This is a challenging time for you – and bewildering for your partner. If he’s getting things wrong, keep communicating in order to navigate the storm successfully together.
Problem 1: He might genuinely be clueless.
To be fair, you probably also didn’t know much about ‘The Change’ until it started happening to you. So cut him some slack, A 2019 survey published in the Journal of the North American Menopause society found that only 21% of men correctly identified menopause as a hormonal change and 46% of men didn’t know menopause treatments exist. The fact that some men have little knowledge about menopause symptoms makes this transition difficult for them to understand and cope with. The good news is you can educate him. It’s worth it. According to a study published in the Journal of Women & Aging, once men better understand menopausal changes, it ‘fosters the development of better emotional support for their wives, which improves the quality of marital relations.’
Problem 2: He’ll probably avoid talking about it.
Does your husband pretend ‘The Change’ simply isn’t happening? Does he choose to ignore the obvious signs – perhaps out of well-place fear that you might implode? Explain that menopause is not an embarrassing illness or anything that needs fixing. It’s an integral part of being a woman. Mary Esselman, poet and author of “How Did This Happen?” warns men that menopause is not something we just ‘go through’. Instead, she notes, it can be years of bad sleep, weird anxiety, and dramatic mood swings. ‘We can’t gloss over it,’ she says. ‘Ageing is not an abstraction, it’s a real thing. Menopause is a pretty disruptive aspect of growing older as a woman.’
Problem 3: He could also make light of it.
Coach him about why you behave erratically – crying one minute, laughing the next. Mood swings aren’t a joke. Nor are hot flashes. And if your partner thinks menopause means saying a joyous goodbye to the monster you turned into when you were pre-menstrual, he needs a gentle wake up call. ‘There are some things that are a little bit harder for men to understand,’ says American gynaecologist Grace Gibbs. ‘They often don’t quite get what you’re going through and how menopause can affect you as a whole. It’s about much more than just your period stopping.’ Get him to understand that providing support and affirmation – instead of making jokes – is more likely to help you through a hard day.
Problem 4: He might not understand why you don’t want sex
While dry spells are common in a long-term partnership and often resolve on their own once things stabilise, if you’ve gone off sex for an extended period of time, your relationship can suffer. Encourage your partner to be patient and explain that while your mind might be willing, your body might not be because of hormonal changes. Focus on incremental change, and don't be shy to suggest therapy. Reassure him that your libido will revive – and consider talking to your doctor about topical oestrogen creams to relieve vaginal dryness if you are not on HRT. ‘Partners need to recognize that changes are going to happen, and they need to be on board with what it takes to accommodate that,’ says menopause care specialist Dr Barb Depree. ‘For a lot of women, it’s hard to have that conversation. Start with the facts and practical advice and then evolve the conversation from there.
Problem 5: He could simply misunderstand the ‘new’ you.
Reassure him that you haven’t transmogrified into an entirely new creature, you are simply experimenting with new interests, priorities and ideas. Encourage hm to join you for the ride. For instance, if you’ve moved into a health-conscious phase and are moving towards a plant-based diet to shift some unwanted menopausal weight gain, get him cooking in the kitchen with you. Explain that you are discovering parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed, and that want to enjoy experimenting and trying new things with him. If you partner is willing to grow with you during these turbulent times, your connection and chemistry can become stronger than ever.