womenTALK: Blog

Monday, Sep 20th 2010

Will Your Marriage Survive Menopause?

by guest blogger Staness Jonekos

Over 60 percent of divorces are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s or 60s — the menopause years — according to a recent survey conducted by AARP Magazine. Why are women running away from marriage?

I wasn’t even married when I slammed into menopause months before my wedding day at the age of 47. Despite being completely in love, I almost ran away and my fiance almost married bridezella!

Experts say the number one reason for divorce is lack of communication. My response from the ladies corner, “When everything you know to be normal is being kidnapped by changing hormones, communication may be last on the list. Throw in lifestyle changes, health and aging issues, and you are left in a small evaporating puddle of low self-esteem feeling hopeless.”

Many men blame lack of sex as the leading reason for midlife divorce. But is it? AARP poled 1,682 adults ages 45 and older on the importance of sex. Two-thirds of men (66 percent) and about half of women (48 percent) agreed that a satisfying sex life was important to their quality of life. That is only an 18 percent difference. So is it lack of sex, or a breakdown in communication chasing the women away?

Navigating a course in uncharted territory can test any relationship emotionally and sexually. It can also bring a couple closer — it did for me.

Purchasing midlife marriage insurance can help combat the unforeseen hazards during the menopause transition. How do you qualify for this love insurance? The first step is to understand how menopause can affect your love life.

Ladies first.

Menopause is a life transition that can affect you physically and emotionally. Your body is experiencing fluctuating hormones that can cause hot flashes, night sweats, itchy skin, migraine headaches, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness and irregular periods. Eighty percent of women will experience uncomfortable symptoms, and the majority struggle with midlife weight gain.

Many women feel unattractive going through so many uninvited changes. Some suffer from exhaustion, depression and moodiness leaving them feeling isolated and confused.

During menopause a woman’s brain also goes through changes. Dr. Louann Brizendine (author of The Female Brain) says, “The mommy brain unplugs. Menopause means the end of the hormones that have boosted communication circuits, emotion circuits, the drive to tend and care, and the urge to avoid conflict at all costs.”
There are additional factors on top of fluctuating hormones that may contribute to a lack of communication and interest in sex.

Dr. Wendy Klein, co-author of The Menopause Makeover and leading menopause expert, informed me, “If a woman is taking medications, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, contraceptive drugs, antihistamines, sedatives, antihypertensives and/or medications for blood pressure, this can also decrease sexual desire.”

Midlife stresses brought on by career change, the loss of a loved one, empty nest syndrome or caring for elderly parents can contribute to a declining libido.

Throw in aging issues and the last thing on a menopausal woman’s mind is communicating. This woman is in self-survival mode, and may be in no mood to connect or make whoopi.

If she is in an unsupported relationship while managing this collection of changes, leaving the marriage may appear like her only salvation.

Gentlemen — your turn.

How many factors listed above is your partner experiencing? It is no surprise why men are afraid of menopause. His woman is changing in front of his eyes.

Women are not alone suffering from changes. Men also have midlife challenges, both physically and emotionally. Declining testosterone can affect libido, moods and sexual performance. Generally a man’s hormones change gradually compared to the woman’s experience during menopause, so it may not be obvious to the man that he too is changing. Some of these unwelcomed changes may include midlife stress, as well as health and aging issues. If both partners are experiencing change, the relationship may be on an emotional roller coaster.

Approximately 47 percent of women experience sexual difficulties with a decrease of sexual desire being the most common, according to the National Health and Social Survey and the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors.

It is no surprise that most men associate menopause with having less sex. But, it does not have to be this way. The man can actually help save a shaky midlife marriage with some handy tools to power charge the relationship. Women who have a supportive partner often have a smoother transition through menopause. When she is happy, he is happy.

Acquiring midlife marriage insurance takes action to make a difference.

Midlife Marriage Insurance For Him
1. Listen to her; don’t criticize or try to fix her.
2. Go with the flow; be prepared for mood swings.
3. Be compassionate, and validate her experience (that means agree with her, don’t try to fix her).
4. Be romantic. Bring her flowers for no reason. Make her dinner. Give her a massage. Make it about HER.
5. Cuddle more. Tell her you love her and that she is beautiful. You may just get lucky. If not, do not take it personally.
6. If YOU are not in the mood, keep her company shopping, she will love the company ;)
7. Support healthy eating and exercise choices. Join her for a walk or go on a hunting expedition at the grocery store to find new healthy foods.
8. Don’t ignore her menopause symptoms. Talk about it. Ask her what she needs to feel better.
9. Offer support if she needs to visit her healthcare provider to discuss menopause symptoms, a low libido or depression.
10. If numbers one through nine fail – disappear for a while. She may be seriously cranky and need space to focus on herself.

Success depends on going through this transition as a team! Both partners must contribute to have a successful marriage.

