It’s easy to be a partner during easy times.
That’s a simple statement, but being long-term partners with someone is sometimes relatively straightforward. Things are normal, and you both know the rules and know how to behave. Things might not be “easy”, per se, but you know how to deal with them. The ups and downs of life have established a pattern, and you get it. You know what to do.
But there are other times when your abilities as a partner are truly being tested. There are times when things are beyond the norm and you want to help, but you don’t really know how. For many people, supporting a partner during menopause is one of those times.
If your partner is going through menopause, they are facing a difficult life change with serious physical and emotional shifts. This isn’t the case with all women, of course, but for many, the hormonal changes that occur leading up to and after menopause cause a host of disruptive physical and emotional symptoms. That’s not easy; it isn’t easy on them, of course, and it may not be easy on you or your relationship. But there are things you can do to help your partner navigate this critical time.
Learning how to support your partner during menopause means understanding what she is going through, seeing the bigger picture, and helping her find options for possible treatment without forcing or imposing your wishes. It means putting her at the center. It means practicing empathy, it means understanding, listening, learning. And in doing so, you can not only help your partner cope with the changes she is facing, but build a stronger relationship that honors this new life stage.
What Is Menopause?
In many relationships, there is a partner who may never go through menopause. In others, both partners might face it at similar or at different times. Needless to say, these are different situations with different expectations, but the heart of both is understanding.
If you have not gone through menopause (yet, or you never will), you should first learn what exactly it is. We tend to see menopause as its symptoms: the end of menses; the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle. And while it is true that those are the results of menopause, those aren’t the causes.
The cause of menopause is diminishing estrogen production. During puberty, the ovaries begin releasing estrogen to regulate the menstrual cycles and support pregnancy during a woman’s fertile years. As she ages, however, estrogen production gradually falls until the menstrual cycle stops completely, at which point she naturally enters menopause. In other cases, removal of the ovaries causes a sudden drop in estrogen that is known as surgical menopause.
Regardless of whether menopause is the result of surgery or natural aging, it means that the hormones that have been a vital part of your partner’s life for decades are disappearing. The body’s abilities are changing. Ultimately, menopause is not “just” the end of certain physiological activities; it is a dramatic shift in a person’s biological makeup with profound implications for the mind, body, and spirit.
Understanding the Symptoms and Impact of Menopause
While menopause may be nearly universal amongst women, the exact impact of menopause-related hormonal shifts can be deeply individual. Some of the most common symptoms of menopause include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Diminished sex drive
- Irritation, fatigue, and headaches
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
- Sexual discomfort
- Vaginal dryness
For many women, these symptoms have far-reaching implications for overall wellbeing. Hot flashes can cause serious discomfort and lead to ongoing sleep disruptions. A diminished sex drive can change the way a person feels about herself and her relationship. Pain during sex can do the same. Mood swings, anxiety, irritation, being tired all the time—those aren’t simply annoyances, but may be fundamental shifts in the way a woman experiences everyday life. And in addition to these symptoms, concrete evidence of aging and the end of fertility can have a significant psychological impact, especially in a culture that valorizes youth, particularly in women.
That’s why menopause can be such a challenge and why it is so important for partners to understand: menopause comes with real changes that can make your partner experience life differently. It can change how she perceives herself and how she feels others perceive her—including you. In this vortex of hormonal, mental, emotional, personal, and cultural issues, is no wonder that menopause is often one of the most transformative times in a woman’s life.
Which means, as a partner, it may also be one of the most transformative times in your life.
The Challenges a Partner Faces During Menopause
It’s important to tread lightly on this subject. Generations of slapdash cultural misogyny paint the partner as the put-upon one. “The wife is going through The Change, gonna need to go out bowling a lot more!” Cue painful laugh track.
But even without the need for witless archaisms, it can be hard. Your partner is going through an intensely personal transformation based around a new hormonal state, and being partners with someone who is coping with physical and emotional upheaval isn’t always easy. The established norm of your relationship may be tested. It’s that way by default; your partner has never gone through menopause before, so you don’t know how to handle it.
Patience. Understanding. Listening. Making sure your partner isn’t feeling stressed about sex. These are all critical for supporting your partner during menopause. Talk about what she is going through to an extent that is comfortable for her. Give her space to express herself, and show her that you are there for her in a way that is meaningful for her.
How to Support Your Partner During Menopause
Just as each woman may experience menopause differently, the kind of support each woman wants can be highly individual. The best way to know what your partner needs is to simply talk to her; ask what you can do to help her and support your relationship. Of course, there are also things you can do proactively to ease the burden on your partner, particularly if they are seriously struggling with their symptoms or the idea of menopause. For example:
- Offer to go to couples counseling where you can both feel safe and free to talk about the challenges you are facing
- Find mutually gratifying options for a change in your sex life
- Give each other space, but be there when needed
- Research treatment options
The last one can be very important; while menopause is a natural part of life, women don’t have to accept the symptoms or the sudden drop in estrogen. Today, there are treatments available to help with both specific effects of menopause and the underlying root cause. Indeed, for many women, restoring estrogen levels using treatment such as bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is vital for protecting health and overall quality of life.
Don’t assume that your partner already knows about all her treatment options. If she is interested, help her do the research. Explore the pros and cons. Help her connect with a practitioner who specializes in hormonal health and can answer any questions she may have about the possibilities of treatment. Help ensure she has the resources she needs at this critical time, and respect her choices. After all, treatment is a deeply personal decision and it is hers to make.
Forging a New Path Together
Menopause can bring up new challenges for everyone—both the woman undergoing it and her partner. Successfully navigating these challenges together requires communication, empathy, and an understanding of the physiological and psychological impact menopause can have on a woman. And, in some cases, it requires knowing when to get help. No matter what road you and your partner decide to go down, if you talk about the path, you’ll find a way.
If your partner is struggling with menopause, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top medical professionals who specialize in helping patients find wellness through hormonal therapies and integrative medicine. If your partner wants to know more about her treatment options, BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners can answer her questions and explore which strategies might work best for her symptoms and lifestyle. Contact a local practitioner in your area to start the journey toward optimal health, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about the impact of hormonal health today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.