18 Jun A woman’s self-esteem influences her sexuality, and low self-esteem is associated with sexual dysfunction
You may therefore be able to boost your sex life by promoting good self-esteem in the menopausal period. You can encourage and help your partner to:
- Focus on the good, not the bad;
- Identify achievements she has made throughout her life, and focus on these if she feels low;
- Challenge unrealistic expectations, for example about her body shape or the ageing process;
- Set realistic goals;
- Join an interest group or do volunteer work.
The values and roles expected of menopausal women vary between cultures, and a woman’s experience of menopause and its symptoms depends on how she is perceived culturally. Cultural factors such as diet, lifestyle, economic status and life expectancy can also influence her menopausal experience and her sexuality in the menopausal period.
During menopause, you can help keep your sex life great by thinking about how cultural beliefs influence your partner’s experience of menopause. Encourage her to do the same. For example, consider:
- How your culture/s might influence her experience of menopause, for example, whether or not the culture promotes valuable roles for menopausal women, how the culture views ageing bodies, and cultural attitudes towards older people having sex;
- Identify aspects of your culture/s which may negatively influence her experience of menopause; and
- Brainstorm ways in which cultural factors influencing the experience of menopause may be addressed.
Be positive about menopause and focus on how the changes it is catalysing may teach you and your partner new ways of enjoying and supporting each other. Women who have a positive attitude about menopause, and view it as a time of positive change rather than a crisis, are less likely to experience menopausal symptoms, so it’s also important to encourage her to focus on the positive aspects of menopause, such as the cessation of menstrual bleeding and the associated freedom.
Typically, men and women take longer to become aroused and have more difficulty becoming aroused. This may mean that you need to spend more time on foreplay before penetrative sex. If there’s a problem like erectile dysfunction, exploring non-penetrative sexual techniques will be important.
It is important to take the view that changes to sex life and sexual functioning are normal and can be positive. What happens in the menopausal period does not matter as long as both partners are satisfied. Try to find new ways to display affection and intimacy that make both of you feel desirable. For some couples, that may mean putting penetrative sex on hold and just kissing and cuddling for a while, or spicing up your sex life with sexual enhancement products like dildos, lubricants and erotic film or literature.
Sexual feelings change as men and women age, so it follows that the types of sex that feel best will also have to change
Sexual problems including hypogonadism (testosterone deficiency) and erectile dysfunction are more common amongst ageing men. A man’s sexual function exerts a significant influence over his partner’s sexual function; in about one third of couples, problems with the man’s sexual functioning are responsible for the female’s menopausal sexual dysfunction.
Consider your own sexual function and how problems such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation might be contributing to your partner’s sexual difficulties in the menopausal period. As men typically instigate sex, changes to his libido may have a significant impact on the frequency of sex. If he feels like sex less and initiates it less, frequency will decline unless his partner begins to initiate sex. If you are experiencing sexual problems or changes, discuss them with a doctor and find out about the range of treatments for male sexual dysfunction which can help improve your sex life.