Gransnet forums


Sex and relationships webchat with Trudy Hannington

(163 Posts)
LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 30-Oct-14 15:50:10

Trudy Hannington is a Psychosexual Therapist and is the Chair of The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT). Highly qualified in this field, Trudy has NHS contracts with Doncaster and Bassetlaw PCTs and also sees patients on a private basis.

Trudy will be joining Gransnet for the first time for a 'late night' webchat answering questions on all aspects of sex and relationships.

It may be that you have questions on your relationship as you both get older and it evolves. Perhaps you have worries about sexual difficulties experienced by yourself or your partner, or maybe you would like to ask about the changes that menopause brings about and how to address those in the context of a healthy sex life.

There may even be questions you have about dating again following divorce or the loss of your partner.

Whether your question relates to your own body or desires or your partner's, or if you're concerned about the way society's attitudes to sex may be changing, Trudy is highly experienced in this field.

And, for the first time in Gransnet's history we will be inviting you (should you wish) to request a new username so that you can be confident in complete anonymity in this sensitive area. To request a change in username just email us at [email protected]

Please post your questions here and make a date in your diary for this important topic for 12 November at 6pm.

Elegran Tue 11-Nov-14 17:37:56

It isn't just Ipad, However many asterisks you put, it only does two - unless you have some real letters in there as well. You could type f*****g to get all your asterisks in (f'rinstance).

Atqui Tue 11-Nov-14 17:51:44

Oh! Thanks .... I shall know in future. grin

cathymcd Wed 12-Nov-14 10:25:20

My husband and I are happily married but both have developed back problems (disc for me, muscular for him)

Ideas for enjoying a healthy sex life without one of us yelping in pain or doing ourselves a mischief would be much appreciated

chops Wed 12-Nov-14 10:27:37

Happily married but with a much higher sex drive than my husband (who is only three years older.) Can you suggest ways round this?

anonymouse Wed 12-Nov-14 10:30:46

I am now single and I miss sex (although I would never admit this to anyone in real life)

I have considered buying a vibrator but am far too embarrassed to go into a shop to buy one and am nervous about shopping online - partly because I don't know what to buy and partly because (and I know it sounds silly) they will have my name and I really don't want anyone anywhere to know about this. I know, silly, but I can't seem to get over this

Slowboat Wed 12-Nov-14 10:32:00

Hi I've just come across from twitter. I am 57 and I've never had an orgasm although I do enjoy sex with my husband, I've become so used to faking it I'm not sure whether it's too late to do something about it now. Do some women just not have orgasms?

I've never talked about this with my friends as I assume they all have very healthy sex lives with their partners.

I do love my husband by the way, and not having an orgasm doesn't mean I don't enjoy the intimacy of sex. I would be interested to find out whether I am normal in this.

pattypan Wed 12-Nov-14 10:34:37

I was brought up to think that sex was somehow "dirty" and although I have had a good sex life (I think) in spite of this there is still a part of me that is somehow ashamed of this fact. In my head I know it's something that everyone does, that it's fine to do given I am a grown woman and married (yes - they told me sex out of marriage was a cardinal sin) I would love to change the way I feel as I think it would make me less inhibited.

Paulie Wed 12-Nov-14 10:36:22

I divorced 18 months ago and my friends have told me I need to go internet dating. After 31 years of marriage I'm concerned about the expectations a lady might have of me these days in this modern age.
I am quite active (I'm 76) but not sure what to expect.

damson Wed 12-Nov-14 10:39:18

Hi trudy. I'm not sure you (or anyone really!) can help, but I have a question about getting over a breakup. My husband and I were happily married for many years, or so I thought. He left me almost a year ago now, and i feel just as bereft as i did the week he left, despite a brief time when t thought i was on an even keel. i recently had to see him at our daughter's birthday lunch, which has sent me right back to square 1 it feels. other than occasions like that, i've asked him not to contact me and he seems to be able to keep to this request with no trouble, which also hurts. Id just like your advice on how to feel better and stop pinning my hopes on him changing his mind. i'm quite young still but am certain that i won't find anyone like him again and have no interest in meeting anyone new - it would end in the same way, and i couldn't tolerate that again.

Violet1 Wed 12-Nov-14 18:00:28

Am I alone is disliking giving oral sex? If I start a new relationship will it be expected?

LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 12-Nov-14 18:04:36

We're really pleased to have Trudy on hand answering your questions this evening. Do join in if there's something you'd like to ask!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:11:04


Hi Trudy, thank you for coming on Gransnet. I don't have any questions, I'm quite happy with my relationship and my body, my partner's and our desires. I just thought it would make a change hearing from someone in our age group who is entirely satisfied.

