Let’s talk about how our menopause can affect our relationships, and how to handle different situations. We talk a lot about the self; how the menopause will affect ME, how I can handle MY symptoms… But as we know, everything that we do has an effect on those around us.
Isn’t it crazy to think about how the menopause has an impact on our kids, our partners, our partners, and all relationships in general??
Let’s start with the Partners
It can be a really confusing time for them. Especially male partners, because most of the time we don’t know what’s going on with ourselves, let alone how a man (who has never even experienced PMS) is going to understand and relate to what we’re going through. He has no experience in fluctuating hormones as he has never experienced a period (lucky buggers).
If you are in a relationship with a woman instead, she might be far from menopause and have no idea either… it can be multifaceted! Or if you’re both going through it together but experiencing completely different symptoms… Wow, things can get complicated!
No matter who you’re with, when menopause hits, we don’t even really feel like talking about it, sometimes we don’t even know what to talk about! Scarcity of sleep, anxiety, low mood… that does not help, we feel isolated.
Instead, you should be open and tell people how you are feeling because they have no clue! I think education for the partner is so important to allow them to understand what is going on. For example, I (Diane Danzebrink) became a husk of the person I used to be and this is not helpful. I was basically a non-functioning person. Being in a relationship, you might feel rejected. So, the good thing about my job now, is that I can help not only women but also couples, to understand each other better. This because if you look at the figure for divorce, or couples that break up, there is a peak around the menopausal age. So, it goes back to the main point: EDUCATION on what menopause is.
…most time we don’t know what’s going on with ourselves, let alone how a man (who has never even experienced PMS) is going to understand and relate to what we’re going through.
Sex and Relationships
Another pivotal aspect is vaginal dryness. Not only because it is extremely uncomfortable for women, but also because once you have vaginal dryness (which, if not treated can even cause the skin to come off) intercourse can become pretty painful and even the thought of sex can turn you off. So, you just back off. This has a huge impact on relationships. From the figures, we know that 80% of women have this problem but only 7% are discussing it. There are products available that help with vaginal dryness.
Sometimes even cuddles aren’t welcome as women think they may lead to sex or it is sending the wrong signals that they want sex. The important thing to understand is this: you have to go and see your GP, there is help out there. Not talking to your partner does not help also because they start feeling isolated and might feel like they are not enough.
For Meg it has been a dreadful experience, in fact, her relationships ended. She started pretending to have cystitis to avoid having intercourse, she would also buy the test box from Boots to commit to the lie! On top of that, she was finding any possible excuse to induce her partner to sleep in the spare room. This was not as great as there was a lack of communication.
We can all understand how the partner would feel: you have been in a relationship for years and then this sudden change! Who is the person you’re with? Where’s the communication?
Another big difference is the motherly loving and caring instinct we have as we (women) become mothers. The general thought is that once a woman becomes a mother, that maternal instinct never changes. But like everything else that changes during the menopause, this might be one of them (Oops?) We are of course still mothers, but our hormones change so you might feel that that kind, caring motherly feelings, reduce. It’s a transition, and different to everyone. We moved into a different stage of life. Also, at that age, most people are done with their motherly and nurturing role, as the kids might have moved out, but for those who still have their little ones at home, this can be a difficult time of taking care of your children especially if you have to also take care of your ageing parents. This is called The Sandwich Effect.
Menopause should become the time to find ourselves again as individuals. Even if it feels selfish, and I know it does. Besides, that women feel more empowered at this age (especially if they came through the other side of menopause).
As Meg underlines, even with her daughter wasn’t easy because Anaïs explained that Meg, during her transition, was constantly angry for anything. Meg herself struggled to recognise the person described by her daughter, even though she knows she is right. It just doesn’t feel like you! Here’s a video of Meg talking to her daughter motherhood!
It just doesn’t feel like you!
Work Place Relationships
You see these people more than you see your family sometimes! You get to know each other, bond and form relationships. So when you change (due to the menopause) they will also notice. Are you angry at work too? Maybe suddenly anxious and quiet? Calling in sick a lot? Colleagues notice, and it might affect the way they treat you. Maybe they think they’ve done something to upset you, but are too shy to ask. Maybe they get really worried: they might see you as a different person as you were before. Of course, they don’t understand what is going on, unless you talk to them about it, and have them understand that this is natural! There are many more ways the workplace can change when you go through the menopause… Read about it here
What happens when you simply can’t handle social situations anymore? And your friend since childhood asks you to go out time after time and all you want to say is I love you, but leave me the hell alone!! But you keep coming up with excuses… What happens when they just stop asking? And after this point, you start realising that you have no friends, and feel more alone.
Well, this can all be fixed before it becomes a problem! Talk to them! It’s likely that if they are your age they might soon go through it or are going through it and are shy to tell you, so someone has to break the silence and talk about the menopause. Let them know that you refuse an invite is not their fault, just something you can handle right now. Maybe you’ll be able to find an alternative to going out, just a phone call or facetime catch up can seem more manageable.
It is so interesting to see how the menopause affects the person you are. Meg, for example, cancelled everything after 7 pm at night! But she went out every now and then. In the end, Meg realised it’s good to see friends and it is good to be doing something. Otherwise, you would stay on the sofa forever! But we all agreed that one good thing about menopause is saying the word NO. It is about not doing things you don’t want to do anymore. About focusing on yourself. This is very positive.