Over time, your sexual relationship is likely to change for many reasons. With communication and advice, you and your sexual partner can successfully navigate these changes to maintain a fulfilling sex life.
Communication is at the heart of good sex. It’s important to keep talking and listening to your partner about what you both want and need. Sex doesn’t have to be about intercourse – showing affection and appreciation, kissing, touching and being close are all just as important. You need to look after this aspect of your relationship.
At times you may want sex more or less often than your partner, or you may want different things. Even something simple, like moving to separate beds, can lead to a lack of closeness. Talk to your partner and reassure them. If they get upset, give them time and come back to the conversation later. There are many different forms of intimacy you could explore that could be satisfying.
Changes to your appearance, such as hair loss or weight gain, may affect your confidence and self-esteem. Changes in your body and hormones may also affect your desire. Try to accept and adapt to the changes, and try different ways to enjoy intimacy and sex.
Men may experience reduced sensitivity or have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. This can lead to a loss of confidence and unwillingness to try again, or performance anxiety. If this happens, seek help from your GP. There are treatments available – for example, medication such as Viagra.
For women, the effects of the menopause can last for years, including hot flushes, night sweats, disturbed sleep and low mood. A decline in oestrogen can lead to vaginal dryness, which can cause pain or difficulty when having sex – using a lubricant may help. You may experience a lower sex drive, but this is often temporary.
If you’re experiencing difficulties, talk to your partner. Sometimes a physical problem can be made worse by anxiety. By sharing your worries you can deal with problems together. You could also seek help from your GP. You can find more information about some common problems on the Relate website.
Your health and sex
Sex isn’t just enjoyable, it also contributes to our quality of life. Intimacy is important to our physical and mental health and wellbeing, and there are many benefits to being sexually active. Sex may:
- release chemicals that help you feel happy
- strengthen the immune system
- relieve stress
- help with relaxation and sleep
- relieve pain
- improve cognitive function.
Unfortunately, illness is one of the most common reasons people give for ending sexual activity. This may be because people worry about the risks, there is a reduction in sexual desire either naturally or as a result of medication, or people experience a loss of confidence and feeling unattractive.
If you’re a carer, you may worry that you’re being demanding by wanting to have sex. If you’re being cared for, you may lose confidence and self-esteem. But it could be worthwhile to find a way to continue to enjoy sex. Issues relating to illness may be treatable, so talk to your GP. You may find it difficult to ask for help but many sexual difficulties can be overcome by relatively simple advice. Your GP could help you by:
- helping you to identify different positions
- advising you how long to wait before you can resume intercourse after a heart attack or surgery, and dealing with fears of causing pain if your partner has undergone surgery
- changing the timing or dose of your medication.
If the problem is physical, you could ask them for a referral to a specialist who may be able to advise.
If psychological factors are contributing to a sexual problem, you could get specialist help from Relate or Relationships Scotland. You can also find details of therapists from the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.
There are many charities and other organisations that can advise you on sex when you’re living with a specific condition. You can find contact details on our webpage Where to get support with a long-term condition.