A 2016 study found that when men were told about the menopause and how to manage it, their partners reported a significantly improved quality of life, with fewer physical and psychological symptoms.
When we asked our community to name the members of their support network who had been there for them during menopause, 'partner' was the least selected option.
Although many men are aware of what their partners may be experiencing, they often show little knowledge of the symptoms.
Every person's menopause – the leaks, sweats, memory slips, emotional fragility – is their own unique, messy, hormonal whirlwind.
Meet community member Angela and her husband Jimmy who came together to share both sides of the menopause journey.
Angela: Jimmy and I met in hospital as children. I was five and he was seven. He gave me an ice lolly and we stayed friends. Years later, we met up again in a nightclub, rekindled our friendship, and got together six weeks after that. That was 35 years ago. Jimmy does the cooking, so I joke that he fed me when I was five and he’s still feeding me now!
My menopause kicked in hard at 46. I’d had a total hysterectomy following ovarian cancer. The after-effect was severe -- I felt frightened, panicky, and I couldn’t stop crying. We had recently made some new friends with whom we got on well, but I remember writing to them explaining that I’m not normally like this!
Jimmy: It was a difficult time. I wasn’t sure what to do and I didn’t really understand how she was feeling inside. If I was overprotective, it made things worse. So, I kept an eye on her and let her work it out for herself. The odd bar of chocolate seemed to help though!
Angela: Starting the menopause made me really depressed, so I decided to highlight my hair – which turned it lime green! Jimmy got me some brown sauce to reduce the greenness, but after that I gave up trying anything. You lose your nerve.
After a year, life started to improve. I wasn’t crying as much, and I didn’t get as emotionally drained. I started to see things more positively, which helped me understand that for the last year I hadn’t really been ‘me’ at all. I started back at work part-time, which helped me get out of the house more.
People do tell you about the physical aspects, but not about the emotional stuff. If I’m describing it to young mums, I liken it to ‘third-day blues’, except that it lasts a whole year!
In addition to Jimmy, I talked to two female friends. And when I went back to work, I also talked to my boss. He was very kind and fatherly, giving me as much time as I needed to settle back in. He noticed that I’d gone from a bubbly, effervescent, in-control manager to someone who would unaccountably burst into tears. But he did lovely things like send taxis for me to get to meetings easily so that I was included and could stay in the loop.
Medication was problematic. I couldn’t take HRT while I was having cancer treatment, but after a year of intense symptoms, I did take a multivitamin.
Lifestyle changes made a huge difference. I started doing activities together with other women. When women have any issues ‘down below’, the NHS sends them to belly-dancing sessions to regain muscle control. I absolutely loved these classes – they helped me feel better and more confident, so I carried on with them. Talking to a broad spectrum of women from 20 to 90, with so many stories of their own, made me realise that I’m not alone – it’s a collective experience. And when it’s shared, it’s so much more manageable.
Jimmy: We started going out more as a couple and we also took more exercise, like rambling, cold-water swimming, and back-to-nature wild camping. Gaining confidence helped Angela see a big improvement in life overall.
Angela: I learned such a lot about myself during this time. To start with, I matter! I used to put myself in a load of boxes – Angela the wife, Angela the daughter, Angela the mother, Angela the twin, Angela the manager. But I’ve discovered that it’s possible for all of these to be aspects of the same really happy person.
Now I let people in, colleagues and children alike, so that they see me as a fully rounded person in my own right. What I’ve learned about Jimmy is that I can rely on him, and he’ll never hurt me either physically or emotionally. No matter what I did or how badly I behaved, he never reacted negatively.
Jimmy: She’s a bit more open and up for doing different things now – new hobbies, a more active life, going out on weekends. The way we live has changed, too – we’re a lot more together.
Talking to a broad spectrum of women from 20 to 90, with so many stories of their own, made me realise that I’m not alone. It’s a collective experience. And when it’s shared, it’s so much more manageable.
Knowledge is power
When spouses or partners are educated about the menopause and given tools on how to manage it, quality of life increases for both! That means fewer physical and psychological symptoms.
We're all in this together
This is a complicated phase of your life. Having open conversations with your friends, family and colleagues can help provide you with the support network you need and deserve.
Every journey is a little different
Leaks, sweats, memory slips, emotional fragility – it's a bit of a messy, hormonal whirlwind, but collectively we can cope!