Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.
Question: I am in my 50s, married with four children. We have been married for 20-plus years. Our children are aged 20 to 16, and are currently all living at home. Both my husband and I work full-time. I have always worked full time, and had the minimum time off post- babies.
I had postnatal depression after my children, and took medication. I am still taking it as I have suffered from severe PMS. I believe I am going through the menopause, but I don't want to take HRT due to family history, so I have been prescribed the medicine to control the mood swings. I take it every other day.
We have a good relationship, apart from the sexual aspect. My husband is very kind and he is incredibly romantic, which I am not. We have not made love for over a year now. This is my issue and not my husband's. I suppose I am very lucky that he is very patient. It does cause some friction between us, but I have a knack of switching off or changing the subject!
I hate talking about sex with my husband, as I get embarrassed about it and it makes me feel uncomfortable. However this is not the case when speaking with my children as in providing them with information regarding safe sex etc.
This is not a new issue, and has been a problem now for many years. I can remember being referred for sexual counselling with a doctor who specialised in it, but I didn't feel comfortable discussing issues with him, so I stopped. Is there any advice or help out there that you may know of for me to access?
Mary O'Conor replies: You have had a very busy life up until now having raised four children and also working full time outside the home. Even though they are all still living at home you are very wise to start concentrating on yourself and your husband's relationship now, as in a very short time your children will have left home and it will be back to just the two of you.
As you probably know, one of the side effects of most anti-depressants is that they affect the libido. The medication has been very necessary for you, and there is no question of you coming off it, but you shouldn't be too hard on yourself if you feel that you have little desire for sex as a result. However, reading between the lines I sense that there is more to it than just the medication and that you have a very real problem with intimacy which needs to be explored.
Unfortunately, I don't know where you live, but if it is in Dublin then I would suggest that you contact Mind and Body Works in Wicklow Street (www.mindandbodyworks.com). It has a number of qualified sex therapists working there, and as you had difficulty in speaking with a male some years ago you should specifically see a female therapist.
You could attend on your own to begin with, and when you feel comfortable enough that the therapist and yourself have established a rapport then you should include your husband. From what you say, I feel sure he would be more than happy to attend. If you are not in Dublin, then contact the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy to find a therapist in your area. www.irish-counselling.ie
I am 58 years old, have bipolar mood disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to sex abuse as a child. After a failed suicide attempt three years ago I went for psychotherapy with 30 sessions and it was tough but a life-saver (my life). It has allowed me to express my anger and shown me the stuff I carried with me all through my life.