A woman who split from her husband seven years ago finds that, as she struggles with her mental health, he is by her side and in her bed. Mariella Frostrup responds
The dilemma I have been having a dreadful time with the menopause for the past two years and a mental health team is now involved with my care. My husband and I split up seven years ago, but we remained close and see each other often. My husband has stayed the past couple of nights as Im in quite a scary place, but we ended up having sex, and lots of it. I have not had sex for a long time and our sex life when we were married was never good, it was a real chore for me. We talked so much and have felt totally relaxed around each other. Please tell me whats happening to me as I am meant to be having a breakdown, but I am having the most wonderful time with my husband. I had not slept for three nights before that when the psychiatric nurse prescribed me sleeping tablets. My mood swings are horrendous, yet I feel I have fallen in love with the man who has always been my rock. Its like I am seeing him for the first time.
Mariella replies Perhaps you are! Thank you for providing a sliver of tangible proof to back up my specious theory that the devil you know can occasionally reinvent himself. What a relief to the many frustrated couples out there despairing of ever rekindling passion. Thats the good news!
You are in the throes of a particularly malevolent menopausal period, in the care of mental health experts and on medication, the side effects of which I am entirely unaware. Its fair to say there are a lot of potential disrupters to your state of mind. Before you rush to your wardrobe to dust off your wedding dress, I suggest you share this latest development, not only with me, but with those professionals who are charged with your welfare.
It may be bizarre, but its certainly not shameful that you and your ex have rediscovered your mojo. But just as antidepressants can curtail your sexual appetite, so other forms of medication can heighten and exaggerate your physical and emotional responses. When the meds wear off you dont want to find yourselves facing each other across the kitchen table and wondering what on earth it was that propelled you back under the same roof.
Its early days, of course, but it has always struck me as odd that we have no expectation of passion resurfacing. In life we enjoy repetition in so many areas, and plenty of them are sensual food, massage, scents to name a few so why do we think that once an attraction fades, it will never take on a new form and appeal again?
Theres another reason I welcome your letter and thats because it mentions the menopause. Generally the only news were given on that front is bad most recently the connection between HRT and the increased risk of breast cancer a further addition to the grim tidings. Clearly the hormonal disruption that has affected your mental health so badly is nothing to go whoop about, but your reawakened sexuality definitely is.
There is an unfathomable mystery to this hormonal readjustment, despite being experienced by 50% of the worlds population. Much of it is down to the shroud of shame too often draped over the workings of womens bodies. The trickle-down effect of titbits of information from those brave enough to acknowledge the M word has led us to realise that hot flushes and flaring tempers are not the only symptoms. Anxiety, sleeplessness, mania, out-of-character behaviour and, perhaps, judging by your experience, a renewed and voracious sexual appetite, can all be thrown into the pot labelled natural symptoms. Surely its time for a serious investigation into the scientific truth and cultural taboos around the menopause a condition we understand so little about that its burdened with the same level of stigma as a terminal illness.
Im delighted that, in this dark passage of your life, light has poured in with the presence of your ex. Hes certainly worthy of reconsideration for being at your side during troubled times and in your bed these last few days. That said, the fact that you havent slept for three nights makes me worry about your capacity to make rational judgments. I suggest you continue to enjoy the pleasure of his company, but wait until the mist of medicine clears before you leap to any long-term conclusions. Also, be honest with the professionals helping you, because their ability to support you depends on understanding what you are feeling. And enjoy this gift of life-affirming passion and companionship from what seems an unlikely quarter.
Im not so sure our relentless march forward is in our best interests as a species. Relationships can be victims of bad timing or immaturity, compelling alternative distractions and many other changing priorities. So when we walk away from a person with whom weve shared chemistry, whos to say that a future spark cant reignite that inferno?