Caroline West-Meads: The menopause has destroyed my libido

Ask caroline

Q. I am a woman in my late 50s whose libido seems to have fallen off a cliff since going through menopause. Most of my friends feel the same. It’s not just the hot flushes. I’ve also suffered from fatigue and emotional turbulence. One of my friends confided in me that she even found sex painful (which a doctor told her was caused by inflammation of the delicate tissues in that area). Is all this just part of transitioning to being a postmenopausal woman? Of course, men don’t go through this change so I don’t think they understand just how tough the menopause can be. For quite a while my husband simply thought I no longer fancied him. To me, sex in later middle age is just another example of the pressures on women to be everything to everyone. I feel as though I’m forcing myself to go against my body’s natural instincts and I’m beginning to see why many middle-aged women of my mother’s era turned a blind eye to their husbands having affairs. My husband is a good man and I love him, but I know he minds that we hardly ever have sex. In the end, I decided to try HRT which has helped a little and I now find sex a bit more comfortable and appealing. But sometimes I also find it devastating to feel that I’m losing the person I used to be – with my youthful reserves of energy and libido. How do I come to terms with all this?

A. It is difficult when there is a mismatch of sexual desire and, if it is too great, sadly the relationship often does fall apart. Of course, it would be awful for any woman to feel that she had to have sex if she didn’t want to – and certainly not if it was painful. Vaginal atrophy – a thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls – can often be treated with topical oestrogen. There are no easy answers. Turning a blind eye to an affair could be a solution but not one I’d advise. Affairs are rarely just about sex and there is a danger that your husband could fall in love with someone else. Even if he didn’t leave the marriage, his emotional energy would not be focused on you. If you mostly don’t want sex because you don’t feel like it any more – but the rest of the marriage is good – you could perhaps consider it an act of kindness and love rather than duty. Then, even if it is not your favourite thing, you might still enjoy the warmth and closeness that is part of sex. Of course, it must go both ways. If you want to make your husband feel loved and desired, then he must meet your emotional needs and understand how tired and sad about ageing you feel. He would need to make you feel loved and listened to enough for you to want to return that love physically. I am glad that HRT has helped – the menopause is not an easy
time and seeing a GP is always a good first step if you are struggling physically or emotionally.

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been scammed

Q. My ex-boyfriend owes me a large sum of money but he has blocked and ghosted me on social media since dumping me a few months ago. He said he needed the cash to keep his business going as things had been tough. Not long after, he broke off our relationship and has now stopped contacting me. I am really upset as we had been together for 18 months and he was so loving and affectionate. Now I wonder if he really loved me or if he was only after my money. I’m so embarrassed as I am old enough to know better.

A. It is difficult to know if you have fallen foul of what the police call ‘romance fraud’ – in which a victim is targeted for their money and fooled into thinking it’s love – or whether he was just not the sort of person you thought he was. Sadly, I suspect the former. A clue to his intentions is if he ever introduced you to his friends and family, or vice versa (which would be a normal part of a relationship). Or if he made excuses to only see you alone. Scam or not, it is hurtful as 18 months is a reasonably long time to be with someone. Now you are left trying to get over the relationship and feeling embarrassed at being duped. But please do not feel foolish. Scammers prey on kind people unlikely to question them and I suspect you were vulnerable. Contact Action Fraud in case they can help you recover your money. And to help you emotionally, confide in one or two close friends or consider counselling (try Relate or see your GP for a referral) as this is an upsetting experience.