Part 1, Part 2
You’re an absolute star for searching how you can help your wife or partner through the menopause! How very fortunate she is.
I hope that the two of you will each read both Part 1 (Signs and symptoms of the (peri)menopause) and Part 2 of this series of articles.
Because I want to help you, your partner and your relationship.
“A lot more men should get to know more about women’s problems. It really helps to talk about it.”
Let’s start by looking at what many men have told me their experience is of their wife or partners menopause. You’ll know you’re not alone and hopefully will feel your feelings validated.
Do you feel in the dark about the menopause and what precisely it entails?
Here is what other husband or partners have said…
How you may have interpreted the signs and symptoms of the menopause
- “I often feel rejected, particularly in bed.”
- “I wonder if she’s having an affair.”
- “I think she’s suffering from depression.”
- “I suspect/know that she’s troubled by some health issues.”
- “Her work is causing her stress causing her to be terribly tetchy and I’m bearing the brunt of it.”
- “I think she taking it badly that the children have left home – empty nest syndrome and all that.”
- “I’m really not sure that she loves me anymore.”
- “I think that she’s cottoned on to my misdemeanours (spending, mistress, secret bank account, drinking, addiction to adult content, gambling.)”
Any of these may or may not be true, of course! In any case, the menopause is likely to play a significant role.
The physical and emotional side-effects of the menopause (and perimenopause) are all too real. But they can be even harder to cope with if the two of you have already been struggling to keep your relationship or marriage afloat.
The good news is that there’s much you can do to avoid problems creeping up and overwhelming you both.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to alleviate the situation…
Expert advice on how to help your partner or wife through the menopause
There’s much you can do to support your partner – to the benefit of not only your partner but also you and your relationship.
12 ways you can help and support your wife or partner
- See it as an opportunity to get to know the love of your life all over again and reinvigorate your relationship. Get my Loving Communication Kit for Couples.
- Keep, or gently and kindly introduce, a sense of humour when appropriate (use your judgement!)
- Deliberately be on the lookout for the good times between the upsets, and talk about them often. Talk about where and when the two of you really work well as a team.
- Know that your partner or wife will find her balance again. Remind yourself of that whenever you feel yourself gritting your teeth.
- Bear in mind that you too may have to face something similar (whether you’re male or female). Or perhaps you already have been through what is called the andropause.
- Be supportive, and don’t give up even if your valiant attempts are rejected or go unrecognised. Ask for what your wife or partner needs. Offer support in a way that you know your partner or wife will appreciate.
- Expect to sometimes feel at fault, rejected, angry, frustrated and miffed. Yep, not what you’d choose! But, don’t take things too personally if you – after some consideration – feel it’s unwarranted.
- Avoid the temptation to dismiss things as her just being hormonal – she still needs your understanding and respect
- Don’t say: “There must be a cure for it” if your partner has plucked up the courage to talk to you about what she’s going through. There is no cure. HRT comes with all kinds of disadvantages – even if your partner did want to take it.
- Don’t suggest she needs antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs – these kinds of medication are proven to jeopardise the long-term outcome. She’s perfectly capable to make her own choices.
- Don’t try and come up with any other fix – believe me, there really is no easy fix! Listen to her, find out what she needs, and be supportive
- Offer practical help – remember: she can be too tired to cope with all life’s usual demands. If you can, and she appreciates it, consider taking over the responsibility for specific tasks.
What does all this mean for your relationship or marriage?
Perhaps the two of you were already having some problems before you even became perimenopausal (see my article on common relationship problems).
The menopausal signs and symptoms then only add another complication to what middle age may already present.
You may already be dealing with elderly parents, children leaving – or coming back – home, financial worries, job dissatisfaction, a feeling of being stuck etc.
I’m pretty sure neither of you bargained for any of these kinds of mid-life issues when you first got together (unless you met later in life)!
So let’s look at covering your basic needs (yours and your partner’s), before we home in on what you can do to help you both survive the menopause…
How to meet your essential emotional needs
I’m going to give you a birds-eye view of what we really need to be as strong, resilient and happy as we can. Those essential emotional needs are human givens – we are born with them. For a full explanation, take a look at my article on The Human Givens.
To maximise your sense of well being right now, there are a few givens you can concentrate on…
You need a sense of control and volition
You need to know and feel that you matter and that you have an impact on your environment, particularly at home. However, I’m sure you’ve already experienced that there’s much in life you have no control over. You can take some control by setting some boundaries though. Know what you can and are willing to do, and what you won’t or can’t do.
