My husband once remarked that it was a wonder that more couples don’t get divorced during the Big M transition. And certainly it’s true that if we who are undergoing this forced journey don’t understand much of what’s occurring, our mates and loved ones are left completely befuddled.
The combination of physical changes and emotional changes can put a strain on the most loving relationship. Loss of libido, depression and apathy, irritation with everything your loved ones say and do, fatigue, hypersensitivity to noise, temperature, and touch are just a few of the manifestations of this hormonal rollercoaster ride.
Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, starts her book of 500+ pages with this sentence “It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause.”
Okay, well it may not have been an intentionally kept secret, but I sure never heard anything about this. (Or any other of the myriad manifestations of the hormonal sh*tstorm we call the Big M.) And I’m a registered nurse for pity’s sake.
Dr. Northrup goes on to elucidate that whatever is wrong or dysfunctional in your relationships will be greatly exacerbated by menopause. I think that is true.
However, in all my talks and sharings with menopause goddesses and their loved ones, I’m finding that a huge amount of upheaval can exist in the most functional relationships.
The Venuses spent a significant part of every meeting focusing on our primary relationships. Suddenly sexual desire disappears. We may not have leisure time interests in common with our spouses. The kids are no longer a focus. How then do we connect with one another?
And now our intimates want to spend more time with us (the men are changing, too, don’t forget.) We are just beginning to explore our creativity and may want to spend more time alone or with girlfriends How do we reconcile these needs with our desire to be connected with our loved one?
It has been all too easy to assume that every freakout or episode of bitchiness is hormonal – “oh she’s just going through menopause” rather than a legitimate reaction to circumstances.
Additionally, deeper difficulties may be brewing or problems long ignored have just come to the surface.
However, it is just as deluded to assume that this sea change isn’t hormonal. Especially if the change is fairly dramatic, seemingly without warning.
Theresa and I found that we went from zero to sixty on the irritation meter in seconds during the worst of our transition. Talking with the other Venuses showed us that we were not alone.
It became clear to us that we needed to ascertain when our anger was a legitimate problem, a true trampling of our boundaries versus a hormonal side effect. Let me tell you truthfully, it can really be hard to discern the difference.
Looking backward, I can offer this advice. Proceed with caution and take it slow. We found that irritation might flare up in a circumstance that we could certainly rationalize as being justifiable anger. But we often decided not to act or say anything right away. We mused. We waited. We paused.
If we were still pissed off in a few hours, we reevaluated and decided on a plan of action for confronting and discussing the problem. If our irritation had literally vanished, we knew that hormones might have played a part. And we let it go. No harm, no foul. Especially no harm. To us or anyone else.
(A little history sidenote here – none of the Venuses is a shrinking violet, unused to sharing her feelings, including anger. If you have always contained your anger and irritation, this may not be the best plan for you. You may need to let some anger out. After all, some Change is good!)
And some good news. The worst of the emotional and hormonal upheaval seems to last around two years, give or take a year. So be patient. Get to know your irritation levels; when they require intervention and when they don’t. Warn your loved ones when you feel especially out of control so they won’t take it personally. Best of all, they can support you. They love you. They want to help. Let them.
What a fantastic image. I love that.
Good tips on anger and irritation. I wish I knew a tactful way to get my sister to read your blog. If I suggest it, she’ll blow my head off!! Food for thought. Thank you.
Great advice… musing, waiting and pausing.
This is a bit abtract perhaps, but as Chris Knight sings: “it ain’t easy being me”
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLvDjT6ZJNo )
Guess a follow up to this is – It Ain’t Easy Being Menopausal Companions.
I think your husband’s question is a great one… “it was a wonder that more couples don’t get divorced during the Big M transition”
If it weren’t for my wife questioning old wave medical “standards” around the topic, and Lynette’s writings, I could have easily never known the impact that the Big M has on communication and health.
I am on the verge of screaming on a too-frequent basis! Help me! My husband cares about me but definately not as much as he cares about himself. He has always thought this way and I have alway been a very positive person so could deal with it —- but not so much anymore! I am in PM and irritability is the most dominate symtom. I can deal with the physical (I am brave to say this because the hot flashes haven’t hit yet) but this emotional waste land is pissing me off. I can’t seem to talk to him without him getting angry and twisting my words, i think it is time for a counsoler but am fearful of the angry words that will surely arise. I am not good with angry confrontation, probably why I am in this spot now. My girlfriends have delicately suggested that if I spoke up once in a while I could have opened up his mind to something bigger than his own personnal world. I recognize that he is also going through some kind of emotional change, wants to quit his job, wants to buy a motorbike, etc. We have lots of kids and I have always loved doing all the childcare duties, they are maturing into teens and adults now so empty nest is approaching as well and the prospect is terrifying some days. My husband can’t wait for the kids to move out and I think he is anticipating that all my childcare instincts will then go towards him, doting on him, HA, I have been waiting forever for him to become a mature adult, take care of himself so we can become equals not his mommy. I need to clear my head of all these negative thoughts and feelings, they are bombarding my usual positive nature and dragging me down. I am sick of venting to my girlfriends, they don’t need to hear this crap. I need to go to a counselor on my own maybe at first to get some ideas on how I can handle these changes better. Then maybe I will have the tools to deal with my husband better and get through his thick skull the changes that have to happen around here so that we can survive these male mid life crisis crap and female PM crap. thank you for letting me vent, I am tired of holding it in and tired of wearing out my friendships by venting to them when they are not in the same place as i am.
Thanks for this article, but it’s come too late for me. In 24 years of marriage my wife and I rarely fought about anything, just about everything we did was by consensus. I wasn’t one of those husbands that did nothing around the house either, I didn’t cheat, have any addictions or any of the standard “deal breakers”. Peri kicked in at age 44 and it was like the aliens had taken over my wife, she had an affair and movedin with some guy she met online, leaving me with two kids. I knew about menopause, but never thought this amount of a behavior change was possible.
Wow, I am so sorry this happened. One of the goddess’s husbands once remarked that “It’s a miracle there aren’t more divorces due to menopause.” I think of it as puberty to the 10th power – (and we know how volatile and alien like teenagers can be). I caution women not to make any big decisions until the firestorm of the pause has passed – usually about 2 years. This is why I write the blog, trying to get the word out. Thanks for your comment – I hope more women and men will read your words – hey in the new year, I’ll write a post devoted to this. Again.