Midlife Marriage Insurance For Her
1. Track menopause symptoms and discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.
2. Make a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise most days of the week. Eat nutritious meals. Watch portions.
3. Update your beauty regimen.
4. Build a support group.
5. Communicate with your partner. Don’t shut him out – let him know what you need. Understand he may be confused by your changes.
6. If you are not happy in your current relationship, discuss counseling.
7. Be receptive to creative adjustments in lovemaking activities.
8. If your libido is low and/or you are suffering from vaginal dryness, discuss your treatment options with your healthcare practitioner. There are hormone and non-hormone options available.
9. Pamper yourself.
10. Try to stay positive.

Communicate, support each other’s needs, get counseling if needed, add romance, adjust lovemaking activities, and your odds increase that your marriage will survive menopause. Being on the same team will nourish a healthy, loving relationship that can last a lifetime.

Life is constantly changing, and marriage is no different. Have real expectations, and acknowledge that your relationship goes through transitions. This will help you weather difficult times.

Midlife is an opportunity for both men and women. If you are prepared, informed and willing, your marriage can survive menopause. A loving relationship supported with good communication can strengthen your love life at any age.

This menopausal bride made it down the aisle of love. Both my partner and I said “I do” to communication and romance during menopause. We are still happily married five years later and ready to leap over the seven-year itch together.

References
Montenegro, X. The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond. AARP, May 2004.
Brizendine, L. The Female Brain. New York: Broadway Books; 2006.
Jonekos, S. and W. Klein. The Menopause Makeover. Ontario, Canada: Harlequin Enterprises; 2009.

Staness Jonekos is an advocate for women's health, wellness and empowerment. An award-winning television writer, producer and director, she was one of the original executive producers who launched the television network Oxygen Media, cofounded by Oprah Winfrey.

Following her commitment to health, Staness co-executive produced the premiere season of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, and post produced Lifetime's Speaking of Women's Health.

Recently, Staness launched into the publishing world sharing her 8-step 12-week Menopause Makeover program in her first book The Menopause Makeover, co-authored with menopause expert Dr. Wendy Klein.

Menopause Makeover

Comments

Jul 22, 2015 19:Jul 7 | jojo said

My wife of 28 years just

My wife of 28 years just served me with divorce papers,she is just turning 50 for about the last 3 years since she started with the symptoms of menopause things have changed sexually she battled thru depression,her father passed her dog got killed six months later.I didnt know the right words to say to her I couldnt help her like I should have but during that time things were busy we have 3 sons 26,24,20 the youngest is the only one left in school.I started going to counseling about a year ago but never thought to bring these things up.
Now im devastated she is my soulmate,I want to go to marriage counsel with her but I cant get her to go I want to save my marriage get thru menopause what can I do?

Apr 16, 2015 21:Apr 9 | said

menopause mess

Turning 50 in June of 2014 was one of the worst days of my life. It hit me like a rock. I knew it was coming and dreaded the day that more than half of my life would be over with. My body has been changing, my brain and my mind are a mess. I have crazy mood swings that manage to turn into devilish meltdowns! So bad that if a stranger saw me, they would call the men in white coats!! To top it off, I have the sweetest husband but he's an awful communicator. His communication skills have only gotten worse as he himself has experienced many stressful changes in his own life in the past year and a half. He was never a real big talker about feelings but noW it's pretty much non- existent. For me at this point in my life that is THE WORST thing that could happen. I want to talk and get some team support going and he is a clam trying to hide from the net! Being high school sweethearts and married 32 years (together 35) you would think we got this goin' on right? UGH! Then in comes Mary Menopause! I am moody. I fell like a loser, I feel ugly, I see other younger women as little witches that want all of my husbands attention. (no reason for this except that he is a normal man!) Of course he likes to look at a beautiful woman! What man doesn't? But what enters my mind is, who else, of course? ME! Oh look at her, he likes that, I don't look like that any more, he wants that and not me! Has he said that?? NO! That's just what this 50 year old brain thinks! Ridiculous!
This is the root of so many of the difficulties we are facing at this very moment. My insecurities about myself have grown into this monster who is taking huge bites out of my marriage and soon there will be nothing left! Literally! What makes it worse is there is NO reason for my insecurities! He never makes comments or puts me down when he looks at another woman. WTH is wrong with me? Why do I feel so awful? Why do I see my body, (that certainly has so many minor flaws but none worse than so many people with disabilities or scars) as a big ugly wrinkly, stretch- markey, varicose veiny, too skinny mess? I can't seem to accept this whole 50 thing! Bless my husband for putting up with my craziness. The threat of divorce has come into play and as I sit here tonight, alone, once again after another argument with my husband, I wonder how much more either of us can take. I know we are on the edge.
Is there ANYONE out there that is feeling any of this or am I really just a psycho who needs help?( Which by the way, it's back to the Dr. again Monday) ANYONE???