I do struggle with the way sex is portrayed in films and other media now,as compared to when I was young, because I feel that the boundaries of what is acceptable are constantly being pushed. Is there an answer to how that can be challenged in our society? (I don't think so, other than looking after one's own sensibilities). Just the other night, my husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said "I can't watch this" and turned off a film we had been waiting to see for a while.

It is lovely to hear how happy you are with your relationship and your sex life; we tend to only say something when it’s going wrong!

However, it can sometimes be portrayed in the media as though there are no boundaries and for some this may be the case, but when I see someone with a sexual difficulty as a result of various media it is very sad.

Porn is probably the easiest to mention as I see a number of men who have got in to real difficulty as a result of excessive porn use, or poor body image and performance anxiety, believing they should be like the porn star in the movie!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:15:46


I remember watching a tv drama series called Tell Me You Love Me which showed sexual encounters in a non-shocking, quite matter of fact way, and included an older woman as one character, who was the therapist. I do remember being surprised when it showed her and her equally 'mature' husband...
I thought it quite refreshing that the grey-haired couple weren't just portrayed as ready for Horlicks and nothing else!

Shows how unusual that is for me to remember - you hardly ever see passion between older people on tv.

Yes, I agree it would be good to see more. I was involved in filming a documentary last year and one of the couples they followed through therapy were in their 60’s which was great.

I see lots of older couples in my clinic which is great, only yesterday I worked with a lovely couple he was 82 and she was 78 and they have for the first time experienced a sexual difficulty in their relationship, as she has had to have some surgery recently which affected her sexually, but they are
keen to get back on track, which is fantastic.

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:19:01


Well I've got a question. Note no change of name!

What if?

You are 52. Knackered. Working in a thankless job for virtually no wages. Running around after 3 grandchildren, 2 adult children, 1 demanding DiL, 1 single sister, 1 very ill (disabled mum), 1 very depressed dad and 1 EXTREMELY demanding 98 year old grandma?

How on earth can I find time to be, or feel sexy? Note no mention of husband. Bless him. He doesn't get a look in.

Unfortunately for many with demanding families life gets harder not easier! However, it is important to find time for yourself and your relationship. Could you possibly explain how you are feeling and negotiate a little more help so that you get time off too?!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:26:16


Is no-body going to ask any questions? Is everyone too shy? Or perhaps no one has a problem? Perhaps I could set the balls rolling with a few sample questions, purely in the pubic interest, of course - I am admitting to nothing.

A. What to do if HE is still very keen and SHE has lost all interest?

B. What to do if SHE is still very keen and HE has lost all interest?

C. Is Viagra ever the answer?

D. Does a permanent catheter or vaginal atrophy mean - THIS IS THE END?

E. Can you explain why some couples who have been together 30/40/50 years cannot discuss matters sexual with each other?

F. What to do if the mind is willing but the flesh is weak?

G. If you lose your partner in later life do you just have to come to terms with celibacy?

Just trying to be practical here - hope no-one is offended smile

A. I would want to ask “why has she lost all interest?” then maybe the problem can be addressed. Is it a psychological problem or a physical one? Or it could be a combination of both. There are many things that can be done to help couples regain intimacy if that's what they want.

B. When men lose interest in sex, it often has an underlying physical problem such as low testosterone. Sometimes men say they have lost interest and avoid sex if they are having problems with their erections and don't want to admit it! Again, lots of treatments available.

C. Viagra is helpful for men who have problems attaining and or maintaining an erection. Many men who have diabetes for example can often have erection problems and Viagra or similar drugs can be extremely beneficial.

Sometimes Viagra or similar drugs can be used "off license" in women, I have seen many women benefit from this, particularly women who have diabetes and in cases of MS.

D. Having to use things like catheters can be very off putting and uncomfortable but it doesn't have to be the end of your sex life. Sometimes certain positions have to be avoided or you may no longer be able to have penetrative sex. However, there are lots of other things you can do to keep the intimacy in your relationship alive.

Vaginal atrophy can be easily treated with localised oestrogen in the form of a cream or pellet; you don't necessarily have to take a full HRT. You would need to discuss this with your GP. There is also an excellent website which explains this in more detail.

E. Communication is key to a happy and fulfilling sex life. However, many people are embarrassed and the longer this goes on in the relationship the harder it gets! Sometimes I encourage couples to each write down things they like sexually and then swap papers. Books can also be helpful that you can share together, books can often be very permission giving - if it's written down it must be ok!

F. I'm not quite sure what you mean by the flesh being weak but if it's strength and stamina you mean, there are lots of "lazy" positions that can be fun and passionate. The spoon position is a good example of this.

G. It is very sad when someone loses their partner in later life and some people choose not to have another relationship for various reasons. However, I have seen many people over the years where it seems to be guilt that plays a big part. Just because someone chooses to have another relationship does not mean they didn't love their partner any less than someone who stays single.

