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Menopause is an uncomfortable subject for many women to discuss. One recent survey suggests that nearly 25% of women over the age of 45 feel uncomfortable talking about “the change” with their romantic partners. Every mature woman, however, will eventually experience menopause and the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of this major hormonal shift. These symptoms can have far-reaching effects, impacting not just the woman undergoing the change, but those around her as well.
Don’t let hormonal changes wreak havoc on your latest romance! When menopause causes difficulties, turn to the following solutions.
Problem: Lack of Sympathy and Understanding
Many women complain that the worst part of going through menopause is the lack of understanding they receive from their partners. One woman may suffer from bouts of dizziness, depression, and dry skin. Another might struggle with brain fog, night sweats, and sudden weight gain. Hormonal changes often impact mood, leaving many women swinging between uncomfortable emotions ranging from rage to panic. Though men don’t experience hormonal changes in the ways that women do, many men also struggle with declining testosterone levels while facing the harsh realities of hitting middle age. Whether an emotional crisis is affecting one partner or both, relationships can easily fall apart.
Solution: Education and Communication
Though men will never experience menopause first-hand, engaging in active and open conversations regarding the change can be a good first step towards fostering an understanding of menopause and sympathy for the challenges that it brings. Though it shouldn’t be a woman’s job to educate men regarding women’s health issues, informative dialogue can make subjects like menstruation and menopause less taboo. Talk to your partner, sons, and grandsons about the ways in which menopause has affected you. Though some men may continue to shy away from the subject, you can rest assured that you have done your part in spreading valuable information about an important change that directly impacts half of the world’s population.
Problem: Physical Changes and Sexual Problems
Most women suffer from a number of physical symptoms while going through menopause. Some of these symptoms, like hot flashes, may be transient. Others, like vaginal dryness and atrophy, urinary incontinence, and osteoporosis have the potential to become more permanent. These physical changes may cause pain and discomfort, leading to decreased energy levels, poor mood, and reduced sexual desire. Falling estrogen levels are often to blame for painful intercourse resulting from vaginal dryness and conditions like vaginismus, an affliction triggering painful muscular contractions that prevent penetration.
Suffering from physical symptoms and sexual side effects, many women find their partners growing frustrated or distant, ultimately leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Men may feel rejected or may not know how to cope with their partners’ health concerns and changes in libido and sexual functioning. Men may also struggle with erection issues, while both partners may experience reduced self-confidence as a result of the physical aging process.
Solution: Symptom Management, Lifestyle Changes, and Sexual Modifications
Physical changes, particularly those affecting the sex organs, are a natural part of menopause. Fortunately, many of the challenges posed by these changes can be resolved through changes in habits and lifestyle. Minor improvements in diet and exercise have the potential to slow the weight gain process, for instance. Consider making these lifestyle changes as a couple to promote health for both partners.
Changes in sexual behavior may also aid couples facing menopause together. Some partners may find themselves sleeping in separate beds as a result of menopausal symptoms like night sweats and insomnia. If this is the case, you and your partner may need to focus on spending more quality time together during your waking hours, engaging in acts of physical intimacy whenever it is most comfortable. Women who are struggling with vaginal changes may find that a focus on foreplay and non-penetrative sex leave them feeling more satisfied in the bedroom.
In many instances, the use of a high-quality lubricant may be enough to compensate for issues like vaginal dryness. Other conditions, like vaginal atrophy, may need to be treated by medical professionals. Vaginally-administered estrogen, for instance, may be a solution for atrophy. Hormone replacement therapy, often known as HRT, may be offered as a temporary treatment for many menopausal symptoms ranging from hot flashes to osteoporosis. If you are experiencing symptoms that cannot be resolved by lifestyle modification, consult your doctor for alternative treatment options.
Problem: Emotional Volatility
Mood swings, an unfortunate side effect of hormonal fluctuations, are perhaps the menopausal symptom most responsible for relationship problems. Though most individuals known that hormones like estrogen and progesterone affect the reproductive system, few realize that there are receptors for these hormones all throughout the body. Hormone receptors in the brain are struck particularly hard by menopause. Anger, sorrow, anxiety, irritability, and depression can set in as mood-regulators like serotonin are produced in irregular spurts, leading to emotional instability.
Solution: Stress-Reduction, Patience, and Treatment
Though menopause is sure to affect your mood at some point, studies suggest that stress-reduction practices have the potential to reduce mood swings, depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms like hot flashes by as much as 30%. Engaging in yoga, mindfulness meditation, or other relaxing daily habits just might help stabilize your mood!
Mood swings are often irritating for both those suffering through them and those close to the sufferer. If you’re struggling with emotional volatility, strive to recognize when you’re beginning to feel the physical and emotional symptoms of an impending change in mood. If you can, remove yourself from the offending situation. After a few minutes away from a person or situation, you might find that your feelings have blown over. If not, the situation can be dealt with as usual.
Men should also try to be patient with their partners. Instead of viewing a biting remark or an evening of tears as something coming directly from your partner, remind yourself that these symptoms may be the result of uncontrollable hormonal fluctuations. Though it’s easier said than done, try not to take such outbursts personally. If either partner allows their emotions to get the better of them, however, they should apologize for their words or actions. Despite the challenges posed by mood swings, couples should strive to remain calm and manage problems in productive ways.
If emotional regulation is a major or constant issue in your relationship, consider consulting a doctor or therapist for further treatment and guidance. Other health problems, such as thyroid dysfunction or clinical depression, may also be affecting your health. By treating any co-existing medical issues, you can better identify and manage the symptoms of menopause, too, leading to improved health and wellness.
The hormonal hurricane triggered by menopause has the potential to impact any woman’s relationship with her partner. Instead of accepting this turbulence as inevitable, take proactive steps to manage symptoms and their effects on your interpersonal relationships. Women should consider tracking their symptoms, actively communicating with their partners, and engaging in healthy habits like eating well and exercising to manage physical and emotional symptoms. If such changes are insufficient for reducing symptom severity, sufferers should seek professional support from doctors and therapists. Men should strive to listen to their partners and offer support whenever possible. Both partners should be patient with one another and sympathetic towards each other’s wants and needs.
Ultimately, it is helpful to view menopause as a transition into a new stage of life. Once the most challenging menopausal symptoms have quieted down, couples can look forward to enjoying perhaps the most relaxing and freeing years of their lives.
By enacting positive lifestyle changes and proactively managing symptoms as they arise, menopause can be transformed from a relationship-ruiner into a tool for interpersonal improvement.
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