My Inbox is filled with requests from men (and women but I’m focussing on men, here), seeking information about how they can help their wives/partners. I get a lot of phone calls, too. This comes as no surprise as my own husband and I had a complete communication breakdown which was on the road to having disastrous effects – divorce. Thankfully, through very troublesome times, we started to communicate better and our 30 years together didn’t go down the pan. It wasn’t for nothing. A can be and is, a very painful, very scary time for both parties.
Knowledge is a very powerful thing and we ALL, men and women, need more education about menopause and the trouble it can cause– or to use modern phrasing… the challenges that need to be faced. Either way, menopause can cause huge disruption to any household.
Support and advice, here and now.
Historically, men have always been asked to ‘leave the room’ when ‘women’s problems’ were being discussed, so it’s no surprise that knowledge is limited. Would it surprise you to learn that women’s knowledge of menopause is also limited? The symptoms of menopause can be a very difficult subject to tackle as your partner may not wish to acknowledge that she’s even at the stage where she’s beginning to go through menopause. For one thing, she thinks she is too young. We ALL think menopause happens to older women. Well, actually, hormones start changing from around the age of 35 but things generally start to go crazy from about 46-48 onwards.
You may already be recognising that she’s not quite herself – forgetting things, feeling aggressive towards you and other members of the family or even colleagues at work. You try to help but all you get is defiance and (probably) verbal abuse. And, it’s hard to reconcile yourself to the fact that she doesn’t realise she’s being so mean. It’s her hormones!.
You can help and here’s how … This cartoon captures some of the real problems experienced by women at menopause. It’s no joke! Disney’s famous Dwarves and they’ve been re-named: itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, bloated, forgetful & Psycho. Yep, you’re allowed to laugh out loud! Women laugh about this cartoon every time I show it. Why? Because, they recognise these names as something that happens to them, more or less, on a monthly basis. It’s called PMS and let me tell you now, Menopause is PMS on Speed!
That’s why knowledge is so important. Without any knowledge of what’s going on you could become a divorce statistic for all the wrong reasons. I’ve seen it happen all around me, it nearly happened to me and I read about it all the time. It’s very real.
Menopause the Movie! I recommend you watch this short movie, with or without your partner. It tells a very moving real life story. https://www.simplyhormones.com/video.asp
So now, the woman in your life is going through menopause. She’s already been the butt of all your bad jokes, may even have joined in the fun. But you have no idea what she is really going through and, the odds are, neither does she! At no other time in a woman’s life is she faced with such a psychological and physiological change than at menopause.. She is actually going through a metamorphosis and it’s like the blind leading the blind. That’s pretty strong stuff. The worst part is, she’s suffering but pretending she can deal with it. Society has always expected women to be knowledgeable where hormonal health is concerned. Menopause is not something that lasts a couple of weeks and then you get over it. It goes on for years. During some moments, she’s feeling OK and others you think she’s lost the plot! She thinks she’s lost the plot. She feels so lonely and isolated and the last thing she wants is for people to make fun of her.
Menopause is about ageing and can throw up a lot of irrational fears as none of us really wants to acknowledge it. We grin and bear it. But ageing is not what it used to be. We’re all living longer and working longer. There’s probably another 30 years to fill, for a start. This should be the beginning of a new chapter in your lives but it takes time and effort on both sides to get through this trying time.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats.
Being familiar with the name and experiencing it first hand are two completely different things. If your partner gets it bad and what I mean by that is that she can be getting hot and sweaty 24/7, she will be so distressed you won’t know what’s hit you! She may want to sleep elsewhere in the house ~ not because she can’t stand you snoring any more (!) but because she is sweating so much during the night she has to keep getting up to have a wash or a shower, perhaps even change the bed linen.
Menopause is a very emotional time in a woman’s life, both physically and mentally and if both of you are getting more information on the subject and understanding it better, realising that it’s hormones again that are the cause of all this, then you can both be sailing in slightly calmer waters. Various things can help reduce these two particular symptoms and I’ve put together an information pack on that (available for purchase in The Notebook).
I don’t need to give you a lesson in biology, you can see what’s going on every time you walk through the front door, perhaps more clearly than your partner can see herself. If you find she is depressed or aggressive, in other words, and to use the vernacular, totally off her trolley, there may be underlying causes that are contributing to this. She probably needs someone to talk to and, unfortunately, it’s not you. She may not wish to discuss this with you or her doctor. It’s a difficult one to deal with. She may not appreciate your sympathy or that you are trying to understand all this. Finding out about it sooner rather than later can help reduce the effects of many of the symptoms. (I cover this particularly emotional symptom in The Notebook. Link here)
Communication is key to everything. As long as you both talk to each other (not shout and argue and try to apportion blame for whatever it is you are arguing about) then you will both begin a journey of learning more about each other and your own needs. Now it’s your turn. You have your own issues, as well, don’t you? You will experience some physical and emotional changes yourself; not on such a grand scale but you will experience biological changes that you will not be pleased about, especially as it’s also a sign of your own ageing. I’m talking, of course about erectile dysfunction. The bottom line is, unless you communicate, you are both between a rock and a hard place.
