Dear Dr. Betty,
I'm in my early 50s and am having trouble getting aroused. When I have sex with my husband, I have a lot of pain and he thinks I'm rejecting him. What can I do to enjoy my sex life again? --I.
The truth is coming out of the closet and the spotlight is turned on at last: You're not alone! Close to half of women of all ages have some sexual dysfunction at one time or another.
For many men, Viagra was a boon and helped them become erect and enjoy sex more. Well, it isn't that simple for us gals. We're a bit more complicated: we need to deal with our relationship, our physiology, our comfort level (pain). Furthermore, if you're going through or have gone through menopause you may be experiencing vaginal dryness, interrupted sleep, weight gain, and/or mood changes.
Round and Round: It's a circular thing. Mood changes and weight gain affect our feelings about our own desirability. Interrupted sleep makes us tired and cranky, and vaginal dryness contributes to pain during intercourse. Our natural reaction is to avoid pain. Is it any wonder that we turn off our eagerness to get it on?
So, how can you improve your intimacy? First, let's take a look at your man.
His Issues: Your husband, like many midlife men, may be going through his own period of questioning his changing sexual performance and feelings, his mortality, and his attractiveness (much of it based on his ability to perform sexually). He looks to you for confirmation of his desirability and you, in your present state, are dealing with your own issues. What to do to stop being erotically thwarted?
Your Relationship: You practice true intimacy when you share your feelings honestly -- not to hurt, but to increase understanding and clear up incorrect assumptions. Take turns with words: Express appreciation, affection, and love. Whether it's "You're my best friend," "I'm so glad we're married," or "I love you so much" -- just say it! Your loving words will come back to you in the most positive ways. These expressions of appreciation and love help you avoid a fishing expedition for compliments, warm the fires, and open the gates for you to take the next step.Honestly say how you feel. Now you and your husband can avoid guessing games like "My wife isn't interested in sex; I guess she doesn't care for me." Bring each of your concerns to light. So, what can you say? Here's a quick role play to help you out... You: "I'm experiencing pain with intercourse. I don't want the pain so I'm shying away from sex and don't know what to do." Your husband: "When you avoid sex, I'm assuming you aren't interested in me any longer." Keep the dialogue going and clear up false assumptions. Once you get your communication on the right track, you can turn to helping yourself.Just for You: The following questions and tips may help steer you toward an improved sex life.
1. If you're going through menopause, what exactly are your symptoms -- hot flashes, lack of sleep, mood changes, weight gain, vaginal dryness? 2. Note that not every problem can be laid at the feet of menopause; sometimes there are other issues. See your gynecologist. If possible, have your husband accompany you so he can hear firsthand what's happening. 3. It's important that your doctor do a thorough exam that begins with a systematic and methodical discussion of your history. Your doctor should ask when, where, and how the problem started -- and really listen to your answers. Too often doctors are either too busy, not properly trained to probe or, sadly, not interested enough. Search around and give yourself the gift of a caring, highly competent physician. 4. Your physician could find an undiagnosed infection, a yeast infection, or an inflamed urethra. Or you could be taking medication that leads to dryness; it could be for diabetes or emotional strain -- there are many potential causes. 5. In particular, sometimes estrogen replacement doesn't help lubricate the vagina adequately. Estrogen cream or a vaginal ring, called an Estring, which stays in the vagina for three months and slowly releases estrogen, may be prescribed. With a thorough exam by a caring, skilled doctor you can begin to tackle the problem. Don't lose hope! Once you cut down on the pain and set your communication in the right direction, voila -- you can begin to enjoy your sex life again! See past columns for tips on re-sensitizing through self pleasuring and shared pleasing. Know that research is ongoing and be assured that women's sexual enjoyment is now being taken seriously.
Source: Relationships & Love