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.
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.
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