Jun 23, 2015 21:Jun 9 | Michael said

Menopause and in your 50's

So glad I got on this site ---- was therapeutic and cathartic to read that my wife of 23 years is not the only one that is going thru this. I'll set the stage: married since '92, 4 daughters (20,17,15,12), she a stay at home mom, I have a career. I am 55, she is 51. I feel so fortunate, I have great health, am reasonably successful ( however, with 4 girls, you can NEVER make enough), feel good about myself, have balance, and hope it all continues. My wife has been suffering BADLY with menopause. NO energy, has gained weight, depressed, constantly tired, has had trouble sleeping , has shut off from all her friends, has no social outlets , doesn't want to see people --anyone ever lived with a 51 year old shut in ? -- doesn't really like being a mom (although she does a reasonably good job in my opinion), and just basically does not like her life.
Over these last 3 years I have wondered if I have just enabled all this, not forced her hand, made her take constructive steps, and so on. However, in understanding that menopause can truly be a game changer, I have stayed true to her, and we continue. I will say things have started to get better; I took her to a biomedical hormone doctor over a year ago, and that has helped. We have gotten on a healthy diet ---wasn't that bad to begin with, but knocked out most carbs and sugar ---, and that also has helped. She has actually started to work out again -PRAISE GOD!! --- and although she really has not lost much weight, it is helping. However, all is is SLOW GOING. As you would suspect, there is no sex life, no romance. Because her self esteem is so low, she's hard pressed to want to go to a movie, out to eat, anything. One side comment ladies --- as a healthy, athletic, red blooded all american male, NOTHING is more sexy than a 50 something woman who has a libido --- NOTHING. You don't have to be the hottest chick in the stadium, just have a good twinkle in your eye now and again, and I am all over it. Being older is in your mind much more than ours ......I can tell you that I am NOT interested in being with someone 15 - 20 years my junior . I've been raising 4 girls already, I don't need a 5th -----

At any rate, reading about what some of you are going thru lines up so much with what we have here. If you have any additional thoughts or comments on things to consider and/or think about, I would love to know. At the moment, what I know to do is give her huge amounts of space, play a hell of a lot of tennis, enjoy my work (which I do 90% of the time), enjoy my friends, and basically wait this out.

Jun 30, 2015 11:Jun 11 | said

Michael, what you need to do

Michael, what you need to do is give her big hugs EVERYDAY and tell her that you love her EVERYDAY! Flowers can't hurt. Make her feel special and loved and this will cheer her up.

Jun 09, 2015 00:Jun 12 | said

You are not crazy...I could

You are not crazy...I could have written exactly what you wrote...I have experienced almost the exact things you described and 90% of the day I feel psychotic! This is by far the most challenging part of my life and wonder when all this will end? So many have told me menopause can last ten years! On top of all that I also am experiencing empty nest syndrome since my only child graduated college and moved 3000 miles away... The only thing that has saved me is my obsessive working out/bodybuilding I started right before my son left home. Exercise has saved the small slice of sanity I have left...

Apr 23, 2015 12:Apr 12 | said

I sense your pain and hurt

I sense your pain and hurt and just want to encourage you. Focusing on our circumstances (i.e. life changes, etc) can lead us to anger, bitterness, and fights with our beloved but love and forgiveness have power over all of these things that tear apart marriages. Dr. Bruce Hebel from Forgiving Forward has helped my wife and I as we traverse through circumstances not unlike the ones you describe. I was hopeless and ready to give up until I was able to see my own faults, flaws, and imperfections instead of focusing on my wife's imperfections. I can now focus on bettering myself and loving her where she is with no expectations of her. We still have ground to cover but there is now hope. Be encouraged and don't give up. Marriage is sacred and it is worth fighting for no matter what changes we experience or go through. Forgive yourself, forgive your husband, and forgive God. Don't give up; don't quit!

Feb 09, 2015 18:Feb 6 | Darlene said

lack of libido

I am post-menopausal and have NO libido whatsoever, and find sexual intercourse extremely painful, not just during the event but for several days following. This is extremely stressful on my marriage...altho my husband is 9 years my senior he still has a very healthy libido. I have tried hormones, it was a disaster, and I any many would want to make love to a pimply faced, bearded gal. I have an appointment to see my family doc tomorrow. I have to do something more or my marriage is on the skids.

Feb 02, 2015 22:Feb 10 | said

My girlfriend and i were

My girlfriend and i were madly in love and talkin about marriage this year...she started having perimenopausal symptoms about two months ago ....now she says she is confused and recently broke off our relationship.....i love her immensely and need some suggestions on how i can help her and get her back....

Jun 30, 2015 11:Jun 11 | said

Fight for her and show her

Fight for her and show her how much you love her. She needs a self esteem boost and needs to know you love her.

Nov 03, 2010 16:Nov 4 | Theresa Tolth said

hot flash

what can i eat instead of taking medications

Nov 03, 2010 16:Nov 4 | Theresa Tolth said

hot flash

i get hot flash during the day, what kind of food can i eat instead of taking medications for it

Feb 09, 2015 18:Feb 6 | Darlene said

what to eat for hot flashes.

I had hot flashes you could fry an egg on, for many years. I did a lot of reading on this, and have found that it's not so much what you don't eat, it's what you DO eat. I noticed that high carb foods (enriched bread, white rice, popcorn, candy and anything sugary, potatoes, etc) would throw me into hot flashes. If I chose an Atkins type diet my hot flashes were nearly extinct. I have also found a lot of research the supports my finding that simple carbs can cause hot flashes, and another benefit of following a low carb diet...I lost a LOT of weight.

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