How to support your partner through the menopause

Gosia Bowling, Emotional Wellbeing National Lead at Nuffield Health, discusses five key things you should know to support your partner through the menopause.

The menopause isn’t just a women’s issue. Anyone can feel confused and unprepared by this life transition, which for too long has remained a taboo subject masked by myth and metaphor.

The menopause is second only to childbirth in terms of the impact it has on a woman’s body, sense of identity, emotions and sex life.

While some people have a good understanding of the symptoms, others can underestimate how tough the menopause can be for those experiencing it. Understanding this phase is a worthwhile investment for people who value the relationships with the women in their lives.

Here are 5 ways you can support your partner:

1. Be understanding

Referred to ominously for many years as ‘the change’, the menopause can feel like a hijack of the person you love and your relationship.

Fluctuating hormones cause the following symptoms, all of which can feel like a hostile takeover of a woman’s body and emotions:

  • Mood changes
  • Hot flushes
  • Broken sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Loss of libido
  • Vaginal dryness and soreness.

Making light of these symptoms can undermine the distress that some women experience, leaving them feeling unsupported and misunderstood. It’s much more helpful to be understanding and reassuring as she goes through this transition.

2. Be patient

There’s a common misconception that the menopause is over and done with in a couple of years. However, symptoms can start several years before periods stop and continue long afterwards.

Being prepared for the long haul can help you and your partner plan strategies that will be beneficial to both of you.

3. Ask her what she needs

Some people report how distressing it is for them to see their partner changing. It can be difficult to know how to act when someone you love is going through a myriad of physical and emotional changes.

Ask your partner what they need and remember that small acts of kindness can make a huge difference when someone is feeling overwhelmed.

4. Ask how she's feeling

Everyone’s experience of the menopause is unique. This isn't surprising, given that it’s inextricably linked to the ageing process and often coincides with other life stressors, such as adjusting to an ‘empty nest’ and caring for elderly relatives.

Some women feel liberated by the end of cramps, bleeding and pregnancy fears, but for others the end of fertility feels like a loss, with menopausal and post-menopausal changes seeming less desirable than periods.

Make time to ask your partner how they’re feeling and talk about what they are going through, so that you understand their individual situation.

5. Encourage acceptance

Physical and hormonal changes can cause weight gain, reduce body confidence and libido, and lead to painful sex. However, research suggests great sex and intimacy can continue long after the menopause, with emotional closeness being positively linked to orgasm and desire.

Keep talking to maintain intimacy, while encouraging love and acceptance of her changing body.

In summary: Communication is key

Exploring solutions together helps couples see the menopause as an issue to work through as a team. And sometimes the best solution is simply to listen, support and reassure your partner.

Last updated Friday 28 April 2023

First published on Monday 28 October 2019