If your partner is experiencing symptoms of menopause, it can feel difficult to know how to support them. Part of this may be because information-sharing and discussions around menopause have only become more common in recent years.
But menopause marks a significant period of transition in a woman’s life and, for many, it can be overwhelming and debilitating. Women who are struggling with menopause symptoms might also feel uncomfortable starting a conversation about it or asking for help.
Therefore, if you don’t know much about menopause, then taking time to understand this phase could be a worthwhile investment in your relationship. And the good news is that there are various things you can do to help make things that little bit easier for your partner.
With that said, we’ve pulled together eight tips to help you support your partner through menopause.
1. Learn about menopause
Learning about menopause is the first, and arguably most important, step you can take when supporting your partner. Only by having an idea of what they’re going through can you understand how best to help.
Menopause causes various changes within the female body, mainly as the result of a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. Every woman will experience menopause differently – for example, some women find it to be mild and over quickly, while for others it can be very noticeable, intense, and drawn out.
Nevertheless, some of the most common symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, brain fog, weight gain, sexual discomfort, mood swings and trouble sleeping; all of which can have an impact on quality of life.
Understanding, and anticipating some of these symptoms can not only help you support your partner through them, but also diffuse any tension or difficulties that arise from changes in their behaviour.
If you’re looking to widen your knowledge about menopause, consider having a read of our articles; 5 common symptoms of menopause and how to ease them and Managing your menopause journey.
2. Communicate with your partner and ask how you can help
Beyond general reading, the most effective way to understand how menopause is affecting your partner is to ask them directly. For example, sometimes troubling sleeping is the main concern, while for other women, it might be a struggle with weight gain and body confidence. Knowing how menopause affects your partner personally will allow you to offer the best support.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that while significant progress has been made in opening up the conversation about menopause, unfortunately the taboo still exists to an extent. In fact, this survey found that 47% of people (and 72% of perimenopausal and menopausal women) still believe it’s a taboo topic in society.
With this in mind, not everyone may want to talk openly about certain symptoms or feelings, as these can feel private and personal. But, even just showing that you’re there to listen should they want to talk about it can make all the difference.
3. Anticipate mood changes and try not to take things personally
For some women, hormone changes during menopause can have a significant impact on their mood and cause symptoms like sadness, tiredness, and irritability. As a result, research has found that it’s not uncommon for menopause symptoms to be mistaken for clinical depression.
Navigating mood changes can be difficult, especially if they seem to be directed at you and come out of nowhere. But it’s important to remind yourself of the cause and, as much as possible, try not to take it personally.
Our article, Understanding the difference between menopause and depression, offers useful information on how and why menopause can impact mood, and what you can do to help.
4. Support your partner in making healthy lifestyle changes that may help them
Research has found that leading a healthy, active lifestyle can help some women significantly ease menopause symptoms and limit some of the related health risks, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Therefore, one way to support your partner through menopause is not only to encourage them to make healthy lifestyle changes but also, where possible, to do it with them. This can be a powerful way to demonstrate that you’re in this together. Plus, you’ll be making healthy changes to your life as well.
Below are a couple of areas that you might like to focus on…
Research has shown that diet can have a huge impact on menopause symptoms and if tailored correctly, help to limit its impact on health.
For example, studies have found that eating more dairy can help women to maintain healthy bones during menopause, while soy-based foods have been identified as effective in reducing the severity and frequency of hot flushes. Meanwhile, alcohol and processed, high-salt foods have been found to have a negative impact.
Our article, 7 of the best food groups to help you through menopause, offers plenty of guidance on menopause-friendly diets.
Suggestions you could make to your partner might include cooking some menopause-friendly meals together, switching up some of foods you have sitting in the fridge, and committing to cutting down on alcohol and processed foods.
We’re all aware of the many benefits of exercise, both for our physical and mental health. And when it comes to menopause, research has found that staying active can be particularly beneficial.
Studies suggest that exercise may reduce hot flushes, manage weight, lift mood, improve sleep, and boost self-esteem. Plus, as the risk of developing osteoporosis increases with menopause due to lower levels of estrogen in the body, staying active can help to strengthen bones, build muscle, and reduce the risk of fractures.
