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.