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:27:42


It's good that there is someone who can offer advice.
When my father in law got married again in his 60s, he and his new wife had sexual problems and she turned to me for help - no way! Too personal.
I rang Social Services and asked "do you have anyone who can give sexual advice to the elderly?" and there was a suppressed giggle, and answer "No, sorry!"

It is a shame that sex therapy is sniggered about when in actual fact it is one of the most successful forms of therapy!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:34:17


I have had a real gigglegrin reading theses. I think jings should have her own radio/ TV show. I am going to ask a question though. If you ever meet me promise you'll forget I've asked this. Right up until my mid 50's I really was interested in sex. I could even be known to look at attractive men in the street. But it's gone. The whole thing. I never think or feel like sex. I'm so disinterested that I don't even miss it. Actually on some level I think it's freeing. I can now have a banter with men without worrying that they think I might be coming on to them or indeed they might be coming on to me. I have on occasions wondered if I should do anything about it but I just can't be arsed bothered. The thought of gels and creams is really off putting. Now my husband does somtimes ask why and I do tell him. I think he would like me to show an interest occasionally but accepts that we are happier now than ever. I'm much easier to live with than my old hormone crazed self. I don't think I've asked a question really I'm just wondering is this more common than I think or am I odd? blush

This is very common, a lot of women lose their desire during and post menopause. As the ovaries stop functioning, our testosterone reduces and this is key for women's sexual desire. Sex can sometimes become painful at this time too but again this can be addressed. Even if you choose to stop being sexual you can still retain the basic intimacy of kisses and cuddles so that he knows you still care!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:41:10


Following on from those very sensible suggestions - what if an OH is too shy to go to the doctor to ask for Viagra? I have heard that there are all sorts of dodgy substitutes out there.

I read somewhere that there are only sexual problems in a relationship if one person in the couple is unhappy with the way things are. Which may seem obvious, but many people think they have a problem purely because so many other people think they ought to be having more sex. All those magazine surveys have a lot to answer for, and how do we know people are telling the truth? The surveys I used to read in magazines (now given them up, too many adverts) all showed that sex lives slowed down hugely when people are only in their 40s. Older couples may part company and find a new partner, but then the desire once more settles down very quickly into affection, often after only a year or so. Some people have a very high sex drive, others do not, and it's really a bit of a lottery as to who you end up with, isn't it.

To say nothing of all the illnesses and ailments, stresses and tiredness, worry about ageing bodies and impotence. Boredom with the same old sexual routine but not wanting to hurt your partner's feelings.

Besides - I have been to a few dinner parties lately where there have been a mixture of older and us slightly younger couples. One of my friends is in her 50s, like me, and given to wearing low-cut tops and has a very flirtatious manner. Rather than being charmed by her, as all men seemed to be only a few years ago, the older ones in their mid 60s and above looked plain scared!

If your OH wont see the GP then you can access Viagra or one of the other similar drugs as there are now 4 available, so if the first one doesn’t work it is worth trying one of the others.

If you want to access on line safely then either Lloyds online chemist or Pharmact2u are very reputable. Your OH would need to complete an online questionnaire and he would get a response which will either say yes or no to the drug and then they will be sent in the post. It's quite an easy process but you will have to pay and prices vary so look at both sites.

You are right, it is only a problem if the couple are unhappy if one person in the relationship doesn’t want to be sexual. Lots of couples live without sex in their relationship and are perfectly happy.

I often say a relationship starts with lust then it progresses to love then unfortunately it can become boring! Again you are right - life gets in the way. Illness, stress and tiredness have a lot to answer for!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:43:37


Well, I can only say, Kiora, that I feel exactly the same way as you. Can I also say that Granny 23's questions are very good and just about sum up every possible problem/query. I've often wondered, with regards to Viagra, Cialis etc, if the doctors that prescribe it consult with the mens wive/partners before they do a prescription.

Good point made, many failed Viagra/Cialis use is because the partner was not involved in the process. If couples haven’t been sexual for a long time, for some it can even be years, just taking a tablet with no communication or maybe she has no idea he has even got them, it is very possible it will fail!

Violet1 Wed 12-Nov-14 18:46:33

Hello Trudy. I have a question. If I start a new relationship, with a younger man, Will he think it strange that I do not feel I can give him oral sex?

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:47:10


Trudy, I've had four operations for gynae cancer over the last ten years and both lots of groin lymph nodes removed. I have lost all interest in sex, no wonder, I don't feel physically capable at all.
It's my DH I feel sorry for. Any advice?

I am so sorry to hear what you have gone through and I'm sure sex is the last thing on your mind. However, should you decide you want to change that you should speak to your oncologist and gynaecologist to see what might be available.

