So here you are, suddenly going through this big change in mind and body - half the time you're not sure what's going on and you're probably not entirely sure how you feel about it yet. It stands to reason that with all of that in mind, menopause would have an impact on your relationships - your personal ones and your professional ones. You’re not alone.
Lots of the women we have spoken to about their menopause experiences say it's had an effect on their relationships with partners and family. According to healthywomen.org, "Over 60% of divorces are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s or 60s — the menopause years". That doesn't necessarily mean it was the result of menopause of course, lots of things lead to relationship changes, and that isn't always a negative thing either - just an evolution.
Jane said: "I used to feel like I was a zombie walking the earth and there was nobody to help me because no one understood. My family, my doctor - they just wanted to give me HRT, and it’s about so much more than that."
Teach men about menopause
It turns out, Rod Stewart has an opinion on this matter too:
"It was frightening, because this really wasn’t the person I married," he says of his wife Penny’s menopause symptoms, continuing: "We talked about it, which I think is the most important thing a couple can do, and she explained to me – through the tears, as Penny likes a cry – and talked it through, and that’s what couples do."
While he comes at it from the position of husband, his perspective in many ways can be applied to all close family members, boiling down to one simple thing - talking. He said he would tell his male friends "to be understanding”, adding “Men have got to get on with it, understand and come out the other end.”
Talk about menopause
The importance of talking is reflected by many of the women we speak to as well, especially as so much of the impact on personal relationships comes from the frustration of women not feeling understood, and men not feeling able to understand what's happening.
Naomi said: "I think if you’re not careful, a wedge can be put between people. I was privileged to help a male friends a couple of years ago, when he asked how he could help his wife - he was sure she was going through menopause. I said to just do what you always do - let her know you love her, put your arms around her, cuddle her and let her know you’re there. It was simple advice and a couple of months later he came back and said it had worked. It’s difficult for men because they’re not going through menopause physically, but they going through it emotionally and mentally."
Some of the most commonly reported reasons connected to relationship challenges around menopause are cited as:
A lack of communication/miscommunication in general and about what's going on
Changes to our sex lives (caused by changing hormones, physical discomfort and also impacted by feeling uncomfortable in our own skins).
Helpful advice for women going through menopause
In the coming weeks we will be joined by sex and relationship experts on MenopausePlus discussing menopause, its impact on our personal relationships, and what we can do to improve. However, a few takeaways from our experience so far:
- Yes, menopause does have an impact on your relationship, but it isn't always a bad thing - lots of women find that by communicating, their relationship with their partner improves.
- Communication is key and it costs nothing but time and understanding.
- It's ok to take time for yourself. Look after your mind and body (we're thinking of a nurturing self-care routine and aromatherapy?), and say if you need a little space for a couple of hours each day to regroup.
- If you are experiencing pain or discomfort during sex, then there are things that can help such as oestrogen creams and lubricants. Don't be afraid to speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice.
- Don't suffer in silence. Whatever you're experiencing on a personal level, talk to your friends as well as your partner to make sure you get the support you need, whether it's exploring HRT/Hormone Replacement Therapies, natural sources of oestrogen, or simply knowing that someone else understands what you're going through.
Of being more communicative about her experiences, Anna said: "I usually keep things to myself but as I haven’t been particularly well and it’s been getting worse, I eventually got some kind of diagnosis. Now my husband is a bit more sympathetic with that side of things as it’s been a very controlling side of my life. I think he’s got more tolerant as he has got older too. It’s just talking to each other really."
READ ABOUT ANNA'S EXPERIENCE WITH MENOPAUSE