Menopause help for husbands: putting the “men” in menopause
Do a quick online search for the resources available specifically for men to learn about menopause. Seriously, go ahead. We’ll wait.
Well? I’m guessing you found information about lackluster libidos and vaginal dryness. Which tells you a lot about what our society thinks men are interested in. Now try looking for info about the menopause divorce rate. Uh huh.
If you have a partner going through midlife changes, I’m betting it impacts more than just your sex life. And I bet you’d love to make it easier on her, if only you knew how. "Menopausal rage" might be a thing, but menopause and anger toward husbands don't have to go together.
Helping with menopause and anger toward husbands...
Sunday is Father’s Day here in the US, so we thought we’d give a little gift to all you fellows (dads or not) who are now or one day may be sharing a life with a woman in menopause: advice from men who’ve been there, learned that.
Tip #1 – She may not tell you things
Menopause is still such a taboo subject that it can be hard to talk about, even between intimate, long-term partners. As this husband of 28 years said, “Don’t take it personally if she doesn’t want to share the details with you. What happened to her that day might be really embarrassing, like maybe she had a hot flash while training some 22-year-old intern. Be open to hearing it, but also be open to not hearing it. And it can depend on the day, too; one day it’s humiliating, the next day it’s hilarious. Just try to go with it.”
Tip #2 – She may tell you things
“Dude,” one man told us. “be ready. You are going to hear some stuff. Discharge, heavy flow, sore breasts, soaking through her pajamas with night sweats. For us guys, it can be hard to hear. But you gotta listen. As hard as it is for us to hear it, she’s actually living it, and that’s a whole lot harder.”
Listening when she needs to complain or just be frank about what’s happening is often the very best thing you can do. As someone who watches hospital shows with one hand over her face, I understand squeamish, but reacting negatively to her stories of heavy flow only embarrasses her and continues the stigma around women’s bodies and their natural functions.
“It’s not a disease – it’s biology,” one wise man said. “You’re not going to catch menopause like the flu. The more you listen, the more she’ll tell, and the more you’ll understand. And that makes it easier on both of you.”
Tip #3 – “Duck and cover” is not a relationship strategy
The stereotype is for men to just keep their heads down and wait for the storm to blow over. But the hormone fluctuations of perimenopause and menopause can last for years. “Know yourself and play to your strengths,” one man suggested. “If you’re an open-and-empathetic guy, then really listen. If you’re more of a fix-it guy like me, ask her for actual things you can do to help, then do those. Research hormone therapy, put ceiling fans in every room of the house, be ready to leave the party early if she sweats through her clothes. Just don’t give advice, and don’t ignore the problem and hope it goes away.”
Tip #4 – Education helps
All our guys agreed on one thing: learn stuff. (You’re off to an excellent start right here at Gennev.) Check out the North American Menopause Society website and do some reading. Then go to the Menopause Goddess site and do some more. Good information is out there, but you may have to do a little digging. There are even men's menopause support groups in many cities, which can be a serious resource.
But understand first and foremost, “It’s different for every woman. I watched my mom, my sisters, and now my wife go through it, and the experiences are not the same, the way they deal with the symptoms is not the same. My mom and my sisters took HRT, but my wife’s family has a history of breast cancer, so that’s not an option for her. It makes a huge difference. What if I didn’t know that, and I accused my wife of being overdramatic or – heaven help me – hysterical because her symptoms were so much worse than those other women?”
Tip #5 – No better present than you being present
There is nothing more attractive than a man who doesn’t just say he cares – he shows it. By being present. By hanging in. “I want to support the women I love,” one man told us. “My wife, my friends… you know, my sister just turned 50. So I read stuff I’ll never completely understand, like I did when my wife was pregnant. I just learned that women have a higher risk of heart disease after menopause, but the symptoms of a heart attack look different in women. Seems like an important thing to know.”
But being present and engaged is often easier said than done. There’s no doubt that menopause has impacts on the men in the relationship, and guys are often left without good solutions for what they’re going through. As one man put it, “Sometimes it’s annoying feeling like you can’t complain because your wife has it so much worse.” But if you end up resenting it, that’s not good either, he said, so, “Walk away when you have to. Tell her you need 30 minutes or an hour or an afternoon. Go do something ‘guy,’ if you want. Then come back when you said you would.”
We'd love to hear from husbands and menopause experiences!
So, partners, we’d love to hear from you how you’re helping the women in your life manage menopause. What resources are your go-to’s, what information is missing? With menopause still so taboo, are you even able to have conversations with women on the subject? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter. (Yes, share in public forums … remember that bit about not continuing the stigma?) And by the way, guys? Thanks.
For more ideas on making her menopause easier, check out our post, “go away come here go away: 10 tips to support someone through menopause“
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