Menopause for Men

Perimenopause and menopause drastically change not only a woman’s life, but also the life of her lover/husband. Be educated and prepared to avoid relationship disasters.

David Dolgen is the husband of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. It’s about menopause and helping women deal with and understand the symptoms. Since it’s publication Shmirshky has grown into an online community. David recounted his and his wife’s experience for us.

Like most men, I was unprepared for what my wife, our family and I were about to go through when perimenopause and menopause entered our family, completely uninvited and without warning. And men, trust me, you need to be prepared. For men who care about their wives and girlfriends and are interested in maintaining an intimate and loving relationship with the women they love, this is paramount.

Frankly, I just figured my wife’s period would stop one day, and that would be menopause. She thought the same thing. We were both looking forward to it! I had never heard the word “perimenopause.” I did not know that perimenopause is the 6-10 years before a woman reaches menopause. Often, this is the time a women experiences her most severe symptoms. There are at least 33—33!—symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. And they can start at as early as age 41, usually occurring between 41 and 50. A woman doesn’t reach menopause until she’s been without a period for 12 consecutive months. The average age for menopause is 51.

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Like you, I knew none of this. I was unprepared for my wife’s challenges and totally unprepared to help her.  So here are some of the things men may experience as their women goes through perimenopause and menopause (PM&M):

  • Diminished intimacy: Let’s just say it is dry south of the border. This can impact a relationship big time. For me, I began to think there was something going on with our relationship. Was my wife not attracted to me anymore? Not understanding what was going on—and that she was in PM&M—I felt estranged from her, and even afraid to initiate sex. Learn more about PM&M and the ways you can help your wife/lover and your relationship. Don’t let a misunderstanding ruin your marriage.
  • Sleeplessness: If you are a light sleeper, be prepared. PM&M can cause night sweats, sleeplessness, and overall anxiety, which can keep your menopausal lover and you up at night. My wife tried so hard to hide all this from me. She wanted desperately to be “fine.” However, this lack of communication just compounded the impacts of PM&M on our relationship.
  • Memory loss: Suddenly, and without notice, my wife’s incredible memory vanished. She had lists and post-its everywhere in the house. I slapped one of those on myself one night, hoping to get some attention. We were both frightened that she might be in there early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It was a huge relief to know that memory loss is a common symptom of PM&M.
  • Emotional rollercoaster: I thought a demon had taken over my wife’s body. She would go into huge, angry, and emotional swings (that’s before she figured this all out, got help, and wrote her book). Again, I thought that this anger was directed toward me, that I had done something, and that our relationship was on the rocks. Try not to personalize these outbursts. They are not about you.

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Now for the good news. Neither you, nor the woman you love, need to suffer. Become part of her support system. Encourage her to find a doctor that specializes in perimenopause and menopause. (My wife and I went together to interview PM&M specialists.) When I began to read, research, and talk to my wife about her challenges, I became a part of the solution, and our relationship increasingly improved. After all, this was not just about her, it was about us! Once she found a PM&M specialist, she found hormone happiness, and so did I.

Photo Gary Soup/Flickr

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About David P. Dolgen

David P. Dolgen is a Principal at Dolgen Ventures. He was a founder and former member of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Arizona, former Chairman of the Tucson Arizona Mayor’s Task Force for Economic Development and Chairman Elect of the Greater Tucson Economic Council. Mr. Dolgen has served on numerous community, business and government boards in Arizona and California including the Pima County and the City of Tucson Bond Committees, the Angel Charity for Children, the University of Arizona Office of Cultural Affairs. Dolgen is is the Immediate Past Chairman of the Jolla Playhouse.

Comments

  1. Thanks, David, for posting this.

    Men do need to be prepared but women even more so, since they are the most affected. If couples aren’t prepared for this to start as young as their early 30s, trouble can result, even threatening their marriage’s survival.

    This is where the rubber meets the road in marriage. They committed to stick and work together though sickness and health. Will the couple work together through a rough patch or call it quits despite their commitment not to? According to AARP magazine, women in the menopause years initiate 60% of all divorces.

    Forewarned is forearmed.

    • David Dolgen is so busy with his career that I wonder how he can be a good husband and father. Since he is the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at the La Jolly Playhouse, what is he doing to produce more plays written by feminist women?

      (Yes, I said Chairwoman on purpose. If you found it offensive, well, think of what we women go through day in and day out. We constantly hear words like Chairman, mankind and you guys and are told that they include women. We all know that is not true. Those words are intended to put men on top, women on bottom. Those words are male chauvinistic to the core and can be easily replaced by more inclusive terms.)

  2. Love this! Oh my God, is this true.

    • But it’s not true for all women. Most women do not have all the symptoms of menopause. I thought the article was a grotesque cariacature of menopause and was very demeaning to women.

      When the author said he was afraid to initiate sex, I couldn’t resist thinking, “Does he do all the initiating? Doesn’t he encourage her to initiate and lead?”

  3. Great points David, and well written. Some women because of breast cancer, or family history of breast cancer can not take hormones and have to ride menopause with-out drugs. My company makes sleepwear for women that wick the mositure away from the skin and quickly evaporates. Wicking sleepwear for nightsweats, http://www.haralee.com. As you state, if your partner doesn’t sleep no one sleeps and anyone living with sleep deprivation is not at the top of their game!

    • Guess what, Haralee. A majority of women go through menopause just fine, thank you, without drugs. We do not have night sweats, mood swings, and sleepless nights. We are not exceptions to the rule, we are normal women.

      So many gynecologists have told me that the mass media distorts menopause.

  4. “Once she found a PM&M specialist, she found hormone happiness, and so did I.”

    Really?! End of story? Wow. It was different at our house. My wife announced hormone treatments = cancer risk, and that was the end of our “dry south of the border” story. So it’s been happily ever after, huh? Wow. Just wow.

  5. FYI, a lubricant can help a lot when arousal doesn’t equal vaginal lubrication. Lots of men resist using them, thinking that vaginal dryness means not being turned on equals he’s not a good lover. Men have to get over that kind of thinking.

    Night sweats can be alleviated by sleeping with an ice pack under the pillow. When she wakes up, she can slip her hand onto the ice pack, which will help bring her temperature down and break the cycle of temperature dysregulation. Keeping it under the pillow avoids having it come into accidental contact with anyone.

  6. Please, some women go through all the symptoms of menopause, but most do not. Some women have night sweats, but many do not. I never had any night sweats or sleepless nights when I went through menopause. Neither did most of my friends.

    I wish David had qualified his statements. Most women will go through a few symptoms but not all of them. Also, some women will have a few mild symptoms, but others may have lots of severe symptoms. Every woman goes through menopause differently.

    Finally, I wish David’s spouse, Ellen Darver, would write an article about andropause.. David, talk about all the male menopause symptoms you are going through. We need a few articles about andropause to balance out this overgeneralized article about menopause.

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