Going through menopause can be a tough time in women’s lives. While the symptoms can vary from person to person, the hormonal and physical changes we go through don’t just put a strain on personal confidence - our relationships can be affected too.
But one relationship can feel the wrath of menopause more than others, and that’s our relationship with our romantic partner.
How do menopause symptoms affect relationships?
During the perimenopause stage, our bodies begin producing less estrogen, and this hormonal change causes symptoms including mood swings, hot flashes and fatigue.
It can be difficult and even embarrassing to openly discuss these changes with partners. And as a result, couples can drift apart.
Seeing as our partners probably don’t understand why those changes are happening, our distant attitude can be misread as something they’re responsible for, meaning the gap in communication just gets wider.
The obvious solution for this is to talk about menopause with your partner. But that’s easier said than done. Between your busy schedules and the sensitive nature of the topic it’s difficult to know how to open up communication.
To help you get the conversation started, we’ve pulled together some handy advice so you can take it step-by-step.
When to talk to your partner
Firstly, find a convenient time to talk to your partner about menopause. This should be a time when neither of you will get distracted by other things – the kids, work or TV.
You could also try to make sure you’re having the conversation in a relaxed place. Sitting on the couch or over a cup of coffee in the kitchen will make you both feel more at ease than a more formal setting like a meal out.
Setting this time aside to chat about it means you can both commit your full attention to the conversation and means there’s no excuse to avoid the subject.
How to bring up the topic
Some people feel that menopause can be an embarrassing topic to talk about. The physical symptoms we experience can make us feel a bit like we’re losing control of our bodies, but the more openly menopause is talked about, the less taboo it will feel.
When you talk to your partner, remember that this is just a physical transition, and your partner will genuinely care about the ways you’ll be affected.
Chances are, when you see how much your partner cares, you’ll realize there was no need to feel embarrassed in the first place.
Explain some of the symptoms bothering you
If your symptoms are bothering you, it’s likely you’ve not been yourself lately. Being tired or crabby are two very normal symptoms of menopause which may mean you need to focus on intimacy as you struggle to connect with your partner. To your partner, it might seem like you’re angry or disconnected from the relationship - whilst you struggle to connect with your partner.
Tell your partner exactly what symptoms you’re experiencing. If your other half knows why you’re acting differently, they’ll understand it’s not a reflection on them, or your relationship, and may even cut you some slack.
Talk about how the physical changes make you feel
As well as the change in your behavior, the physical changes that come with menopause can influence your emotional wellbeing.
With any physical changes to your body it’s common to feel less confident and, as a result, you may begin to avoid intimacy.
By talking openly about how those physical changes are affecting your confidence, your partner will become more aware of your feelings and can be more sensitive to your needs. You may also find other ways to show affection which will help you both maintain closeness - and you can still have great sex after menopause.
Be specific when you ask for help
While your partner can give you emotional support, practical help can also relieve some of the stresses of menopause.
When you talk to your partner about it, tell them which specific tasks they can help with. For example, if your symptoms are causing fatigue, asking your partner to take the dog for a walk or do the vacuuming are some chores they can take off your plate.
This way, your partner knows exactly how to help you, rather than worrying about coming up with ways to make you feel better.
If you’re feeling distant from your partner because of menopause, remember that you’re not alone – it’s common for the symptoms we experience to put a strain on relationships.
But, by communicating, your partner has an opportunity to better understand your symptoms and help you cope with the changes.