Couples going through menopause often have unique struggles when coping with the new changes and challenges it brings to them both as individuals, and as partners. It is an inner battle – mentally and physically – for not just women, but men as well. For women, it may be hard to get a male partner to understand and be able to empathise with her challenges. But both sexes go through a form of menopause, and this transition is disruptive and even scary, and a certain level of understanding and communication is required for any one to have a quality relationship at this stage of life.
Nancy Cetel talks about many of the changes couples experience in her book Double Menopause, and what often happens is that emotions, including past hurts, hopes, dreams, etc., that may have been buried or unexpressed in the past, can no longer hidden. It can’t be helped – the truth will not be held back any longer. For some women, that shows up in pent up aggression that is taken out on a male partner by pushing him away and/or making him unable to relate to you on a physical level. Men need to know that the loss of desire for sex may be caused from the hormonal changes, but there might also be an emotional element that needs to be dealt with.
It is advisable that men in menopause couples acquaint themselves with the effects of menopause, in themselves and their partners, in order to better understand the changes their relationship is going through. Men soon realize that hormonal imbalances are causing unwanted emotional symptoms in women that could lead to verbal spats every now and then. Men need to be aware that emotional changes are likely to occur and that they are not to blame for them but that their partner may require extra attention, love and outward expressions of caring more now than ever before.
Men need to understand that their sexual drives could also have changed as they experience a slower loss of testosterone. To keep sexual interest, partners may need to put more time and attention into the quality of their sex lives and ‘update’ themselves on what things turn them on at this stag of the game.
Men need to know that a decrease in estrogen in their lover’s bodies – can significantly alter how she thinks and feels about sex. In addition, vaginal discomfort and thinning of the lining of the vagina can make sex painful so it will not be enjoyable for either of them until they find a solution for this.
More than ever this is a critical time for couples to communicate more about the changes they are both experiencing. Christian Northrup talks about ‘reversing roles’ as couples go through this transition in her book the Wisdom of Menopause. Men often lose a lot of the aggression that once fueled their younger years and they are happier to stay home and engage in more nuturing activities, that they never paid attention to before, such as cooking. Women, on the other hand, may want to venture out into the world and pursue a long-thought about career. They become more aggressive and passionate about accomplishing things. In this way, the couple almost switch roles in the relationship.
Talking a lot, expressing ideas, and bonding with one another again becomes critical during this transition. Men need to know what is happening to their women on a day-to-day basis, and visa versa. Women want men to cheer them on as they undergo significant changes including dealing with physical discomfort, hormonal imbalances, and possibly venturing out into the career world for the first time!
Men need to know that sex isn’t going away totally. Explore sexual alternatives and realize that having less sex is not the end of the world! Experiment with vibrators, and oral sex, if you haven’t already as these are fine alternatives and to maintain a healthy sex life. Women love toys as much as guys do. Menopause might mean taking more time for foreplay for some women. Get into a habit of communicating your needs to each other and learn to enjoy the changes instead of fighting against them.
The most important thing is that husbands provide a social network for their menopausal wives to rely on. Realize that menopause is only a phase, albeit the end of the old and the beginning of a new one, and it’s possible to adjust to the changes by remaining aware. By staying informed of each other’s thoughts and feelings and becoming tolerant and understanding to the emotional pains women can go through, menopause couples can overcome most difficulties. And, who knows, you might like the new person you wake up to better! Think of it as another adventure.