Author & Marital Therapist

Talk to Your Partner About the Menopause

Six Tips to Address a Difficult Subject

Talking about the Menopause

When there is a difficult subject, we tend to skate round it and hope for the best.

Although this is understandable, it tends to make things worse rather than better. One of the topics that couples find really difficult to talk about is the Menopause. This article explores why, and gives six practical tips to kick-start the conversation.

Andrew

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Why are men frightened of talking about the menopause?

  • We are anxious about saying something that will upset the women in our lives.
  • It can easily get into a situation when one or both partners feel criticised and many men are afraid of women’s anger.
  • We don’t have enough information or permission to ask questions.
  • Our culture still sees menstruation and therefore the menopause as something women deal with privately or talk to their mothers or female friends about.

Why are women frightened of talking to the men they love about the menopause?

  • Our culture does not talk about the menopause. Full stop.
  • Women are worried that their partner will not understand or not take them seriously.
  • Their partners have seen their menstrual cycle in the past as a source of complaints and issues, thereby dismissing or downgrading what were legitimate complaints.
  • Menopause can be a crisis of self-esteem for women: weight gain, brain fog and acne are among many common symptoms. It can be hard to put this into words with a romantic and sexual partner.
  • Menopause is a lot to process: there are huge emotional fluctuations associated with hormonal change. Plus, it represents a move from a fertile, younger life-stage to something new and perhaps frightening.
  • Women may not have a sense of how on board you are willing to be with these changes.
  • Many women do not themselves have enough information. They may spend months or years feeling confused and upset about what’s happening with hormonal changes that can begin in the late 30s and go on into the 50s. It’s hard for them to articulate what’s happening.

However, this topic has a REAL impact on the couples who I counsel. That’s why I support the work of The Menopause Café to get everybody talking on this topic – not just women.

Rachel Weiss, the CEO of the Menopause Café, recently appeared on my podcast The Meaningful Life with Andrew G. Marshall to spread the word.

In 2017, Rachel Weiss watched a TV programme about the menopause and was inspired to hold a Menopause Café.

This has now turned into an international movement of pop-up events where women and the men in their lives meet to drink tea, eat cake and talk menopause. The Menopause Café is modelled on the Death Café movement, founded by Jon Underwood.

In my interview with Rachel, we discussed women’s experiences of menopause and the impact on their lives and relationships. The menopause has long been a taboo subject, and raises profound issues of shame and silence around the female body. Women have suffered due to the lack of knowledge or public conversation about the menopause, and so have their partners.

The Menopause Café is playing a crucial role in an increasingly more open discourse on the menopause, helping women to live through this stage of their lives with understanding rather than fear and loneliness.

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Six tips for talking about the Menopause

  1. Listen to the podcast and discuss it, with each of you starting with… ‘What resonated for me the most was…’
  2. Have a talking stick, the person who is speaking holds the stick (or some token) and the other cannot respond until he or she has the stick. This stops interrupting or talking over.
  3. When your partner is speaking, your job is just to listen.
  4. Speak for yourself, use I statements. Talk about your feelings. Do not try to solve your partner’s problems or change their opinion.
  5. Be willing to learn – ask your partner what information has helped them, and commit to reading or watching some of it so that the two of you can talk about it.
  6. Thank each other afterwards.

Menopause resources you might find helpful

Have a question for Andrew?

Andrew has answered many questions over the last decade in the Help & Advice section. Comments on those articles are now closed, but there are other ways you can receive help and join the conversation:

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We concentrate more on solving current problems than understanding what went wrong. Our approach is solutions-focused.

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