I would be happy to speak to you more about this as it is difficult to know what treatment you may be able to have etc. without knowing what cancers and treatment you have had.

You can ask the team for my contact details if you feel you want to talk more.

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:50:43


Hi Trudy, I am wondering at what point do you think couples should seek sex/relationship counselling? Me and my partner have had issues in this area for as long as I can remember, I just don't know why we have them. We love each other, and every other aspect of our relationship is as good as it gets IMO, but this is our one shortfall and always has been.

Is it too late to do something about it (early 60s now) and seek help? We have the next twenty years stretching out ahead of us (I hope!) and I do feel sad that we have missed out on what others describe as fulfilling and exciting sex life, but I just don't know where we are going wrong.

Everything about it screams routine and dare I say it...boredom. I think it is his fault because he is too much of a gentleman and I think he blames me because I can be quite withdrawn.

I do find it difficult to talk about to him (or anyone!) and he certainly does, so we are at a bit of a stalemate...

Would be interested to hear your thoughts/ comments. Thank you.

There is never a right time to seek help it has to be when you feel ready. I have worked with many couples who have been together years before accessing sex therapy but hopefully they think it’s worth it when they did! If you look on the COSRT website you can locate a therapist in your area, it
also has lots of information which might be helpful as a starting point. Could you write down your thoughts and then share this with your husband and ask him to do the same. If this were your best friend what would you tell her to do? Be your own best friend for a few minutes it might be helpful.

Once we start communicating with our partners it does tend to get easier, especially as you see the benefits. Even if you don’t want to see a sex therapist you can buy some good books that can be helpful, put questions into Google you will get lots of ideas, which might help. It’s never too late to make changes and then the next 20 years can be just what you wanted!

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:54:29


Does anyone remember that film, The Family Way with Hayley Mills? I've been pondering lately as to why sex has never been high on my list of priorities [and isn't even on the list now!]. And it got me thinking back to things that happened when I was young. Not abuse or anything like that. But, I lived with my boyfriend at a time when it wasn't quite the done thing, so, when we were with his family we had to pretend that we had separate rooms in our student houses. Sometimes they would question me about 'my room' and I would go crimson. One time it happened in a room full of people at Christmas and I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. Soon afterwards other members of the family lived with their boyfriends and it was all open and accepted. But I had felt embarrassed and ashamed for years. I don't think I have ever got over it. A few other things happened round about that time as well that made it worse eg living in shared houses where the walls were so paper thin that we all heard what was going on in everyones rooms [some of them were very noisy blush] and I then felt inadequate. I just wondered how things like that do affect our sex lives as we get older. I did see a therapist once to try to save my marriage but she just said to me after I'd poured my heart out to her 'I think you are feeling guilty'. That was it; no advice just, somehow, blaming me sad.As nananew has just said, I do feel that it's part of my life that could have been so different and feel quite sad about it now [and do now feel guilty that my husband hadn't had the marriage he'd've wanted, although things might have been different if he'd just said to his family 'we're living together and that's that' instead of me having to live a lie]. My parents, bless them, much older and more conservative than my ex's just assumed we were living together [as man and wife, as they put it] and just said 'we'll give you £50 when you get married, which we did and they honoured it.

How we are brought up does play a part in all aspects of our lives. It can seem silly when we look back but we often don’t want to disrespect our parents and particularly as you say to admit living with someone in a time when this was rare is difficult. You mention that sadly your marriage ended and, yes, maybe it could have been different, but it takes two people to make a marriage work so you mustn’t feel guilty and blame yourself. We shouldn't have regrets in life just learn from situations and do it differently next time?

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:56:21


Actually I have a question if anyone can help my husband has totally gone off sex?

You say your husband has gone off sex? Was this gradual or sudden? If you have a good relationship and you can’t see what might be causing it I would suggest he gets his testosterone levels checked. This is much more common in men than we might think and testosterone deficiency in men is being detected more and more and is quite easy to treat. There is more information on my clinic website about this.

TrudyHannington Wed 12-Nov-14 18:58:28


My husband and I are happily married but both have developed back problems (disc for me, muscular for him)

Ideas for enjoying a healthy sex life without one of us yelping in pain or doing ourselves a mischief would be much appreciated

Unfortunately as we get older the mind might be willing but the body lets us down! Sometimes adding more cushions and or pillows can be really helpful.

Are you more comfortable sitting up or lying down? If you are more comfortable sitting up then you could go on top and put more pillows under your husband's back or he might be better just propped up more.

If you prefer lying on your back and he does too then the spoon position is a comfortable and lazy position to do. You could try facing each other on your sides?

However, experimenting with different positions whilst not actually being sexual to see how comfortable it is, is a great way to find out and lots of fun.