Putting the “Men” in Menopause
Gentlemen, prepare to have your minds blown: menopause may be the best thing that’s happened to your marriage/relationship in a long time.
Chances are, like many men, when you hear the word “menopause” you instantly think “hot flashes,” or “no sex,” or “she’s chasing me around the table wielding a frying pan as smoke billows from her ears and all I did was ask her to pass the salt.” It’s time to change that.
First thing’s first though. To begin, you need to know the menopause facts from the menopause myths. Second, in addition to extreme physical discomfort, you need to understand that menopause generally leads women down one of four avenues:
- Clarity: Her child-rearing years are over, the nest is empty, and it’s time for her to re-evaluate your relationship. Confusion likely ensues. “You start to get a sort of re-examination of all these things that have always been there and maybe not focused upon,” Howe says, “but now there’s a shift in the focus.”
- Fog: Howe says a cognitive fog can include memory loss and other changes, both hormonal and psychological, which affect how a woman reads situations in a relationship. The timeframe for this differs with every woman.
- Self-identity crisis: Like how you wanted to buy a Harley Davidson and leather biker jacket for your 50th birthday. “There’s this whole second part of a woman’s life that no one really gets excited about, talks about, portrays in the media,” Howe explains. “Are they all dried up and do they have a function anymore and what does that look like?”
- The “menopause really wasn’t that bad” woman: She may be rare, but she’s out there.
You probably recognize your partner from her strolls down one or more of these avenues. This is where you come in.
Think of it like this: if your partner was pregnant, you’d take her to the doctor, go to birthing classes, and hold her hand in the delivery room. That wasn’t necessarily the case with men 50 years ago, but childbirth went from being a “woman’s issue” to a “family issue.” Howe wants to see the same attitude take hold when it comes to menopause.
“(Menopause) can be a team thing,” she says enthusiastically. “It doesn’t have to be this girly issue that you can’t be a part of, and it’s actually the best way to show you care – to get informed and find out about it.”
To start, go to the doctor with your partner and learn about what she’s going through, physically and emotionally. A good catchall question, Howe suggests, is, “What can I do to make it a little bit better for you?” If she doesn’t know, make suggestions. And ask the question often.
Even the inevitable clashes, however big or small, that come with menopause offer a chance to explore deeper issues in your relationship that may have been swept under the rug for far too long. Learning to understand what your partner’s going through should help bring you both much closer, emotionally and physically. And speaking of physically-.
Another symptom of menopause tends to be lack of sex drive. A woman’s bodily functions change during menopause (and let’s be honest, yours change at that age too). If you felt like a furnace, Howe noted, you wouldn’t want to be canoodling under the covers either. As a result, some women shut their partner out.
As a remedy, Howe recommends taking sex off the table for a month. Yes, a month. Instead, do a bunch of other things, such as rubbing a cold cloth on your partner’s body when she’s hot. Or, simply make out like two teens in the back of a movie theatre. But no sex.
“What you’ll find is people will have more sex that month than they would have,” Howe says of the technique. “As soon as you take that expectation and that pressure away, all of a sudden people start to get comfortable.”
Very clever. As well, the more you know about how your partner’s body is working, and which functions no longer respond like they did 20 years ago, the less confusion/insecurity you’ll experience in bed.
Of course, the overarching benefit is that this all plays into Howe’s theory that couples should hit the refresh button on their relationship every five years.