Last Updated on August 19, 2022 by Editorial Staff
By Alison Theaker
It seems that menopause has, at last, become a mainstream topic of conversation. From being something that women would feel embarrassed to talk about, now we have several celebrities talking about their own menopause journey (although it has to be said this has normally been about their journeys with HRT). Even though only half of the population actually experiences menopause, it now seems that people are recognising that it affects 100% of the population.
Mutton Club editor, Rachel, encourages us to ask men to consider their hormonal partner as a “butterfly emerging from a chrysalis” or maybe “going through puberty in reverse.” We often talk about how menopause can return us to our pre-pubescent state, before the veil of hormones masked our true selves, so that we become who we were as a child, with 40 years of experience.
It’s useful to think about what it is that men need to know if their partner/colleague is experiencing menopause. Men don’t have the same hormonal changes as women, and tend to think things can be “fixed”. As we know, menopause is not that simple.
So why do men need to know about women’s menopause? We have found that understanding the process can help men gain insights about what women are experiencing and improve their relationships with colleagues and partners. It’s also important for them to realise that women don’t have to suffer at this time –there are many ways of correcting disruptive symptoms – and so neither do they.
The facts that men need to know about the process are quite simple. They should know that women aged from 42-55, on average, go through menopause. This process should last about four years from start (perimenopause) to finish though it can be longer. Menopause is a time of hormonal chaos for women. Hormone levels can change from day to day. This means that the woman they live and work with may seem perfectly normal one day, then may be irritable or emotional the next.
It could be that women experience mild symptoms (possibly 40% of women may be in this bracket) where they could be uncomfortably hot sometimes or a bit tetchy but mostly seem to be coping. For many women (the CIPD found that 60% of women report having symptoms bad enough that they need to take time off work) things are not that easy. However, if symptoms are severe they don’t have to suffer – there are many alternative resources to use.
The most common symptoms men might notice are:
- Hot flushes – the most talked about symptom. They can be anything from a mild burn to rapid and intense heat, and occur at random intervals. It begins internally and can be quick and uncontrolled. It can be accompanied by profuse sweating.
- Sleeplessness – if it’s a work colleague, this may show up as tiredness. Normally we experience three of four sleep cycles a night which can last from 90 minutes to two hours. At the end of each cycle we may wake, to go to the loo for example, but can fall back to sleep quite easily. In menopause, these cycles may become shorter, or one of them may be missed out. This can leave women feeling sleep deprived and anxious.
- Mood swings – this could be anxiety or panic, or anything from anger and irritability to tearfulness. Menopause is physical, chemical and emotional. Often other changes are happening for women at this time – maybe children are leaving home, parents are becoming infirm – which can just add to the stress.
- Changes in confidence – loss of confidence in being able to drive is common. One client in Anne’s clinic found herself unable to drive on a motorway although she had been a medical rep for years. This can be puzzling if a woman who you have always found to be strong and capable now seems to be less self-assured.
- Brain fog – many women report just not being able to focus as well as they used to. They may feel embarrassed about this and feel they should be clopping better. They may not be aware that this can be a symptom of menopause.
- Vaginal dryness – this one should only be addressed with partners. It’s not for a chat over the water cooler at work! Here are tips to help.
How can men help? This depends on the relationship they are in with the woman who seems to be experiencing the symptoms. If it is a colleague, they might raise it with the HR department with a view to getting them some support at work. Most businesses nowadays have menopause policies.
If it is a partner, friend or family member, it depends on how close they are. Can they raise it with the person directly? Sometimes it is helpful for women to know that the symptoms they may have thought they had under control are actually noticeable to someone else.
Addressing the issue can be worthwhile. One client came to my colleague Anne’s clinic with a variety of symptoms – hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety – and an ultimatum. She had been suffering with them on and off for 13 years. Her husband of over 30 years had told her that although he loved her dearly, he just couldn’t cope anymore.
He had arranged the appointment at the clinic as the last straw – if that didn’t work he had an appointment with a divorce lawyer in six months’ time. Luckily Anne was able to help her balance her hormones and the symptoms reduced. She even got a letter from him afterwards saying, “Thank you for giving me my wife back.”
Alison Theaker and Anne Hope’s website: livelifeforme.org
Menopause: What Men Need To Know is on Udemy
You may also like: Menopause: Your Path To Your Best Self and Do The Menopause And The Menopause Statistics Add Up?
Alison Theaker is a qualified transformative Life Coach with experience in higher education, business coaching and creativity development. She has delivered training across the UK in interpersonal skills and business transformation. A public relations practitioner, academic and author with an international reputation, she has also developed a unique style of coaching, Walk the Talk, which increases creativity. A qualified action learning facilitator, NLP coaching practitioner and reiki master.