From hot flushes to mood swings, sleep disturbances, and even depression, menopause can be an overwhelming time in our lives. So it’s important to remember that these symptoms don’t exist in isolation. They affect us as women experiencing them, yes, but they also affect those around us – our partners, children, friends and work colleagues. So we have to know how to communicate and ask for what we need.
The partner’s perspective
For partners, the experience can be just as bewildering. Many may feel unprepared for the sometimes quite radical changes that menopause brings, unsure of how to provide support. A friend of mine who is now close to 60 said her husband claimed she had become “a completely different person” during menopause. They’re still together so I guess this new person ended up being great too;).
Partners may miss cues of distress or dismiss them as temporary or inconsequential. It’s essential that we as women recognise what is going on with us, understand how this transition might affect our relationships and friendships, and then open the lines of communication and discuss the changes. If our partners don’t know what’s going on, they can’t support us and we’ll have to struggle on alone.
Partners who do know that to expect during this life transition can provide emotional support and can often even help manage symptoms. Asking what they can do help reduce our stress levels, massaging achy joints or stepping back to give us some space for a while to work ourselves out are just three examples that come to mind from my own personal experience.
Impact on children
Children, too, feel the ripple effects. Adolescents or young adults may find it difficult to understand our mood swings or emotional outbursts, especially when they are focused on navigating their own transitions. Younger children may feel confused or scared. It’s crucial to have age-appropriate discussions about these changes, fostering understanding and empathy. One of the most gratifying pieces of feedback I had from a participant in one of my Menopause Meet-up groups was that she had started to talk to her children about menopause.
Talking to friends
Navigating menopause becomes more manageable when we open up to friends about our experiences, creating a strong support network. Sharing our stories fosters a sense of camaraderie, letting us know we’re not alone in this journey. These conversations also empower us with valuable coping strategies and insights, while learning about menopause together promotes understanding and empathy, breaking down barriers and fostering a united front in facing this significant life transition with courage and grace.
Learning to ask for support
Many of us are not used to asking for what we need and talking about what’s going on with us. This is the time in our lives to learn how to do that, to take time for ourselves and ask other people for support. And it’s not even selfish. If we are being supported, we’ll feel better, and that will make everyone around us feel better too. Nobody wants to be treading on eggshells around the people closest to them. Isn’t it much better for them to know what’s up? (The answer to that is: yes, it is;)).
Menopause is not an isolated event, it’s a transitional phase in our lives that requires understanding, patience, and communication from everyone involved. By opening up the conversation, we can ensure that the transition is as smooth and supportive as possible. And through these discussions, we can chip away at the stigma that often surrounds menopause, bringing it into the open where it can be understood and empathised with.
To any men or other partners reading this (if you have one close by right now, feel free to ask them to read this blogpost), understand that menopause is not just a women’s issue. It’s an everyone issue. By learning about it, you can provide the support that your loved ones need during this significant life transition.