The menopause is an important life transition for women. In more recent years there has been more awareness about the menopause, meaning women are more willing to talk about it with each other and their partners. The question is what is the best way to talk about the menopause with your partner, formerly still a taboo topic and one much associated with shame for many women?
As with any conversation about life transitions, creating time and space for these conversations is always a good start. When both partners feel relaxed and more receptive usually conversations flow more easily.
Then it is important that there are feelings of trust between you and your partner from the start. It is going to be difficult to talk about things that make you feel vulnerable if you don’t feel that your partner is someone who is able to support you emotionally.
It is also good to know what it is that you want to say and what you would like to gain from the conversation. Would you like your partner to have more understanding and awareness of what you are going through, leading to them being more supportive? Or maybe there are more specific things that you would like from them? In a way, talking about the menopause is no different than talking about other bodily changes such as hormonal changes during pregnancy, PMS, etc. Men don’t go through the same hormonal cycles as women, and unfortunately historically this has been seen purely as women’s domain, to be kept amongst women only and mostly hidden. We still live with this legacy today.
It is also good to be realistic – it is unlikely that your partner is going to be able to fully understand and appreciate what you are going through. Every woman is different and therefore will be in a different journey with the menopause. The uncertainty of what our bodies are going to do is a part of this, and therefore one that your partner needs to be aware of.
To share how you feel and what you are struggling with should be a part of any couple’s dialogue. To get skilled at talking about bodily changes, such as fluctuations in sex drive, hot flushes and fatigue, or mood changes such as feeling more energised and creative, less tolerant, etc., are all a part of improving one’s relationship and something that needs to be done jointly. It could be that as a couple you will need to seek help from a therapist to have these conversations, or it could be a matter of trying it several times to see what works and what doesn’t.
The menopause is another transition in the life of a woman and in the life of a couple. Ignoring this or being in denial is not going to be helpful to you or your partner. Having these conversations, even if it feels imperfect or clumsy at first could lead to more intimacy and appreciation between you.
Further reading by Sam Jahara
Finding Contentment in the Age of Discontent