The ‘men’ in the menopause – supporting your partner during this important time

Gosia Bowling, Prevention Lead Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, discusses five key things men should know about the menopause so they can better support their partners.

The menopause isn’t just a women’s issue. Women and men alike 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 men have a good understanding of the symptoms, others can underestimate what women go through. Understanding this phase is a worthwhile investment for men who value the relationships with the women in their lives.

Here are 5 things to know about the menopause:

1. It’s a big deal

Referred to ominously for many years as ‘the change’, the menopause can feel like a hijack of the woman 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. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

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. It requires patience

Some men 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.

Be patient, ask your partner what she needs and remember that small acts of kindness can make a huge difference when someone is feeling overwhelmed.

4. All woman are unique

Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different. 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, this isn’t surprising.

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 she’s feeling and talk about what she’s going through, so that you understand her individual situation.

5. Loss of libido

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. You can find out more about the menopause here.

Last updated Monday 28 October 2019