How to Support Your Partner Through Menopause
Like all the natural wonders that the body goes through, navigating the symptoms of menopause can be quite the feat for women undergoing it and for their spouses or partners too. Many lack comprehension on what menopause is and understandably so. Menopause is the natural cessation of the menstrual cycle, thus marking the end of a woman’s fertility. During this time, a woman’s hormone levels dip low, resulting in negative emotions and various physical changes that would make one feel ‘unattractive’ or ‘old’. The best way to help your partner through this is unequivocal support. Knowledge is power; by equipping yourself with information on menopause and all its symptoms, you can anticipate what’s to come and understand the source of forgetfulness, physical discomfort, sadness and depression which come with menopause. It’s only through understanding that you can provide much needed support to your loved one.
Knowledge is power, whether you are undergoing menopause or your loved one is. By learning about this natural physical phenomenon, you can avoid saying things that would make your partner self conscious and anticipate the impending changes and experiences, including:
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Thinning of hair
- Loss of breast fullness
Anticipating Mood Changes
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone undergoing menopause undergoes mood swings. Some people breeze through the transition feeling strong, happy and hopeful. Being freed from monthly cycles which often come with painful cramps can be quite relieving for some women. As a partner, you don’t have to expect or assume the worst because symptoms differ from person to person. On the contrary, if a bad mood does develop, understand that it’s part of the process, due to reduction of hormones. Don’t allow it to disrupt daily life.
Work on Relationship Skills
For some couples, spending time together when children have emptied the nest can slant in both good and bad ways. In the wake of the next phase of life, it’s important to fortify your relationship skills. You can do this by discussing menopause and your willingness to weather it together. It can also help strengthen the relationship to go over a guideline or ‘rules’ if you will, to help process impasses. This may involve knowing:
- When your partner need to be alone
- When your partner needs support
- When it is time to step away from a fight
- How to calmly discuss feelings when things get tough
At the heart of every good relationship is strong communication. It’s important to talk to your partner who’s experiencing menopause, even if it’s not in your nature to. Even if there’s not much you can do to help your partner, you can express your support. It often helps to simply ask, “What’s the best thing I can do to make things better?”
Here are other things you can try:
Experiencing changes in the body can be quite uncomfortable physically and mentally. Here’s where patience comes into play, in the short and long term. This is after all a temporary occurrence to get through as a couple. Try not to treat menopause as a problem to fix, rather, infuse some sense of humour into the relationship to keep things light and fun. But be careful not to use humour as a weapon for sarcasm or to vent.
Don’t Personalise Moods
If your partner gets upset, don’t personalise and feed into it. Allow them to feel all the emotions and lend a listening ear without judgement. Being understanding is pivotal in turning a frown upside down.
Express Admiration and Appreciation
Expressing admiration or appreciation can be unnatural for some, especially if they don’t usually do it, but now is the best time to learn. Don’t hold yourself back — if you feel your partner is beautiful, tell her or show her through gifts. Take her on a date or for a holiday to show your appreciation. If you find praising unnatural, start small and do it daily so over time it becomes more natural to you.
Apart from educating oneself and communication skills, we have rounded up other practical tips that can aid someone undergoing menopause.
Lend a Helping Hand
Menopause can trigger anxiety and cause your loved ones to become overwhelmed. Doing simple things like washing the dishes or cleaning the living room help ease a hectic schedule. Planning ahead also helps. Things that break a normal routine can cause stress. If there is anything that may cause anxiety and tension (such as a home repair, a visit from relatives, and a work deadline), discuss what you can do to lift some of the burdens. Being proactive rather than reactive is always the better option.
Insomnia is a woe that often troubles women undergoing menopause. Discuss solutions and tackle this as a team, and explore treatments such as aromatherapy or CPAP therapy for sleep apnea and improving sleep hygiene practices.
Embark on a Health Journey Together
Supporting your partner can extend to their health, to make them stronger and improve their mood and how they view themselves. Don’t just support your partner from the sidelines, get involved and join them in nightly walks or bicycle rides around the neighbourhood. These activities can become a healthy habit that both of you can share. The same principle applies if the goal is weight loss. Share the journey together by going on the same type of diet and doing the same workouts. This way, you’re lending support as well as spending time with them.
Libido and Sex
Decreased libido which leads to lack of sex is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. The trick is to find the right balance of intimacy and sexuality. Shift focus to being physically close with one another like cuddling, instead of having sexual intercourse. Communicate with your partner and ask her what she likes — a foot rub or massages can be quite pleasant. During menopause, the vagina goes through some changes and having sex during this time can not only be uncomfortable and painful. If you’re concerned, you can always talk to a gynaecologist who can dole out treatments like oestrogen cream to help with the changes.
As aforementioned, everybody is different, which means symptoms can vary, and so do treatments. As a partner, offer your unconditional support by listening, paying attention and asking what she needs. Remember that you’re in it together, as a team and menopause is only a period. If you are unable to cope, do not hesitate to seek couples counselling. There is no shame in talking to a professional.