The physical and emotional changes a woman goes through during menopause can put a significant strain on even the happiest of partnerships. What used to be a loving, harmonious, and peaceful relationship may be plagued with arguments, frustration, and sexual problems. Poor communication skills between partners may make the situation worse. Instead of understanding your fatigue, irritability, and lack of sexual interest, your husband may just feel like he can do nothing right, no matter how hard he tries. Along with myriad other menopause symptoms, your hot flashes are probably a complete mystery to your partner. Taking the time to explain your hot flashes to him may open his eyes to the struggles you are experiencing. However, how do you explain hot flashes to men? Here are a few tips!
Start with basic biology: Most men have very little understanding of basic female biology, even if they are fathers many times over. You don't have to create diagrams or haul out medical textbooks; just explain that decreasing estrogen levels affect the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Explain to him that hot flashes and night sweats are something you have in common with 75 percent of women during perimenopause and menopause. Let him know that this is a real, medically-documented phenomenon!
Don't downplay your symptoms: Sometimes, women try to be stoic and downplay how miserable they feel. Don't minimize how you feel when a hot flash hits. Get as descriptive as you need to be. Whether your skin feels like it is on fire or your head feels like it is going to explode, use descriptive words and try to keep your emotions in check. Sometimes, men tune out when women start getting incredibly emotional. You want him to understand this is a physical reaction, not necessarily an emotional one.
Explain why you need hands off during a hot flash: When hot flashes hit, the easiest way to deal with them is to remove a layer of clothes and find a cool breeze. The last thing you need is a guy who wants to snuggle up in bed with you or lean on your shoulder during a movie marathon. Instead of pushing away your attention-seeking mate without explanation, make sure he knows that you need a few minutes to cool off and will be back for snuggling later. According to 34 Menopause Symptoms, “A typical hot flash lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. However, it can take up to 30 minutes for a woman to feel normal again after a hot flash, especially with stronger and more intense hot flashes.” Let him know that as soon as you cool off, you will be back to cuddle again so he doesn't feel like you are pushing him away.
Give him a way to help: Many men love to solve problems and providing a “to do list” for your hot flashes may let him feel more helpful. Whether you need an open window, a lower thermostat, or to just head outside to cool off, get him involved if you can. You may also want to explain other lifestyle choices that may minimize hot flashes. Avoiding alcohol helps cut back on the frequency of hot flashes so ask him to create a delicious nonalcoholic mocktail for you to enjoy. Getting more exercise and eating a healthy diet also help reduce the severity of hot flashes. Get your partner involved in your lifestyle changes so he feels like he is helping you feel better!
Men will not intuitively understand your hot flashes. Keeping an open line of communication between the two of you is vital to keep your relationship functioning properly. If he truly doesn't understand your struggle with hot flashes, bring him to your next doctor appointment and see if the physician can help him understand this stage of your life better. Make sure he understands that menopause symptoms may last a while so he doesn't think there is a quick fix!
Menopause and Sweating. WebMD. Retrieved January 19, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/features/menopause-sweating-11
Hot Flashes FAQ. 34 Menopause Symptoms. Retrieved January 13, 2016. http://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/hot-flashes-faq.htm
Treating Hot Flashes. Menopause.org. Retrieved January 19, 2016. http://www.menopause.org/docs/for-women/mnflashes.pdf
Reviewed January 21, 2016
By Philip Sarrel, M.D. and Lorna Sarrel, M.S.