Menopause can be overwhelming and hard to talk about. If someone you love is going through it, you might feel a little bit in the dark, and that can make it tough to know how to help.
A good first step toward being supportive is to learn about menopause, so let’s take a look at the basics. The first signs of menopause usually start between ages 45 and 55 when the ovaries slow down their estrogen production. It’s a time of transition, called perimenopause, that lasts for a few years. During this transition, there are lots of changes in the body. Eventually menstrual cycles stop, and when a person has gone a full year without a period, that’s menopause.
Many people go through this gradual process, but others experience menopause more abruptly through the surgical removal of their ovaries, or other medical treatments. Women who enter menopause this way still experience the same types of symptoms. They may also have the emotional distress that can come with a life-threatening illness, and grief over lost fertility.
The symptoms of menopause
Menopause symptoms can range from very mild to severe. If symptoms become a problem, there are medical treatments that can help.
Some of the most common symptoms during perimenopause and menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain
How to listen and offer support
Even though there’s a list of common menopause symptoms, the physical and emotional experience is different for everyone. So the second important thing to do, once you have an idea of what menopause is all about, is to ask your partner what their own experience is like. Try to listen without judgment or advice. If your partner is going through mood changes, please don’t take the moods personally.
If your partner is struggling, you may want to suggest ways you can help ease their stress, like taking on more household chores or cutting back on a few of the activities that make life hectic and overwhelming.
Conversations around menopause can also be an opportunity to open the lines of communication about your relationship. Here are a few questions to help you both talk about what you want and need now, and into the future:
- What can I do to support you when you are stressed, sad, or overwhelmed?
- When do you need time alone?
- When do you need support?
- How can we discuss our feelings during difficult times?
It might be time to talk about your sex life
Around this time, you might both be experiencing changes in your libido. Instead of letting each other’s feelings get hurt, or mistaking libido changes for rejection, discuss your intimacy needs. You don’t have to just stick to sex. Open up about all of the things that help you feel close and connected.
Try some new healthy habits — together
There are lots of lifestyle changes that can help people feel well and stay healthy through menopause. And they’re things that tend to be good for all of us: eating well, getting more physical activity, lowering stress, losing weight if we need to, and quitting smoking. One of the most wonderful ways to support your partner during menopause — and to build your relationship — is to make some of these healthy lifestyle changes together.
If you’d like to talk to someone about the changes at menopause, and how you can support someone you love, reach out to an Ovia coach. We’re experts in menopause, and we’re always here to help.