Love in the Time of Peri/Menopause. No, not EVERYONE in this story dies.
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Relationships. I have no comment. There. That's it. That's the post. Ha! Just kidding, there's so much to say! So much to share. How is your love life in the time of peri/menopause? As we all know and have experienced by this time in our lives, romantic relationships can be the most rewarding, loving, nurturing bonds we have. They can also be the most challenging, demanding and complex. Being in relationship with a partner while finding a way to navigate and temper hormonally induced internal angst is really, really tough and we women have all my empathy.
Partnerships: Forever A Balancing Act
One of the most common things I've heard from peri/menopausal women is that there is a real challenge maintaining one's relationship when so often we feel we are changed people. We are, in many regards, not the same women who entered into the union.
Now, I know this sounds tricky and maybe even a little threatening. I think for many women, myself included, feeling "changed" is a wonderful thing! It's liberating! An abandonment of the constraints we've always assumed existed and/or at least ascribed to. Hearing women talk about how much easier it is saying "No," speaks to this. In truth, we could have said "no" several times in our lives but in reality, many of us find that we're saying it for the first time, on the regular I might add, and there's a collective understanding among us that this new "no" is the best thing ever. With this new boundary setting ability there may be some pushback and even a "what's with you all of a sudden?" attitude from our partners that may lead down a rabbit whole of despair. In addition, I don't think it's merely objecting for the first time that may cause strife but in some cases a hormonally driven presentation of our objections that may not come off as we intend. Or maybe we do. I've had plenty of occasions since entering into perimenopause where I've thought it best to let my partner know that I'm not as amenable to things as I used to be. But I've also learned that I can't adopt the "take it or leave it," stance. I mean, I could, but I don't really want to.
There's more though. The hormonally driven anger that many women have shared is real and powerful and can make for a very difficult season in one's relationship. I have felt this. I know that it's hormonally related because it feels particularly prevalent when I'm close to a period, which these days may or not be at any given time. So annoying. Well, let me tell you, the moments I feel like telling my husband to stick where the sun don't shine are frequent and no fun. And look, in all honesty, it's not really "sunshine sticking." It's more like.....well, I feel like telling him to F-off, okay? It's ugly but that's the real deal. Has he committed some particular infraction? Nope. He just exists in my orbit and I'm not in the mood. Horrible right?! HE can't help that the joke that made me laugh 4 days ago now makes me want to tell him to not talk to me for the rest of the day. But here's the thing: in many cases, YOU can't help it either. Your hormones are causing you to feel more irritable, more short tempered, more sensitive and much less patient. I really struggle with patience. And when I tell you I used to have patience to spare, I mean it. Not anymore. And I definitely give regular thought to how much of my loss of patience is my age and how much is hormones. What I suspect is, the lessening of my patience is age appropriate but the expression of it is truly driven by hormones.
All Kidding Aside, Here Are Some Suggestions
I always feel like the most "serious" advice comes at the end of some list so I'm gonna switch it up and throw it out there first: Therapy. For you and/or for the both of you. I can't say enough great things about therapy. I know some may hate it. I get that and I respect it. I have been in counseling alone as well as with my partner and I've always had great experiences. I know this isn't true for everyone. But I would encourage you to think about it again, especially if you feel that you are suffering in your union. Whether you decide to end your relationship or not, therapy can be a terrific place to let it all out, listen and learn. No matter how well you think your partner may know you, there are always things that will cause them to say, "I never knew that," and having that revelation is enormously healing. And if your intention is to be understood at all in your relationship, and I'm betting it is, you must give your partner the opportunity to hear you out. Especially when you have entered a new season of your life. You're still growing, evolving and changing! Let your partner know that. Let them know where you stand, how you're doing and how you're feeling. Let them know you may report an entirely different state of mind in another few days and you require their patience. A lot is manageable for both parties if expectations are shared.
Let me be honest, there was a time in my life in the not too distant past, where if someone told me to take a deep breath to relieve my stress I would've wanted to scream at them. And hear I am, about to tell you take a deep breath. Try yoga. Take a walk. Run. Sprint. Get your body moving. Not only is this good for all bodily functions, it's critical to finding patience, perspective and clarity. Working out is, among other things, terrific for your relationship because you are exerting so much of that hormonal energy out in a constructive and healthy manner. You'll feel great about your own physical accomplishments and hopefully, this'll help you to feel better about the person you've been spending so much time with all these years. Another thing I love about exercise is that I've made a commitment to it. Come hell or high water, I'm getting that workout in and that commitment translates to all my other commitments. If I can do hard things physically, I can do them in other ways as well. Let those endorphins flow and so will flow your attitude towards life and everyone in it. Well, mostly everyone. Sounds like fluff stuff, but it's not. For many, exercise is really about mental health more than physical. Why then would this not be the same for one's hormonal health, which is such a determining factor to one's mental and physical health?
I take a lot of tinctures. Little drops of heaven, I like to call them. These tinctures include Ashwaganda, Chaste Tree, Ginseng and Rhodiola. And when I'm feeling especially prickly, I up my dose. These potent liquid drops help to chill me out. Just a few drops in water, chuck it and I start feeling calm. They take a little time to build up in your system but when they do, you'll be grateful. Here, I could include a lot about HRT, Hormone Replacement Therapy, but I'd like to save that for it's own post as there's so much to share. Although I have not taken HRT, I'm not opposed to it and I know one of the reasons women decide to take HRT is precisely because they feel as though they are not themselves. In fact, they feel this so deeply, they might express that they think they're losing their minds. This is a terrible thing and absolutely unreasonable for women to have to try to "muscle through." So if you are feeling this way, PLEASE reach out to your gynecologist or other trusted health care practitioner.
I've Said It Once and I'll Say It Again: Reach Out to Your Sisters, Or Those Girlfriends Who Act Like Ones
Your closest friends know you and love you and are there no matter what.
Reach out to those women in your life who are your sounding boards. Don't go it alone! Especially when you're feeling "not yourself." Sometimes listening to a romantic partner interpret your thoughts and feelings catapults you into anger or denial. It's like listening to your parents. When they say "Do," you say "Don't." But your girls don't feel as demanding or parental, in most cases. And they're likely going through the same thing! Misery loves company! Just kidding. The point is, it helps to share with those who know of what you speak.
Give Yourself Time
This is new territory! Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Don't judge yourself and allow yourself room to continue evolving. Growth is good! For you AND your partner. We know this because, what's good for the goose is........you know the rest.