Aim to be generous and understanding, but be clear about your boundaries in your own mind. If you feel hesitant when faced with a request, say something like:
“I want to help as much as I can, therefore let me think about it for a bit, to see how I can best help in this situation.”
When you do have your answer, be honest – “I can do…
… that part of your request
… at that time and for so long
… in that manner.”
Really listening, giving it your time, mulling it over, and setting and honouring each other’s boundaries helps to cultivate respect.
Giving and receiving attention
You and your partner may need to carve out time and space for just that.
- Discuss it as soon as you can.
- Take your diaries and put a big cross on one evening a week when demands from others take second place.
- Plan a day away together once a month and take it in turns to decide on and organise the day’s events.
Also, read my article about what to do when you’re bored in your relationship.
You need some privacy – for several reasons
You’ll need time for reflection and simply getting away from it all – we all do.
You’ll also need privacy together – time away from all that interrupts that privacy to talk, be tender and make love.
We’ll talk about your physical relationship further down the page.
rediscover Meaning and purpose
Menopause, andropause and midlife crises offer an opportunity to reassess meaning and purpose in your lives. You need to know that your existence and your contributions to the immediate world around you (and further afield if that’s your aim) has value.
- Reignite a passion you’ve always had
- Set new relationship goals
- Consider finding a shared interest in voluntary work, or any other interest
Expect to have some really challenging conversations about what each of you wants to do with the rest of your life.
Allow each other space to make some major changes with regards to the above. Remember though, that you’re each responsible for your own anxieties about what that could mean to your relationship
5 steps towards a better relationship
- Take responsibility
Consider your role in the relationship. You may well discover that there’s much you can do yourself to turn the relationship around, or at least keep it on an even keel.
- Get to know each other
Aim for open and honest discussions. Be curious, show you’re interested in each other and ask questions – get to really know each other again.
- Don’t blame it all on the menopause
Make a distinction between menopausal symptoms and existing relationship problems.
- Adjust to find a balance
Be sure to balance time together as well as time with the family, and time for each of your individual interests and hobbies.
- Expect the unexpected
Chances are you’re revisiting all that’s happened over the years, both personally and as a couple. This can have consequences for you both. It could potentially spell the end of your relationship or marriage – or mark the beginning of a new, stronger chapter together.
Last, but not least – let’s talk about your physical relationship
Your physical relationship during the menopause
Your wife or partner may…
- … feel sore; vaginal dryness can cause pain during intercourse
- … have tender breasts
- … have lost confidence in herself and her body
- … be suffering from low self-esteem on account of her changing body shape and the confrontation with the ageing process (recognise that feeling?)
- … want and need physical closeness, even when she rejects your advances
- … not feel much like making love now her body is less responsive
- … feel too young to shelve your physical desires
- … secretly have considered having an affair, or already be unfaithful
- … have become more aware of beautiful – and possibly available – people around them
- … even feel guilty that your thoughts alone are like a betrayal, even if you’ve never been unfaithful
- … feel increasingly reluctant to even mention that you’d like to make love for fear of being rejected yet again
3 steps towards a better physical relationship
See this as an opportunity to rediscover each other’s bodies, and to (re)build your intimacy..
- THE most important step is to really invest in having a good and enjoyable physical relationship, even if it doesn’t lead to intercourse. You could ask your partner to satisfy your partner without having intercourse. You could offer her a ‘non-threatening’ massage (stay away from the breasts and genital area).
This can help to satisfy both your needs for giving and receiving attention in a physical and emotional way
- Use a water-based cream. Bring it in unobtrusively or make it part of the ritual. Remember that her vagina has become thin under the shift in hormonal balance.
- Be aware of her rejecting you only because she worries that if she responded, you might take it as an invitation for more. In other words, make a distinction between lovingly touching and hugging each other and touching to make love.
According to therapist Lonnie Barbach, it can really help using a scale from 1 to 9 to indicate how amorous you’re each feeling.
1 Means “not at all,” 5 means “I’m convince-able,” and 9 means “Let’s do it!”.
This particular time in your lives can be full of challenges. It can be particularly challenging with specific relationship problems and issues. Your wife or partners menopause is a relatively small part of that.
However, it also offers great opportunities for personal growth. My advice would be to embrace those challenges. Trust that you can have a positive impact if you aim to reinvigorate your relationship as well as your personal goals.
Know that you’re far more capable than you ever thought you were!