You may be lucky enough to be with a woman who is sailing through the perimenopause (the lead up to the menopause itself) and if you are then you are a fortunate man and do not need to read on. If, however, you are suddenly confronted with a woman you are finding hard to recognise then you may like to read on.
Perimenopause is one of those topics women don’t really discuss in depth, even with other women. We might have the odd ‘ooh sorry, hot flush’ moment but none of us really like to admit it can be hard going. One day we will feel perfectly okay with the odd four weekly strop and the next we are asking ourselves ‘Who the heck am I?’ as the symptoms of the perimenopause start to make themselves felt.
So what happens? Well, this is a very individual thing. There is no normal start or end date. Symptoms are varied and different for each woman. The most common baddies are hot flushes, headaches, mood swings, dry skin and lack of libido.
The perimenopause can be a difficult time for a lot of women. For you men the song ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ is a good rule of thumb. The realisation hits us we are coming to the end of our fertile years and this alone can really upset some women. Some of us put on weight and find it really difficult to eat anything at all without it going straight to our hips. We often have even less patience than normal and some of us can find all our little insecurities we didn’t know we had come bubbling to the surface. The smallest thing becomes huge and unmanageable; our self esteem becomes low and we really do think you being ten minutes later than usual is an issue. We don’t care what the traffic was like as we have been imagining all sorts.
This is a time of transition and, unfortunately for you, you are on the roller coaster with us. What we need is to feel viable, attractive, loved and cherished. We need to know you still find us attractive even when we don’t want you to show it by suggesting an early night. We need that expensive bubble bath and body lotion. We need candles. We need attention. Your attention.
Some of you men must wonder where your loving partners have gone. For the lucky few women (and their men) whose libidos sail through the roof this is not a problem but for other couples it can become a real relationship issue. Misunderstandings can be common. The man feels even more ignored when perhaps his partner goes shopping with increasing regularity, pays even more attention to her appearance and then flatly refuses to make love. You may even feel she is going off you but this may not be the case. With low self esteem hovering on the horizon a woman will often change her appearance to give herself a boost, start dieting to get rid of the extra weight she perceives as a huge problem and fill the home with lots of ‘things’ which make her happier. The irony is the woman herself may feel you are going off her. A woman who is having a difficult time of it sees the changes in herself and wonders why you would want her now.
So if you find yourself with a strange woman in your bed here are a few tips to make your life easier:
- Cuddles, hugs and attention are very important particularly if they are not seen as a prelude if her libido is suffering.
- Offer to listen; reassure her you still find her attractive just as she is but don’t try to ‘fix the problem’ and get impatient.
- Never belittle her for her emotions. Yes, you probably wonder why on Earth she is making such a fuss about the size of her waist as it still looks the same to you but telling her she is making a fuss about nothing won’t help. It’s important to her to feel feminine and desirable. Right now she may feel anything but.
- Offer to look together for remedies which may help but don’t tell her to ‘just go to the doctor and get on HRT’.
- Buy her some of her favourite bath products and offer her a foot rub. Although she may not feel like making love she still needs to feel loved.
- Be patient. The partner you know is still there and she will come through it eventually, very grateful to have had you by her side.
- Be supportive. If she goes to the doctor then go with her to hold her hand and take an interest in the options available.
All of the above may seem like common sense but I often hear from friends that their men aren’t as sensitive to what they are going through as they would like them to be. The libido goes and the attention goes with it while both partners struggle with their own thoughts leading to relationship difficulties and misunderstandings. Think of it as a long spell of PMT, prepare for the long haul (for some) but recognise it as a very natural process which if handled carefully can only enhance a relationship and bring the couple closer together.
Some helpful links:
Over the counter natural and other remedies – always consult your GP first before taking any medication or natural remedy.
Mpathi – a site aimed at men whose partners are going through the menopause, also relevant to the perimenopause.