While reaching menopause is a natural life chapter, coping with the numerous unpleasant physical and emotional side effects might not come so naturally. Although treatments can alleviate some uncomfortable symptoms, there’s no complete safeguard against the ways that changing hormonal levels affect your mind and body. And while menopause is definitely an individual journey, the ups and downs that you experience will affect those around you—and in particular, your partner.
Why Menopause is Hard to Talk About
It’s probably hard enough for you to comprehend your fluctuating emotions—all those bursts of sadness or anxiety—let alone try to explain to your loved one what you’re going through. However, in order to maintain a healthy relationship, you’ll need to give your partner an overview of what you’re experiencing on a physical and emotional level. Believe it or not, your loved one wants to understand this significant life transition. Through education, they can better understand what your needs are—even if those needs are as basic as time alone or a shoulder to cry on. Opening up to your spouse will make you feel less isolated, frantic, and anxious.
When to Start the Conversation
As in all important discussions, it’s essential that you feel grounded and balanced before you begin talking about menopause. If you’re feeling upset and anxious, wait until you feel better. Remember that your spouse will want to learn constructive ways to help you cope, and you’ll need to be in a healthy mindset in order to communicate effectively.
Once you’re feeling ready, give your partner the heads-up that you’d like to talk about what you’re going through. Make sure to take a moment to sit down at the couch or kitchen table and hold their hand. You don’t want to brush through this conversation as you’re doing the dishes or are otherwise distracted. Your partner may be worried by what you’re about to say and you’ll want him to feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
How to Educate Your Loved One
How you educate your partner will depend on your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. You might feel more comfortable presenting menopause in a more distant and clinical way, explaining how changing hormone levels manifest themselves in various physical and mental ways for women in general. Or, you could choose to explain all the symptoms that you are experiencing firsthand and how they make you feel. What’s important is that you feel comfortable and remain honest. Give your partner the opportunity to ask you questions and assure him that if he does have questions, he shouldn’t feel embarrassed or worried about asking them or hurting your feelings.
Talking About Sexuality
A crucial side effect of menopause is a lowered libido, and it’s something you’ll need to address with you partner. You’ll need to explain that your decreased interest in sex is a common result of menopause, and should not cause guilt or shame within your marriage. This will help your partner understand that your disinterest in sex is not about him, rather a result of the changes in your body.
Make sure to reassure him that this change is only temporary, and that you can continue to have a healthy and active sex life. Suggest exploring new ways to rekindle your desire and playful ways to stimulate your body, such as the possibility of using lubricants or sex toys. Dr. Masterson recommends that her patients who suffer from vaginal dryness talk with their respective partners about engaging in more foreplay before sex to further lubrication.
You’ll find that taking the time to talk about your sexuality on an emotional level will ultimately bring you and your partner closer.
It Takes Two
As with all hardships and transitions, you and your partner will cope best as a team. Lean on your loved one for encouragement and let them know how much their understanding means to you. Teach them the importance of incorporating healthy lifestyle choices during menopause, including healthy eating and exercise, and engage in those activities together. By opening up and letting your spouse in on what you’re experiencing, you can take your relationship to new heights.