Going through the menopause with its many physical and emotional symptoms affects not only women but also their partners. Relationships can suffer, and women offer the following advice to help partners support them through the menopause (see also Relationships, sex and contraception).
1. Be prepared to learn about the menopause
Most women would like their partners to be prepared to learn more about the menopause. They want them to understand why they are feeling the way they are, to empathise more with their needs and appreciate their difficulties. Knowing what to expect can help partners cope better when menopausal symptoms place a strain on the relationship.
Jackie asked her husband to read an advice for partners section on a website forum
Rose asked her partner to look on the internet so he could talk through with her how she was feeling
2. Offer support and understanding
Good communication is especially important during the menopause when some women experience mood swings (see Emotions: mood swings, anxiety and depression), loss of sex drive (libido) and other symptoms, all of which may undermine relationships. Women sometimes feel they have no control over their behaviour and realise how hard it is for partners to be supportive.
Women stress that partners should not “take anything too personally”, and acknowledge that partners may be going through a difficult time in their own right at midlife. It seems like a contradiction to expect partners to be “as loving as possible” when a woman is “cross and crotchety”, yet it is precisely this which women want from their partner. They ask partners to be understanding, sympathetic, supportive, attentive, tolerant and patient. Keeping open the channels of communication is essential.
Liz begs men not to say its your hormones love because it doesnt help
Rhonda highlights the importance of talking through changes with partners to increase understanding
3. Adapt expectations
During the menopause, women sometimes lose interest in sex and feel less attractive (see Libido, vaginal dryness and urinary problems). They want to feel reassured their partners still value them and can accept the changes that are happening. They want partners to pay them compliments, to hold their hand, hug them, cuddle them, tell them they are desirable and not take it personally if they “don’t want sex every week”. Women talked about needing to be told that they’re still attractive as they move from being “young and sexy to being a wise woman” (see ‘Changes in the body and keeping healthy). Some wanted partners to “look for ways around” penetrative sex to maintain a good relationship.
Janice wants partners to make women feel valued
Carole asks partners to be patient and ride the storm
Janet explains how menopause symptoms can affect relationships
Partners can be important in supporting women during the menopause. While recognising that this can sometimes be difficult, women ask their partners to try and understand the problems they face with the changes in their lives. Most women say that, as always, good communication is the key.