World Menopause Day – remember it?

Sadly that’s unlikely as it drifted under the radar for most of us.

What should have been a great chance to really flag up a pivotal part of every woman’s lifecycle just melted away.

October 18th since you ask

Of all the reasons that bring couples to therapy, the menopause is rarely flagged up as important, but for women (usually between mid 40s to mid 50s) it can have a massive impact on health and well-being.

Even when I bring up the topic in the counselling room, it’s usual for the subject to be brushed aside with surprising alacrity.

Embarrassment, and a feeling that women ‘just have to deal with it’, can render it as a perceived irrelevance in the complex list of difficulties, problems and communication issues that are usually cited as the couples presenting problems.

It’s more than time to bust open one of the last taboos that affect women and therefore will impact all their relationships

The fastest growing group of workers are now women aged 50 to 65, and finally there are official moves to enforce Workplace Menopause Policies. Not yet a formality, but at least people are recognising that there needs to be a serious campaign for change.

Unfortunately in many domestic scenarios, there is still an awkwardness around discussing the coping strategies to help women who may be struggling.

The physical symptoms are well documented, but not always placed in the context of couple and family life.

Mood swings can feel intensely overpowering, leading to feelings of irrational anger and fear.

Energy levels can dip.

Hot flushes are not as amusing as they appear to be in comedy sitcoms. They can be overwhelming and cause embarrassing facial redness and even dizziness.

Not having control of your body is a scary feeling and night sweats can affect sleeping patterns if sharing a bed with a partner.

Just when women may need reassurance, many will retreat to separate sleeping arrangements which can reinforce loneliness.

Sexual difficulties are another issue that may need space for discussion in therapy.

Many men collude with the lack of openess when it comes to discussing the physical side of the relationship at such an important time. Embarrassment and awkwardness is often dealt with by avoidant silence.

Difficulties around pain or dryness that can be experienced by many women are not only a simple matter of seeking helpful information  (and there are many good advice sites to be found) but also an opportunity to search together for useful support and the opportunity for some creative discussion about a couples sex life.

* there are useful links at the end of this blog* 

That’s only the physical side, but for so many women this is one manifestation of far deeper issues around perceived anxieties of changes, of low self esteem and a serious fear of aging and a feeling that they are losing a part of their former, feminine selves.

A retreat from the normality of the couples sexual connection can lead to the other partners perception of rejection and then if none of this is talked about in a sympathetic way, both people can become isolated and distant.

Therapy can normalise these conversations which are understandably tricky for so many couples.

In the therapy room it can be a relief to have a conversation that brings these changes out into the open, leading couples to much better understanding of, and compassion for, each other.

There may be a need to renegotiate tasks and responsibilities in everyday family life

Reassurance may also be needed for both parties, and clearing up unspoken assumptions is a vital way to crack open the mighty menopause myth.

Lorraine Kelly on her morning TV show was brave enough to bring her own experiences to a wide audience – and has reported that this tricky subject gained the largest traction they had ever had on her long-running show.

It’s worth mentioning that the only reason she used herself as subject matter was because the many women in the public eye who were approached, all declined for fear they could be seen as ‘past it’

Check out Lorraine – no surgery and she very much still has it.

There are plenty of specialist professionals with whom to discuss individual physical  healthcare options, but very little help for the psychological effects. And still precious few allowances at work.

For many women, all this change has to be dealt with at the same time that they may be tussling with elderly parents needing support, empty nest syndrome, or retirement issues.

This is not a time for shyness or secrecy but a time to take stock and refresh the couple dynamic.

It’s not all doom and gloom however ….

  • There’s half a life to be lived without fear of pregnancy.
  • There’s now a chance for recreational sex to liberate a couple and help to develop a more sensual side to their physical relationship.
  • No more PMT – a huge bonus for many.
  • An opportunity to reassess what has possibly become rather routine diet and exercise habits.
  • There are many foods and supplements that can make a great difference
  • Remember that yoga is widely thought to be hugely beneficial.
  • This is a life stage that gives couples a chance for a thorough M.O.T – Marital Overhaul Time.

It can be a chance to talk over concerns and possible adjustments.

If one half of a couple changes then both will be affected. Use this inevitable life transition as a lever to really listen to each other’s feelings. Open up and be honest – be there for each other and polish up those rusty communication skills

Menopause. Use it as a pathway to a more open and honest stage of couple life

Christina Fraser