Menopause Tips for Partners
During perimenopause and menopause, your partner will most likely undergo an intense and far-reaching transformation. The physical and mental challenges of menopause can affect your relationship. Read on to learn how you can help support your partner during her menopause transition and navigate potential changes in your relationship while maintaining intimacy.
Ten Things Partners Need to Know About Menopause
- There are three stages to menopause – perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Often the entire process is simply referred to as “menopause.” The average time for a woman to go through perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause) is four years and it generally starts in the early 40’s. The average age of reaching menopause (12 consecutive months without a period) in the U.S. is 51. After reaching menopause, a woman is postmenopausal for the remainder of her life. Menopause is generally not a quick and easy process; the transition can start earlier or last longer for some people.
- Menopause can cause changes in emotional well-being, including mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, the blues, and more.
- Your partner might not be all that interested in sex. Not only can menopause decrease libido, but it can make sex uncomfortable and even painful. We’ll discuss this more later.
- Your partner may feel fatigued during menopause. It’s common to experience interrupted sleep because of stress, anxiety, hot flashes, and night sweats. Some women develop insomnia for the first time during menopause.
- Speaking of hot flashes, don’t underestimate the aggravation they can cause. They usually come on suddenly with no warning, and rapidly increase body temperature, cause copious sweating, and can make your partner feel like she’s on fire for 1 to 5 minutes. Some women rarely experience hot flashes, but about eighty percent of women endure them multiple times every day and night. The average length of time women experience hot flashes is seven to nine years, although symptoms can persist for up to 10 to 20 years. Hormone therapy can be a big help for hot flashes and lead to more restful sleep as a result.
- Your partner will probably gain some weight during menopause, no matter how much she exercises or how well she eats. While weight gain is a common part of aging, gaining weight around the abdomen is due to menopause. Weight gain can negatively impact your partner’s body image and self-confidence.
- Officially entering a phase of life where many women begin to feel invisible to the society they live in can be depressing. It’s not unusual for women to struggle with self-concept and self-esteem during menopause.
- The physical changes of menopause aren’t just irritating and disruptive. They can be dangerous. The risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis increases significantly after menopause.
- An increase in the frequency and severity of migraines and other headaches is a common symptom of perimenopause. Luckily, after the menopause transition is complete and hormone levels stabilize, headaches usually level out.
- Your partner will probably need a lot of love, empathy, and support from you as she processes all of the changes that come with menopause. Let her know she’s still attractive to you, communicate openly about what she’s ready, willing, and able to do in the bedroom, and take some time to foster non-sexual intimacy.
How Does Menopause Affect Intimacy?
Menopause has the potential to affect physical and emotional intimacy in many ways. Physically, the loss of estrogen in menopause causes the Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM.) GSM involves a thinning of the vaginal walls and a decrease in vaginal lubrication. These physical changes can make sex uncomfortable or downright painful and increase the risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections.
Many women experience depression or anxiety during menopause due to fatigue from sleeplessness and stress, and they might feel especially self-conscious about their bodies because of weight gain. Add on vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, and you have a perfect recipe for a low sex drive.
It makes sense that physical intimacy might wane during menopause, but if your partner feels alone in her struggles with menopause, your emotional intimacy can also suffer. If she has difficulties adapting to all the changes during menopause but doesn’t feel supported or understood, your relationship can suffer.
The Partner’s Guide to Great Sex After Menopause
To cut to the nitty-gritty, lube is your new best friend. Accept this truth, find one you like, and your sex life will thank you. Adding lubrication will dramatically improve the experience for your partner if she’s experiencing vaginal dryness.
Keep in mind that vaginal dryness worsens during the postmenopause stage, and lubricant may not work anymore. Vaginal estrogen can help with many symptoms of GSM, including vaginal dryness. You might want to discuss this option with your partner and see if it’s something she’d like to consider.
Women also experience low libido and need a little more help to get in the mood. Don’t be afraid to add some sexual aids to your lovemaking. There’s no shortage of vibrators, clitoral stimulators, and other sex-enhancing toys on the market that can improve waning arousal and make sex fun again. You can find a list of our favorites here.
Support your partner in getting the treatment she needs if she’s experiencing depression during menopause. Anxiety and depression are libido killers, and getting proper treatment can help increase your partner’s interest in having sex.
Meet your partner where she is. Maybe she’d like to try new positions and techniques that feel better for her menopausal body. If the idea of having sex is too much for her, you can experiment with other forms of physical intimacy that she is comfortable with.
Do what you can to help your partner feel beautiful, even when she might not see herself that way. Let her know you want her even if she’s put on some weight and doesn’t feel attractive or body confident. It’ll be easier for her to be intimate if she believes she’s desirable to you.
Communicate! Open and honest communication about wants and needs will help you create a sexual relationship that you’re both satisfied with.
How to Support Your Partner During Menopause
If your partner and her healthcare clinician decide that hormone therapy is the best choice for her, symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness can be improved. However, she might not want to take hormones, or perhaps she can’t for medical reasons. Whatever path she chooses to take through menopause, accept it and walk beside her.
Embrace a healthy lifestyle together. Cook heart-healthy meals, go to the gym or for walks together, and encourage your partner if she’s trying to quit smoking or drinking.
Listen with empathy. If your partner needs to explain what she’s experiencing or just needs to vent, be available to hear her without trying to solve anything.
When irritability or even rage strikes, don’t be reactive. Mood swings typically pass quickly.
Learn about menopause. Reading this article is a great start, but the more educated you are about what your loved one is experiencing, the better you can show up for her.
Be patient and sensitive with your partner in the bedroom, and remember that penetrative intercourse doesn’t always have to be the goal. Get creative, try new ways of being intimate, and have fun with each other.
A New Chapter
Your partner’s transition into menopause opens many opportunities for you both to do some soul-searching, practice compassion, improve communication, and focus on building intimacy with each other.
Nothing in life stays the same for long. Your partner and your relationship with her are changing, and although this might present you with some challenges, in the end, you might find you are closer to her than ever before.
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