Menopause, marriage and mood swings. Those three Ms don’t always mix well. Moodswings in menopause seem somewhat inevitable -- but add marriage to that combo? It’s hard enough to deal with your own emotions, never mind your partner’s feelings about your feelings (here's our tips for menopause help for husbands).
We hate to break it to you, but there’s more than one reason that menopause might have an impact on your most intimate relationship. Below is just the shortlist of the menopausal problems that have been known to get in the way of romance:
If you haven’t entered the glorious phase of menopause, we promise: we’re not trying to scare you. We just want you to be prepared for what you could expect. (To be honest, nothing is written in stone, so don’t go out shopping for a bigger marriage lifeboat just yet.)
But if you are menopausal and are experiencing any of the above, we’ve got some hot tips to help you over the hump (but not so hot they’ll cause night sweats).
Why does menopause cause mood swings? Researchers believe there is a correlation between the fluctuation of hormones and the resulting sharp changes in mood.
Some researchers believe that mood swings are related to other factors of menopause. If you can’t sleep because you’re awakened each night drenched in sweat, you might be a little cranky the next day.
Some studies have suggested that female hormones may help regulate stress, and losing them could also affect the body’s ability to deal with stressors.
And of course, your mood might not just affect your marriage. Northwest University found that menopause also forces women to take sick days at work. When mood swings are high, productivity drops. And stress over worrying about your job certainly doesn’t make things easier at home.
If you’ve already entered perimenopause or menopause, you’ve probably already started experiencing one or more of these symptoms of irritability (though not all women do).
Sometimes these symptoms are tied to each other and sometimes they arrive a la carte. The important thing to remember is that you aren’t going crazy. All of these emotions are completely normal.*
The bad news is that your partner might not care if they are normal or not. If you’re in a relationship with a man (or a woman who hasn’t experienced menopause yet), your partner might make you feel like you’re being irrational or oversensitive. And accusations of overreacting have never, in the history of relationships, actually helped someone to calm down.
We’re going to let you in on a little secret: sometimes “mood swings” aren’t your fault at all! They might be a completely understandable reaction to a situation or stressor. However, because you’re going through menopause, your partner may be more likely to blame every argument or spat on your hormonal fluctuations. This is not OK.
Do you remember when you were a teenager and everyone assumed your meltdowns were the result of your changing hormones? (OK, maybe that had something to do with stomping to your room and slamming the door).
Yet just because your body is going through some changes, that doesn’t mean your partner gets a free pass to assume you’re simply overreacting.
In fact, some doctors believe that women often downplay situations, staying calmer than the situation warrants, thanks to the calming effects of estrogen. Menopause might actually balance out your hormones enough to help you see what’s “really going on here.”
So the next time you’re so mad you feel your head is going to pop off, first check that head-popping anger really isn’t necessary. If it’s not, take a deep breath and try one of the below exercises.
Whether or not your emotions are justified, in most circumstances, you probably want to keep them in check. The tumult of the menopause transition isn’t forever, but it can do lasting damage to a marriage if ignored. Plus, your actions are still your actions. You’re the only one in charge of your reactions and emotions (not your partner or even menopause for that matter).
1. Take a deep breath - Before doing anything, just stop and take a deep breath when you feel your mood starting to shift. Our brains are wired to think that being attacked by a tiger and being on the receiving end of a few poorly chosen words deserve the same reaction. An adrenaline-fueled response may be more than you need.
We also sometimes mis-hear or misinterpret things. A sticky note on the fridge asking you to do the dishes doesn’t mean, “you’re a lazy bum, why don’t you ever do anything around here?” Probably it just means, I need you to do the dishes.
So before you react, choose to act by taking a deep breath to calm the flood of chemicals that is pulsing through your body.
When we’re in fight-or-flight mode, our breath gets very shallow. This only intensifies those “out of control” feelings. Taking a deep breath can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.
2. Don’t do anything - Don’t react to anything. In fact, don’t do a thing. Sometimes the best reaction is no action at all. Instead, skip to the next step.
3. Repeat what just happened - You’ll never find out what actually just happened if you react in anger or aggression. The best way to get someone on the defensive is to position yourself on the offense line.
Repeat what the other person just said or say something along the lines of, “So what you’re saying to me is…” and then repeat what you’ve heard. Try to do this with as much curiosity and as little judgment as possible. Be open to the response — you might not get the one you expect.
4. It’s OK to cry - Women are often “expected” to cry. While men may feel as though they can’t be vulnerable enough to cry, women are shamed because we’re doing the thing everyone expects us to do. But, if you need to cry, go ahead and cry.
That being said, if crying all the time is just too much for you and you find your lip quivering at everything (in front of your boss, in line at the grocery store and when you see a photo of puppies crawling over babies), you might want to consider booking an appointment with a doctor to help you through the menopause symptoms rough patch.
In addition to your mood swings, you might also find yourself struggling with a tired libido or vaginal dryness. We don’t know about you, but the terms “tired libido” and “vaginal dryness” are two sure-fire ways to kill the mood. Add a mood swing to that? Kiss intimacy goodbye!
If you’re having a hard time feeling the desire to connect sexually with your partner, you might try:
What experts don’t recommend? Faking interest or suffering through painful intercourse. Both of these methods generally lead down a one-way street of disaster. Instead, talk to your partner to discover some positions that make both of you feel good.
After all, if it’s too painful to listen to your favorite songs, what better excuse is there to throw some new ones into the playlist?
Generally, strong emotions around menopause are normal; however, if you feel your emotions are rising to the level of clinical and could have lasting impacts on your life or the lives of others, please get professional help.
The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional. Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy.