize or eliminate pain. You might need to forego intercourse and engage in different ways to promote intimacy, such as cuddling, stimulation without penetration, mutual masterbation.
Talk about emotional support. If you feel your partner isn’t understanding about what you are going through, give examples of the type of support you need. You might want to limit intercourse (although regular sex can reduce symptoms of vaginal atrophy, it doesn’t need to include penetration), or you might need him to be more patient. You might need reassurance that you are still attractive, valued and loved. Offer concrete suggestions on how your partner can help you.
Remember, your partner can’t read your mind. He can’t know what you are going through unless you tell him. Being open and honest with your partner about what you are going through might be embarrassing or scary at first. But, as you start and continue the dialogue, hopefully you will find that it doesn’t hurt your relationship but in fact strengthens it. Living with Vaginal Atrophy can make you feel like less of a woman, it can make you feel less sexually attractive and make you shun emotional and physical closeness with your partner. Without communication, you can end up feeling isolated and alone.
For more information on vaginal atrophy and other symptoms of menopause:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.