Guys, this post is for you!
Imagine your wife wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m going through menopause and I have a gun. Any questions?” There may be some truth to this message but this situation doesn’t need to call for violence when living with menopausal women.
The rollercoaster into menopause shouldn’t be the dramatic experience that’s been portrayed in the movies. Menopause isn’t solely a women’s territory; their men live with it too. So how can you guys live with these women and survive through it, or maybe even help improve this experience?
12 Steps on how you can live successfully with women during menopause
- Do your homework. You might grab the manual in your workshop when your car is acting differently. But unfortunately, there is no manual that comes with your wife when you marry her. Wouldn’t that be awesome if it did!? How much do you know—or not know—about this natural biological process? Know that there’s no cookie-cutter template that every woman must follow. So just because your mother and sister sailed through menopause doesn’t mean your wife or girlfriend should also be free of troubling symptoms. Menopause is a physical process that can’t be prevented. The side effects vary from one woman to the next, just like the side effects of perhaps some medication you’re on: It’s different for every person. Know that the most common aspects of menopause are hot flashes and night sweats, weight gain, thinning hair, mood swings, depression and mental fog or forgetfulness. Isn’t that a nice bundle of fun? But there it is; these are the most common symptoms.
- Communicate. When you learn that she’s in menopause, don’t clam up or feel embarrassed. This is your business, too. Be approachable so that she feels at ease discussing it with you. Don’t tell her how she should feel, but let her know you’ll support her. In fact, if you become aware of the symptoms before she does, then suggest a doctor’s appointment to confirm where she’s at in life. It’s an easy test that will get you both working in the same direction. I hate to admit this but I was completely in denial and a doctor asked me if I was taking hormone replacement therapy. I was so shocked and pissed off! I’m not THAT old. But after thinking about it for a day, I realized, yes I AM that old. Geez. I’m glad I didn’t bite his head off. So for you husbands and boyfriends out there, just be careful of how you approach this topic; it might not be welcomed at first.
- Have a plan. Once you know what to expect, you can put a plan in place so that you’re not caught off guard. You may not be able to prepare for an outburst when she can’t balance the checkbook, but you can prepare, for instance, for soaking night sweats by having a second set of linens and night clothes ready for her to change into, plus some iced water or bottle mist sprayer in the refrigerator (she’d love that!).
- Anticipate. Prime yourself that she may be uncharacteristically irritable. Give her some leeway. The irritability or depression probably aren’t a direct biochemical result of menopause, but the uncomfortable symptoms (e.g., vaginal dryness, joint aches, insomnia, heart palpitations) can lead to these emotional changes. In fact, the mere knowledge that she’s no longer fertile could dampen her mood. Once you understand what to expect, you won’t be so shell-shocked when it happens.
- Don’t invalidate. Never say, “It’s all in your head.” Never compare her to your mother or sister who breezed through the change. Realize that your day is coming too (andropause; another topic for a later date). Don’t have an attitude. Think before you snap, and above all you don’t want to blame everything on menopause! Trust me, I feel for you, gentlemen. It’s not an easy phase for anyone.
- Accept adjustments. For example, if she insists on lowering the temperature in the car or the house thermostat, accommodate this. Hot flashes are very hard to explain. It’s nothing like being out on a hot day. The heat comes from inside the body and it can be quite nauseating and even feel like claustrophobia. It’s almost like you’re trapped in your own body and want to peel off the skin. Not a good visual but that seems to be the consensus on how women describe the feeling.
- Intimacy. A woman’s vagina loses its natural lubricating fluid and will become dry and shrink. Thus, sexual relations may be quite painful. Be gentle and understanding. This is a physical problem, not mental! So don’t take it personally. It’s not you. She may not even realize there are physical changes that impact her desire for ‘mattress dancing’. You might suggest you both visit a doctor who specializes in this area and come to a solution together. It might be embarrassing for both of you but get through it as partners who are trying to solve a problem. It’s a bit more complicated than solving the heater going out but much more important.
- Libido. Women naturally produce testosterone, which helps with libido. This hormone drops from menopause and can diminish the sex drive. Be empathetic; it will probably happen to you too! Getting mad at her won’t increase her testosterone. The loss in libido is temporary (thank goodness).
- Weight gain. If she’s despondent over an increasing waistline, then encourage her—along with yourself—to add some exercise to your lives. Go on regular hikes or bike rides. Join a gym. Take up rock-wall climbing. Go out dancing once a week. Focus on what her body can do, not how much it weighs. Think of it this way: this is a time you both can reinvent yourselves and have some fun. Take up a physical hobby that you’ve both been dreaming about but never did it. Go for it now!
- Keep it in perspective. Living with a woman going through menopause doesn’t have to be the turbulent experience that you may have seen in a sitcom. However, if her situation is really beginning to bite you, and then remind yourself that she’s healthy (assuming she is). Unfortunately, many men will be learning their wife has breast cancer. They’d love to trade places with you! And there are more important things in life than a high electric bill from the increased A/C.
- Stay grounded. Though the symptoms of menopause are real, this doesn’t mean your wife or girlfriend should use it as an excuse to pounce on you. Be patient and understanding, but not a pushover. This is a tough balance but instead of getting angry at an outburst from her, remind her that you have feelings and they can be hurt. That will usually help her realize that she’s kept her emotions unchecked. I’ll cover this for her in another post: how to keep yourself checked so you don’t hurt people’s feelings.
- Don’t patronize. If she asks how you like her hair extensions…and you can see the tracks in her scalp, don’t lie and over-praise, “Oh, it’s the most beautiful ‘do in the world!” She’ll detect your condescension. Be honest but not critical. Don’t treat her like a victim or baby; this will reinforce her feelings of inadequacy if that’s what she has. Have you heard of the sandwich approach? Start with what’s nice, then constructive criticism, then end with an overall encouragement. Works for men, women, and kids.
What if living with a woman during menopause gets to be too much? Asking for help isn’t easy but it’s so much easier than divorce
Be on the lookout for debilitating symptoms such as depression. Encourage a medical checkup including a thyroid test. Again, this symptom might not be mental and may actually be caused by physical changes.
Do not turn to the bottle, pills or junk food binges for mental therapy. Join a gym. Bitch slap a heavy bag. Go on a hard run. Go vent with the guys. If you’re out of shape, then get in shape; it will be something positive to focus on.
Join an online support group for men living with women during menopause.
I hope these suggestions help give you tools to work with during this trying phase. If you have any other suggestions that have worked for you, please add to the comments section of this website task management system. Others could learn from you too.