Life just changed direction. Your partner will go off Sex. This is a biological fact and will cause her a lot of stress and also a lot of pain if she does consent to sex. Men are sexually active for far longer than women. This is a biological fact of life but there are things that can be done to relieve the pain, distress and discomfort for your partner as well as restoring her libido, if that is what she wants to do. There are two things to be aware of , here: your partner may either a) want more sex or b) go off it altogether and may not always understand why. The fact is, as she no longer has any eggs, there is no further need for all her hormones to continue as they have before. The brain then starts sending the wrong messages all over the place which can, quite frankly, send her round the bend. You may recall, at puberty, when you, yourself were a rebellious teenager? Something similar happens to women at menopause but instead of all those hormones rushing in, they’re on a slow march out the door. It’s very unsettling – physically and mentally. Be patient, be understanding. To explain further, because of the decline in hormone levels, she will have a low sex drive and the previous situation of natural lubrication occurring in the vagina enabling normal sexual relations, this area is now drying up and the walls of the vagina are thinning and believe me, when I tell you that sex becomes very painful.
Full penetration causes a sharp needle-like burning pain. She may bleed. Her response maybe just to say ‘no’ to your advances. You will feel you are getting the cold shoulder but, quite honestly, she’s upset that this is happening and embarrassed to talk to you about it. She doesn’t want to hurt your feelings but something has to change. You may both read in magazines that many couples enjoy a happy and healthy sexual relationship, well into old age – are they lying? pretending? Or, did they manage to get to the bottom of the problem and sort it out? There are lubricant gels available to purchase over the counter to help this problem but in my view, they’re not much good. There are a number of things to consider here which I discuss in more detail in The Notebook (link) but there are gels and pessaries available from the doctor and others available over the counter and online. If you’re after a brand name, ‘Vagifem’ is easy to use, is not messy and is safe, available on prescription. Two products available from good chemists or online are Sylk and ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’. All these products have to be applied at regular intervals. Please don’t use standard lubricants, such as KY Jelly – No! No! No! You will be in BIG trouble!
This condition is not going to go away, either. It’s for life. If nothing is done, the condition will only worsen and take longer to re-establish a healthy moist area. Using these products will make a difference ‘down there’ and your sex life should take on a change for the better – as long as you combine the medication with communication! Love-making is a very emotional experience for women – please make it a memorable experience for all the right reasons. Talk to each other about it. Find out what she really likes. Please don’t get cross if she says “No” when you fancy sex. It’s not the be all and end all of a happy relationship.
By communicating, things should improve. The woman in your life may show periods of distress ~ “I can’t do this any more!”, “I don’t know if I like you any more!”, “It’s all your fault!”, “why do I have to do everything?” “I don’t know how you can love me when I’m such a miserable old bag!”. “I don’t know who I am anymore!” Mention my programme The Notebook (link) where she can read through all the Symptoms and the remedies. It will settle her fears that she’s NOT alone in this. She isn’t alone – seven out of ten women experience debilitating symptoms.
Divorce statistics are increasing at menopause. Women are usually the instigators. A GP on a BBCRadio 4 Woman’s Hour programme phoned in to say: “If I had known more about my wife’s menopause symptoms, we would still be married” and that was from a doctor! Until you begin to understand the list of stressful symptoms that women go through, you could end up as a divorce statistic. If you love her enough, you will want to support her through this time. It’s a long and arduous journey, keep talking!
Viagra, the medication prescribed to men for erectile dysfunction is now at the centre of divorce cases. The men were invariably aged over 50, and a notable feature was that many had used their new lease of sexual life to cheat on their wives, particularly with younger women. I’m not suggesting for one moment that you are one of those men. Paula Hall, a sexual psychotherapist with marriage counselling service Relate, said there had been a rising number of cases in which Viagra had caused more problems than it had solved. “You get men who have been unable to have a sexual relationship with their wives for years (they take Viagra and) suddenly becoming ready 24-7 as it were” she said. “They feel that this gives them the right to make demands of their partners without any regard for their feelings. I am seeing a lot of women who blame Viagra for wrecking their relationship.” Phillip Hodson, of the British Association of Counselling, warned that Viagra had been linked to sexual aggression. “The success rate for restoring sexual function in the case of Viagra is above 90%,” he said. “For men, the regained potency is fantastic, but five times a day can be too much for the wife. Viagra takes men back to when they were a young stud. So we have men who are 55 acting as if they were 25, and wives who are 53 acting as if they are 53. (source: Daily Express, 04/04)
• Don’t run away! Menopause can be life changing but it is transitional.
• It can take many years to complete the process of menopause but time goes quickly
• When you are together ~ instead of arguing, discuss each other’s likes and dislikes. She’s likely to be aggressive and nasty ~ change the way you respond to this.
• Be more diplomatic.
• Offer to help with the shopping, cooking, cleaning
• Go out to eat more often ~ she’s probably gone off food (the preparation of it, that is).
• This is a partnership, share more.
The end result of all this care and attention should see you both walking off into the sunset a happier, better informed and therefore more loving couple.
A good organisation to contact if you need advice on relationship problems, either individually or as a couple, is www.relate.org.uk.
If you would like to discuss your particular situation direct with me, here’s how: https://www.simplyhormones.com/mainpage.asp?pid=53 Put my consultation contact page into The Menopause Lady?