What a great question and on the face of it we could well channel our Frankie Goes to Hollywood and say absolutely nothing! But I would venture that’s not the right answer and actually if we – and I mean men and women – continue to think about menopause as being something that only affects women, then we are missing a massive piece of the jigsaw puzzle of our lives. Why? Because, and here’s my Frankie again, I say it again … we are social animals, we are designed to live in social groups and interact with one another; none of us lives in isolation regardless of whether we are in a relationship, because we are all part of social groups either through our friends, wider family or our work colleagues. So, if we see menopause as something that only affects women, we are doing all of us a disservice.
I recently read a fascinating research article about attitudes of men, who described themselves as being in long-term relationships and living full-time with a female partner, on menopause. It shone a spotlight on some prevalent attitudes towards menopause along with the barriers men face when trying to learn about or talk abo
- 48% said they were aware their partners were experiencing menopause, with 84% saying their partners had told them that was what was happening.
- 63% said their partner’s menopausal symptoms had personally negatively impacted them, specifically 34% saying it had negatively impacted their relationship and 33% that it had negatively impacted their sex lives.
- 22% thought the symptoms being experienced by their partners were attributable to the ageing process rather than menopause.
- 72% indicated they had talked to their partners about menopause, although all stated they hadn’t started the conversation.
- 32% described the conversation as “polite”, with others feeling stressed or uptight (19%), or uneasy (21%).
Mate Journal of North American Menopause Society, 2019,
What do women (me primarily) make of this?
I was gobsmacked when I read this report. What struck me was the lack of understanding – yes, we are all getting older but to describe menopause systems as simply ageing is an indicator of the gap in knowledge. Yes, menopause comes at a time when we are getting older and signifies the end of our fertile lives, but it isn’t the gateway to old age. It is a massive time for women when our bodies and brains are literally rewiring themselves, and when we may start to question who we are and what we want from our lives. We are trying to look forward beyond this stage but to think menopause is simply aging is quite wrong, and more than likely will not help our relationships to flourish.
Then I was struck by the conversations that happened or didn’t happen. I am not surprised that the women opened this door and that’s great, but actually that stat masks the fact that maybe we aren’t making it easy for our men to ask the questions or even help us. Let’s consider for years we have been, to a certain extent, at the mercy of our hormones and when our men were trying to be empathetic in the past, we may well have cut them dead ☹ How many times as a woman did you catch your partner saying, “oh it’s the time of the month”? And then you’d bite back “this has nothing to do with hormones, stop blaming my hormones”? No wonder when we reach menopause and want to say “yes, it is all about my hormones”, our men are reluctant to open that Pandora’s.
But having said that, having a “polite” conversation or feeling uptight, stressed or embarrassed even to talk about menopause seems a shame, especially as we may well have been part of a loving, supportive couple for some time. How strange that when it comes to the workings of women’s bodies, we struggle to talk about it to those closest to us.
What can we do about it?
Again, we are social animals so I am saying socially we can bring these matters out into the open and support one another. Let’s not forget that as women experience menopause, the men in our lives could also be experiencing a rewiring in their bodies. The “male menopause” or andropause does exist; your testosterone levels start to reduce through your 40s and 50s, and that too will create issues for you – add to that the impacts of menopause and you’ve the recipe for a difficult and possibly tumultuous family life!
I say all experiences are valid and we need to learn how to understand each other better and be able to support one another even more. We don’t have to be experts, but we do need to educate ourselves on what is happening for one another, we need to be brave and have that conversation and, we have to be partners – one experience is no more important than the other. We are very much in this together for good or for bad!
On Monday 11th July Phoenix Wellness Coaching will be hosting a workshop exclusively for men and, in response to the request from men, to help them to start the process of learning about menopause. I will teach the facts about menopause, the indicators of menopause and what to expect. At the end more men will be able to go home and have that all important conversation and to understand what is happening. You will be able to support the women in your lives so they can thrive through this stage, plus be able to ask for the help you need too.
Email Me if you’d like to learn more about the workshop or just want to reach out and talk about how you can support the women in your life.