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  • Writer's pictureClaire Jack

10 Ways Men Can Help Their Partners During Menopause

Rod Stewart has spoken out about his wife, Penny’s, experience of menopause, describing her mood swings as “frightening. It wasn’t the person I married”. In addition to finding out as much as he could about menopause, he said how valuable menopause lessons for men would be. Here are a few tips for men to help their partners during menopause.

1) Do your research

Rod Stewart was right on point when he started googling everything he could about menopause. Finding out why your partner’s behaviour has changed drastically, why she’s fatigued, teary and struggling means you can help her. When you don’t know what she’s going through, your response might be to feel frightened and back off, at a time when she really needs you.

2) Be patient

Menopause doesn’t appear or disappear overnight. Actual menopause is defined as the time in a woman’s life when she has her last menstrual period (once she hasn’t had a period for a year or more, she’s menopausal). The average age for this is fifty-one. But the lead up to menopause (perimenopause) can last for years, with some women experiencing menopausal symptoms for up to fifteen years. During this time, hormonal levels are fluctuating and decreasing, causing a range of symptoms. What we think of as “menopause” is actually the lead up and follow on from the end of a woman’s periods, and it can be a very long process.

3) Talk, talk, talk

This is a really confusing time for your partner, when she’s having to deal with a massive shift in her physical and mental self. Keep the communication channels open and be ready to talk and comfort her whenever you can.

4) Become a team

If your partner’s menopausal symptoms are affecting you, it’s important to open up about your experience in a way which signifies the fact that you’re a team and you’re in this together. If you’re feeling angry and resentful about the change in your partner, holding in all your feelings may just make the situation worse. Find ways to express what’s going on for you in a way which recognises your partner’s experience and your desire to work together to improve the situation. Instead of saying, “I can’t cope with your mood swings any more”, reframe that to, “I’ve been feeling very helpless when you’ve been having those severe mood swings. I want to be able to support you in the right way so that we’re as strong as ever”.

5) Ask what she needs

You can think of hormones as chemical messengers in the brain and body, and, at this point in your partner’s life, there will be some messengers which are completely new to her. What’s always worked in the past isn’t necessarily going to work for her just now. Don’t assume you know the best way to offer support; ask her what she needs from you.

6) Appreciate her confusion

As a man, you probably don’t know much about menopause. Truth is, your partner probably doesn’t know much about it either. Reading about hormones is very different to experiencing their impact. Your partner is muddling her way through this in the same way that you are.

7) This is about more than hormones

During perimenopause, many of the physical and mental issues face are due to the fluctuations and gradual reduction of the two main female hormones; estrogen and progesterone. However, it’s not just about the hormones. Your partner may be facing difficulties with coming to terms with a loss of fertility and ageing. Women who have had fertility issues may experience this particularly intensely, and even women who are happy not to have any children, or any more children, may have to adjust to their changing bodies. Midlife can be a tough time for other reasons including increased responsibility at work, “empty nest” syndrome and being part of a sandwich generation, caring for children and elderly parents. Hormones are only part of the story. On that note, saying “it’s just your hormones” is dismissive and hurtful. An understanding about the impact of hormones is useful. Using it as an explanation for everything minimises your partner’s experience.

8) Support your partner’s need to change

Many of my clients describe this as a time of potential. There’s often a realisation that, although you’ve hopefully got half your life ahead of you, life isn’t infinite. Many women seize on this as a time to implement change in their life, including career change and exploring their creativity. It can feel worrying to be on the receiving end of a partner who is expressing a need for change, but it’s important to realise the significance of this for your partner. Perhaps it’s a time when you can explore your own potential.

9) Embrace changing sexuality

Many women experience a loss of libido during menopause and may face additional sexual issues, including vaginal dryness. Your partner may seem less interested in sex than she has done in the past, and she may find vaginal sex difficult. She might feel embarrassed about talking to you about these issues. You can still have sex, great sex, if you use this as an opportunity to experiment with differing sexual experiences (and possibly bringing in lubrication as part of your sexual experience).

10) Reassure your partner that you still love her and find her attractive

Many of my clients describe self-esteem issues. Particularly if your partner has always had body issues or low self-esteem, this time of change may trigger a sense of feeling unattractive or unlovable. Many men aren’t aware of how their partners feel and continue doing what they’ve always done. This might be a time when your partner needs extra reassurance that you love her, that you find her as attractive as always and that your feelings are as strong as they’ve always been.

Whether your partner chooses Hormone Replacement Therapy, complementary therapies, or simply needs more time alone or to pursue her interests, it’s important for both of you to see this as an evolution of your relationship, and one which can take it in a positive direction.

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