Where to start?
My point of view is that of a guy whose wife has been dealing with perimenopause and menopause and all the gnarly symptoms that go with it. But just because it starts with the word "men" doesn't mean we guys are terribly understanding. I think with Jan and I, we looked deeper into what menopause means and how to deal with it because she wanted to have a stronger relationship with me. There we were, developing as a couple, and all these symptoms started popping up-night sweats, hot flashes, bloating and just feeling lousy. These physical and emotional problems can be relentless. She may even pee her pants if you make her laugh hard enough. I guess it's women's version of us guys getting up in the night to, uh, relieve ourselves. At first, I didn't really have any empathy. I just felt like she was feeling bad all the time. But secretly wondered if she had lost her attraction to me. How would I survive this wild ride called menopause?
Dr. Tori Hudson, featured in our "Blitzed by Menopause" DVD and "Fair Play during Menopause" booklet, illuminated things for me. She explained what a woman goes through in terms of the biochemical changes that occur in her body, estrogen depletion and all the changes in actual brain chemistry. It's complex stuff. The menopausal mood swings, the night sweats, hot flashes and well, crankiness. Did I marry that maniacal ride of emotions? Absolutely. I just didn't understand what was going on. And now that I do...well, at least I get what she's going through. Not totally, but more so than before. And by knowing that, I felt I could have a better understanding, and better empathy. I get it. I've come to realize it's not about me, but how I can support her. Does that sound too corny? Nah. It's real.
So now I realize I can't control her menopause. But I sure as heck can understand it better. Let me use a sports analogy. If I grab a guy's facemask on the football field, I get whistled for a personal foul. Immediate feedback, I know what I did wrong. But understanding women with menopause takes a little more detective work. When my wife blows her stack because she ran out of cream of mushroom soup...ouch. I'm not sure if she's mad at me, at the soup, or at the cupboard. It often seems so random and unexpected. But that's kind of the point. There is no rhyme or reason. I'm just there to empathize, and be supportive.
I think guys tend to brush off the emotional stuff. The tears, the moods, the drama, and I use that term not just because Jan's an actress. Hey man, we're thinking about our jobs, sports, more sports, and of course sex. Which, I learned even if women have an active sex drive, sometime their body doesn't behave the way it did pre-menopause. Another thing we guys don't get is why it means more to do little things around the house versus waiting to be asked. To you and I, kind of the same. To her, big difference. So I'll just get up from watching the basketball game and go out and do the dishes. No big deal, right (don't tell anyone, but I can still see the game?
As I think about it more, learning something and being able to apply it when you're emotionally invested in a relationship? That's crucial. Now I know more what to do when agitated and rather than say, "Well you always get those hot flashes" or "So you're bloated, what else is new," I can step back. I recognize her symptoms, what she's going through because I understand the biochemical changes of menopause a little better.
And the other thing I'll share that I have learned is that her menopause, the symptoms, the mood swings; it's not about me. A lot of my friends were as clueless as I was at the onset of their wives' menopause. They come from all walks of life and all professions. They too were getting the nightly blindside blitz of hot flashes and night sweats and mood swings. We, the guys of the world, we don't know what to do. We're used to rushing in and taking charge. We like to fix things. Well, menopause isn't a flat tire. I can't fix it. You can't fix it. You just need to empathize. Ok, so that sounds too easy. But it's what we can do. Just be there.
The relationship tips counselor Jerry Annand gave in the "talk show" segment of the DVD really helped Jan and I as a couple. We made a new commitment to get through this mid-life stuff and support each other. It feels different between us now. Kinda like we're on the same side facing the opposing team and real close to touchdown. Corny, but that's how I feel.
Ya know, life goes buy in a hot flash. So don't wait to make your relationship stronger.
I was feeling like there was something seriously wrong with me. Was I going nuts? Or did I have some kind of disease? Why was there something wrong with me everyday? I couldn't sleep, was confused, had wicked night sweats, itchy skin and I won't even talk about my moods.just the sound of Ron crunching popcorn sent me through the roof!
I found out several years ago I was in Peri-menopause. Yipee. And just when I was starting to feel good with the kids in their teens and growing more independent!
But I'm telling you, it was when Ron said out of care and concern, "You know honey, it seems like there is something wrong with you everyday", I felt so isolated and kind of ashamed. My first thought was, "If only you could feel what I feel for just one day..." That's when the idea for this video came. But that's another story.
My journey through (Peri) Menopause has not been an easy one. I hear of some women that sail right through and then there are the rest of us. With the 35 symptoms, I could almost mark off everyone from hot flashes to memory loss. How about heart palpitations and intestinal distress? I seemed to have them all! And this has been going on for 10 years! I could go on about menopause and it's symptoms but what I want to talk about is how it affected our relationship.
The more uncomfortable I grew with the menopausal hot flashes, night sweats, and etc. the more Ron retreated. We carried on as if everything was normal. I tried to pretend I wasn't fatigued or bloated because I felt he was losing interest in me. Losing attraction. My body was changing no doubt. I looked in the mirror and saw my mother's thighs. Sorry Mom.
What I found out through the producing of this DVD and the help given by Dr. Tori Hudson and counselor Jerry Annand was, Ron was withdrawing because he didn't know what to do with my menopausal shifts and when I got moody, he thought it was about him and I was losing my attraction to him!
So how have things changed? Well, even though I am coming through to the other side of menopause I still do complain about symptoms but now I don't feel ashamed and isolated anymore. Ron has learned how to handle my moods and symptoms and often we will play a game of "What's the right response?" when I make a menopausal complaint.
Jan: "Oh brother, I am so bloated again, I can't fit into anything"!
Ron: "Bloated again?" Loud buzzer. Try again.
Ron: "And how does that make you feel?" Loud buzzer...
Jan: "What do you mean how do I feel? I feel freaking bloated!" Try again.
Ron: "That must be really uncomfortable for you." Ding Ding You Win!
We have found humor and we have found a new kind of partnering as we grow through these mid-life changes! I can't wait for the next DVD in our series, "Got Midlife? Understanding a Man's World" We women will have a thing or two to learn!