Menopause and the worries that go along with it can lead to difficulties in a relationship, even if you've been with your partner for many years.
This may not concern you at first, thinking you feel fine right now – why worry? However, as symptoms increase you may find yourself questioning more and more how it will affect the interaction between you and your partner. Hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety, lack of sleep, and more can put a strain on even the closest of couples. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that may ease the stress and keep you connected to your better half during your path through menopause.
1. Remind Them That They Aren’t Responsible For “Fixing” You
One part of being in a relationship is the urge to make everything better for the one you love. It’s the driving force behind many things a person does, from working extra hours to making two cups of coffee in the morning instead of just one. This comes into play even more so when someone is experiencing a medical issue. They want to know what they can do to fix this. Sometimes it can become overwhelming for your partner and stifling for you.
Remind your partner or spouse that menopause is temporary and not life-threatening but also moves at its own pace. There is no “fixing” for your partner to do – that’s up to Mother Nature and your health care provider. When they seem flustered or worried about your symptoms, call them over to sit with you, share a hug, or any other action that lets them know you appreciate their concern but being close helps just as much.
2. Keep Your Relationship Symptoms Separate From Your Menopause Symptoms
Mood swings and anxiety are common symptoms of menopause. Add that to the fact that you probably aren’t sleeping well, and you’re going to have some days where nothing makes you happy and you are on the warpath. You can’t help how you feel, but you can take steps to change how you react.
When you’re in that kind of mood, it can be very easy for situations with your partner that are usually insignificant to become explosive. Suddenly the fact that they didn’t rinse out their cereal bowl becomes WWIII, and before you know it you’re questioning both your sanity and your ability to stay with “a person who never cleans up after himself.” It will take conscious effort and a lot of practice, but redirecting your mood swings and anxiety away from your partner will go a long way in keeping the peace. It’s also OK to ask for some alone time on those days so you can relax and destress without interference.
3. No Libido? Time To Communicate
During both perimenopause and menopause, sexual intimacy with your partner may change. Between one-half and three-quarters of women age 45 to 58 report a significant drop in sex drive, according to Judith Weinstock, MD, a board-certified gynecologist who has been in private practice in Brooklyn, New York, for 25 years.
Though some women notice hardly any change at all, others find it can be life (and relationship) changing.
While the lack of estrogen makes you feel tired, moody, sweaty, and many other things not conducive to intimacy, there is also a drop in testosterone. This can diminish a woman’s ability to become aroused and sometimes even the ability to reach orgasm.
The key is communication. If you aren’t feeling as playful as you once did, talk to your partner. Ignoring the situation or using other excuses for not having sex (I had a bad day at work, I’m too worried about something, for example) will only make your partner feel alienated and unwanted after a while. Explain what’s going on with your body and that it has nothing to do with them or your affection toward them. You can also try longer foreplay, intimacy without intercourse, or romantic evenings just hugging and snuggling on the couch. The most critical thing is not to lose the connection with your partner, no matter what is (or isn’t) happening in the bedroom.
4. Help Your Partner Learn About Menopause
Sometimes our partners say or do things that make us want to scream, “You just don’t understand!” And, the truth is they often don’t. Help them by sharing articles, videos, and other resources about menopause. If you feel comfortable enough, ask them to come along to your next doctor’s appointment. This doesn’t mean they will instantly know exactly how you feel each day. No one knows a woman’s menopause symptoms better than she does. But it can alleviate some of the confusion that leads to misunderstandings and relax some of the strain on your relationship.
5. Remember That This Too Shall Pass
During menopause, it’s easy to begin thinking that this new version of your relationship is permanent. “This is hard, and I’m so tired. Will this ever stop?” Yes, it will. Don’t grade your relationship on how you feel as your body is going through one of the most intrusive changes of your life. Remember that this is only temporary and not an indication of how your life will always be.
Reviewed February 23, 2016
By Michele Blacksberg RN
What to do about loss of libido. NextAvenue.org. Retrieved February 18, 2016. http://www.nextavenue.org/what-do-about-loss-libido/
Will your marriage survive menopause? HealthyWomen.org. Retrieved February 18, 2016. http://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/will-your-marriage-survive-menopause