Our grandmothers’ generation just called it “the change”—that time in a woman’s life when their bodies, well, changed. While this transformative time in life was once shrouded in mystery, women are now having more open dialogues about how menopause affects their everyday lives. But whether your wife or partner is comfortable discussing her experiences or struggles to share, knowing how to provide support to a loved one dealing with hormonal upheaval is invaluable.
Though women’s bodies go through many hormonal cycles and changes throughout their lifetime, menopause represents a big one, and one that will not cycle back around. The finality and unpredictability of menopause often necessitate both physical and emotional adjustment. With so much in flux, it stands to reason that many women support.
Some women seek that support from their mothers, sisters, and friends, but chances are they will lean on the person closest to them, the one who is there on a daily basis: you. These menopause tips for husbands and partners can help you be there for her.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. As the ovaries’ supply of eggs diminishes, the production of estrogen and progesterone—the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle—declines. Menopause is confirmed when menstrual periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months. By this time, hormone levels have settled into a new normal low.
It is precisely the falling hormone levels that cause the changes and discomforts associated with menopause. However, it doesn’t all happen at once; women can experience significant symptoms in years leading up to menopause, a period of time referred to as perimenopause or the menopausal transition. During perimenopause, falling hormones prompt the body to make more, causing levels to fluctuate wildly. This rollercoaster continues until the ovaries finally shut down and is responsible for many of the unpredictable symptoms women experience as menopause approaches.
Perimenopause may be marked by heavy periods that gradually become more irregular. A variety of other symptoms may appear during this time, including:
While some women experience some of these symptoms, others deal with all of them—and more.
There is no way to predict what your wife or partner will experience or how long her symptoms will last, and any one of them may cause her to become fatigued and discouraged. Even if her symptoms are invisible to the outside world, those closest to her may see that she’s struggling to keep her head above water. As her partner, you are well-positioned to offer support and understanding at this time.
7 Helpful Menopause Tips for Husbands and Partners
Offering the right kind of support will be a lot easier with these menopause tips for husbands and partners. Here are a few specific ways to be there for her:
1. Educate Yourself
Reading through this list is a good start, but learning about menopause will be invaluable to you as you strive to support your partner on this inevitable journey. Unfortunately, menopause is often seen as a taboo subject, and many people—including many women—are not well-informed. Getting the facts will allow you to communicate from a place of basic knowledge.
2. Offer a Listening Ear
As your loved one is learning to navigate her new hormonal landscape, be a sympathetic listener. On a given day, she may want to share or she may want to keep her feelings private. Remember that what is happening is deeply personal. Providing a listening ear when she needs one is the loving thing to do, but don’t press her when she’s not feeling up to talking. Usually, asking how you can help is much more valuable than giving advice.
3. Provide Reassurance
Though menopause and perimenopause are inevitable for most women, the symptoms and their duration are largely unpredictable. Let her know that you are in it for better or for worse and that you are committed to getting through it together.
4. Don’t Take Things Personally
If she’s frustrated and struggling to communicate in healthy ways, don’t take it personally. Expressions of frustration are natural when physical and emotional symptoms occur without warning or compound upon each other. Small acts of kindness can go a long way to relieve stress and take the pressure off. Finding ways to help out around the house or providing time and encouragement to relax and unwind with a hot bath and a glass of wine may be all that’s needed to defuse the situation.
While it’s a good idea to not take everything personally, do take her seriously. Do not assume her thoughts and feelings—including those that make you uncomfortable— are all rooted in hormonal change or dismiss her because it’s “just the menopause talking.”
5. Approach Intimacy With Understanding
With all the hormonal and physical changes occurring, sexual intimacy may be challenging for a woman. Changes to the vaginal and urinary tissues may make sex uncomfortable. There may be changes in sexual desire. Changing body image may cause her self-confidence to take a hit. Empathize with her, respect her, and take it slow. Patience and open communication will help you to maintain emotional intimacy as you work the other stuff out.
6. Encourage Her to Seek Treatment
Though your wife or partner may try to power through the uncomfortable symptoms and wait out the hormonal changes, there are good and effective treatments available to help. While this can include a variety of physiological and psychological approaches, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the gold standard for many menopause symptoms. By supplementing the body’s natural hormones, HRT can improve the disruptive symptoms caused by declining or fluctuating hormones. And, because every woman’s menopause experience is unique, there are options to fit a variety of lifestyles and personal preferences.
An important note: the decision to seek treatment and what kind of treatment to seek are profoundly personal. Do not push her to undergo treatment she does not truly want, and never make her feel like you are encouraging treatment for your own benefit. She is the expert on her own experience and can make the best choices about her health.
7. Help Her Focus on Long-Term Health
Unfortunately, menopause marks the time when women become more susceptible to a variety of health conditions. The additive effects of advancing age and declining hormone levels leave postmenopausal women at higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. Support her in making healthy lifestyle choices to reduce that risk. Whether it’s preparing healthier meals or taking up a new fitness activity together, building better habits can help both of you fortify your bodies as you age. When started early (prior to age 60 and within 10 years of menopause), HRT may also provide significant protection.
Providing Love and Support for the Next Phase of Life
Coming from a place of love, patience, and understanding, these menopause tips for husbands and partners serve as a jumping-off point to help you provide meaningful support. In addition to this day-to-day support, you can help your loved one plan for a long and healthy post-menopause life by connecting with a doctor who specializes in caring for women throughout the menopause transition. With guidance, her best years may lie ahead—and you can get there together.