Secrets to Second Time Round Success
How do you cope with menopausal night sweats – or performance anxiety – while you’re also trying to be “oh-so-sexy” with a new, second time round partner?
It’s a dilemma facing increasing numbers of midlife women and men, if the calls Sydney counsellor Matty Silver gets are anything to go on.
Matty, who sees clients at her Coogee clinic as well as doing telephone counselling, says she’s noticed an increase in calls from women who need advice on how to start a relationship after marriage break up – and many of them are also at the stage of life when they are dealing with menopause as well as a prospective new partner. But most of her clients are men, many of them wrestling with performance anxiety after a stressful break up.
Many older women are ill-equipped for the new etiquette around internet dating and safe sex, and change-of -life symptoms just make it all that much harder, says Matty.
“It’s not a sexy look when you are sweating all over the place.”
The author of a popular Sydney Morning Herald blog on sex and relationships, Matty gave Midlife Rocks her Top Tips for Second Time Round Dating Success
1) Don’t Be Afraid of HRT
Embrace menopause – and don’t be afraid of HRT – says Matty, who reported in a recent SMH blog that many Australian GP’s believe the pendulum has swung too far away from HRT therapy.
A webcast in late 2011 from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, a not-for-profit organisation providing services for women across Australia, on the topic “Fifty Shades of Midlife – Menopause, Mood & More” gave the thumbs up for HRT.
Matty says she is fed up with the scaremongering that has frightened women off, when in fact the risks of serious complications for HRT are very small.
“You feel like sex, your sex drive is higher and it’s much more fun when you’ve got menopause relief.”
She recommends Livial, a synthetic form of HRT. Livial helps relieve hot flushes, and improves natural lubrication. You will need to consult a doctor for a prescription.
2) Don’t Jump Into Bed Too Quickly
Women returning to dating after years away often forget there are a lot of men out there who are on the web primarily for sex.
Unless that’s your motivation too, be discerning and don’t jump in bed with everybody straight away, suggests Matty. And when you do decide it’s time to have sex, ensure it is done safely.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Insist on a Condom
Often after a long period of being in a marriage, women are ill-equipped to face up to safe-sex practice, says Matty “When they were younger they were on The Pill and didn’t worry about condoms.”
That’s why she is enthusiastic about the Little Black Dress safe sex awareness campaign launched by Family Planning NSW for older Australians along the theme “Safe sex is an easier conversation to have with your clothes on.”
NSW Family Planning medical director Dr Deborah Bateson has said she “dreams of running classes on condom-negotiation skills for older women”.
Sexually transmitted infections are highest amongst the older age group because many think “I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant so why bother with a condom?” says Matty.
“Men get STI’s too, and many of them are unaware they have one… so when you are first in a relationship, insist on a condom,” she says. And when you move on to thinking the relationship is going somewhere and might be monogamous, then get a test just to ensure you are both free of problems like chlamydia.
4) Talk to Someone
There is still an ageist attitude to older people having sex, says Matty, so it is sometimes difficult to get help if you need it.
She says some of her clients have tried to talk to their GP about sex and have got a response along the lines of “do you still have sex at 55?”
Dr Lesley Yee of the Australian Centre for Sexual Health says many physicians may see sexual dysfunction in the elderly as a biological part of the aging process and therefore not a medical issue.
Matty suggests finding someone you are comfortable with who understands sexual health. “Women with Vaginismus (pain during intercourse) often get a terrible time. Some practitioners seem to know very little about it and tell them their vagina is too small.”
5) Offer Men A Little Understanding
Matty says she sees more men than women in her practice because many men suffer performance anxiety, especially if they are emerging from a relationship breakdown and have their confidence dented.
“Sex is so much easier for women, they can just lay there and pretend. A man can’t – and he has no idea if he is any good or not. If a woman makes a critical remark like ‘My former partner never did that’ it can destroy him.”
Matty recommends using erectile dysfunction drug Cialis for these situations, because “20mg will last for about three days. Take it on a Friday night and it will last right through the weekend. Once you’ve enjoyed successful sex a few times the performance anxiety disappears and you don’t need it anymore.”