For this reason, strength training has been identified as particularly beneficial. Though, staying active in any form is positive.
Why not show support to your partner by encouraging them to stay active, or suggest ways you could exercise together? You’ll find plenty of inspiration in the fitness and exercise section of our website.
However, it’s still worth bearing in mind that menopause symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings, poor sleep, and weight gain can make exercise the last thing on your partner’s mind; so remember to always approach the subject sensitively and not be disheartened if it doesn’t immediately go as planned.
5. Consider how menopause may affect your relationship and sex life, and be proactive
Menopause symptoms like mood changes, night sweats, and reduced sex drive can impact romantic relationships.
Research finds that roughly 80% of women report a decline in sexual desire during menopause – both as the result of changing hormones and symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flushes, and emotional changes, which can easily take the enjoyment out of sex.
In addition, science has linked falling estrogen levels with lower oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone because it’s responsible for helping us feel connected to friends, family, and romantic partners and for fueling our desire to show affection. A decline in oxytocin may leave your partner feeling disconnected and place distance between you.
Experiencing these changes can be distressing in itself, but many women also find themselves worrying about the effect of menopause on their partner and relationship. For example, they may worry about feeling less in touch with their partner or about the prospect of them having an affair.
As a result, creating a space where both you and your partner can openly discuss how you’re feeling or what you’re struggling with can make a huge difference. If your partner has trouble opening up, you could try putting her at ease by making suggestions of your own that you believe could help.
For example, turning to intimate activities like massages, cuddling, or sensual baths might help to strengthen your connection. You could also discuss other meaningful non-sexual ways to show each other affection – for example, planning date nights or writing each other handwritten notes. Remember, every couple is different so it’s just about finding what works best for you.
For tips on overcoming the impact menopause can have on sex and relationships, check out our articles; Menopause and relationships: common issues and tips that can help and 7 tips to improve your sex life during and after menopause.
6. Boost your partner’s confidence
Many women report experiencing low self-esteem during menopause, as many symptoms can leave them feeling unattractive or unloveable.
Research suggests that this largely stems from societal views that have linked menopause with a loss of youth and womanhood. For example, this study looked at cultures where old age was celebrated over youth and found that women experienced fewer negative symptoms during perimenopause and menopause.
In line with this, other findings show that many male partners aren’t aware of how menopause can impact their partner’s self-esteem and, as a result, make no changes in reassuring her of their love and attraction.
If this is something you resonate with, perhaps you could consider what you could do to give your partner’s confidence a little boost. For some ideas, have a read of these ideas from Psychology Today.
7. Remember to be patient
Menopause is defined as the point in time 12 months after a woman has had her last menstrual period. According to the NHS, this usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
However, menopause isn’t a sudden change, but a gradual process. And with both the lead-up to menopause (perimenopause) and the time after (postmenopause), some women can experience intense symptoms for up to 15 years.
While the severity of symptoms tends to fade over time – and for some women disappear entirely – for others they can linger for much longer. In addition, women in postmenopause have a higher risk of certain health conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis, so may make permanent lifestyle changes to reflect this.
As a result, it’s important to be patient with the process; understanding that your partner is going through a transition and may still suffer from difficult symptoms or risks, even when the typical menopause period has ended.
8. Understand that menopause is about more than just hormone changes
Helping your partner navigate the physical symptoms of menopause is key when it comes toshowing your support. However, it’s equally important to recognise that menopause isn’t just about hormones. Along with all of the physical changes, many women also find it to be a deeply emotional time.
Coming to terms with ageing and a loss of fertility can be difficult. This can be especially true for women who’ve experienced issues with fertility; though even women who’ve happily led a life without children or who don’t wish to have any more children can find the transition daunting.
As you’ll also know, midlife in a general sense can be challenging at times; for example, facing increased responsibility at work, struggling with empty nest syndrome, or balancing caring for children and elderly parents. Sometimes, menopause can add to this as well.
Menopause is a significant period of transition in every woman’s life. Making a conscious effort to your support partner by educating yourself, being there to listen, and altering expectations around sex can make a huge difference – not only to their personal experience and in your relationship, but also in opening up the general conversation around menopause too.