Menopause / I find my husband’s sexual advances off-putting

He uses my feet to masturbate – but as it’s the only regular pleasure he gets from me, I grin and bear it

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Foot fall ... Photograph: Guardian Design Team

My husband and I used to have an adventurous and satisfying sex life, but my interest has waned considerably since reaching menopause. Now I can’t stand the way my husband touches me or his way of initiating sex. I can’t tell him because I’m afraid of offending him, so I grin and bear it – and hate it. There is another thing he does, without asking me if it’s OK. Out of the blue, he wriggles to the bottom of the bed, and uses my feet to masturbate. I don’t like the feeling and I don’t like that he just uses part of my body for his sexual satisfaction without it being a mutual thing. But it’s the only regular pleasure he gets from me, albeit without my consent. I do love him and I want to make some concessions since I am so uninterested, but I don’t know what to do.

Grinning and bearing it is a good way to completely shut down your sexual interest. Menopause can certainly unbalance or reduce the availability of hormones that help a woman enjoy sex and achieve arousal and orgasm, but it should not end your sex life by any means. Talk with your doctor and try to relieve your menopausal symptoms and boost your oestrogen and testosterone. Most importantly, make it a priority to reconnect erotically with your husband by being honest about your responses. No one feels like having sex with a partner who is consistently turning them off. He needs education.

First, try to tune into your precise new needs – perhaps these are to be caressed more, soothed more, have more clitoral attention to help with your slower arousal time? Then impart this information very clearly to your husband in a non-blaming fashion. Never allow distasteful or painful sex. Gently guide him to do what pleases you, even if that does not lead you to orgasm. Help him to understand you may sometimes need to stop. You will feel more attracted to him once he is making a genuine effort to pleasure you.

Finally, he may also have an erotic connection to your feet, so do not assume his “bottom of the bed” actions are purely mechanical. Talk with him about this and try to appreciate that this is not really unusual.

• Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

• If you would like advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms

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