This post was originally written in 2010. Given that it is a perennial topic, I thought I would repost it again while I’m on a posting hiatus for the holiday season. I plan to launch a new series for men in 2014. Until then, perhaps these old posts can generate some some conversation
A few months ago, a reader by the name of “Andy” stopped by The Perimenopause Blog. Andy left a comment in response to a post I had written and a conversation ensued between us that occurred over several days.
It was very typical of many other conversations I’ve had with men who have also left comments or have contacted me privately via email seeking help with their wives who are in perimenopause. Because the conversation is so typical, I thought it would make an excellent post to include in the series “How Can I Help My Wife in Perimenopause?”
The original post that inspired the comment and subsequent conversation, was in response to some search engine data I had noticed where another husband had searched his way here trying to find out why his wife hated him since she had been in perimenopause.
Because the conversation took place in the comment section it is available for anyone to read that comes to this blog, so I am not violating any privacy or confidence by reprinting it here. It is also quite lengthy and took place over several days, so I will reprint it in two parts.
I have edited out some impertinent chatter along with a few typos from the text, but for the most part the entire conversation begins here in Part I.
A Conversation Between Andy and Magnolia – Part I
My wife went through some traumatic experiences in her youth with her Mother. Once Perimenopause hit around two years ago (the beginning was major anxiety attacks), my wife transformed her relationship with her Mother to me treating me like a parent rather than a spouse. She’s in complete denial of perimenopause, but is over 50 and definitely in the age range.
She has gone through most of the apparent symptoms except for hot flashes over about a two year period. She also kept her days between periods on a calendar until the intervals started changing. I’ve never held her back in life and our I feel relationship prior to menopause was good for a twenty year marriage. We relied on each other and did a number of things together. After the start of perimenopause, we do mostly everything separately. There’s a lot more to this including some MLC periods that seem to have subsided.
My question is this-how do I know that this experience is mainly hormonal and eventually she will revert back to a more reasonable person or based on the article above that this is the result of a rocky relationship? I don’t want to wait up to ten years to discover the answer. She mentioned divorce several times the first year, but hasn’t in several months once I started agreeing to it.
She not only takes out her aggression on me, but on the kids, especially when I’m traveling for work. She is also angry with people at work and her family. I’ve brought up the word perimenopause a coupe of times in the past and she gets extremely angry. Why the denial when the alternative would mean some serious mental issues. I cannot reason with her and frankly, I’m at my wits end and on the fence in this relationship mainly because of the MLC issues. I’m focusing on keeping things as normal as possible for our older teenage kids and explaining what is happening. A number of men I know have gone through similar situations of craziness and basically say, life is short, it’s time to move on. There’s a lot more to this , but I tried to summarize the important parts.
Thank you for being brave enough to speak up on this topic. I know it is very confusing to you. You are certainly not the first man that has come to my blog seeking help for perimenopause. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that my readership is likely 50/50, men/women, these days.
Perimenopause does not just affect women. It affects our relationships with everyone. And most certainly with our spouse. In some ways I understand the male response of “life is short, move on” because men tend to be problem solvers and seem to the have the capacity to “cut your losses”. Though I understand why you would feel that way, I don’t necessarily agree it is the more wise or compassionate way to look at the situation.
Menopause is a very real physical problem, not any different than say, cancer or some other life threatening illness. If your wife had brain cancer and suddenly turned into a “new and crazier version” of her old self, I don’t think you would be considering the advice, “life is short, move on”. I suspect you would dig in and remember the “through sickness and in health and for better or for worse” promise you both made.
My own personal theory on what makes menopause so difficult for everyone to deal with (us women too) is that because it’s not technically a “sickness”, we tend to think that we should be able to control it. Because it affects our emotional state, we are inclined to believe that “all you have to do is change your attitude” or “you choose how you want to look at things”, etc., etc.,
When really, we don’t any more choose to have hormonally induced mood swings than you choose to have facial hair grow on your face. Both are produced by hormones.
An interesting phenomenon in our culture these days are sex changes. It occurs by surgery and by hormone therapy. Men are taking large amounts of estrogen and becoming women and women are taking large amounts of testosterone and becoming men.
I can assure you, that if you were injected with the wacky hormonal imbalance that occurs to women during menopause you would feel a ‘wee bit out of sorts’
Of course, none of this means much I’m sure, if your wife is in complete denial. I find this phenomenon fascinating as well, because she is most definitely menopausal age and you are describing classic perimenopause symptoms. For her to be in denial seems completely absurd, yet, I’ve done the very same thing. I cannot explain to you why we cannot see the forest through the trees when it comes to perimenopause, but we often don’t. That is a fact.
However, the bigger question here, for you, right now is what can you do? One of the first thing I would suggest is that you arm yourself with solid information on perimenopause. You can find a list of the 35 symptoms here at this blog or really anywhere on the Internet these days.
I would suggest you pick up a good book that would explain what is happening physically and hormonally. A recent title I’ve been discussing on my blog is a good one to pick up, “Health, Hormones & Happiness” by Dr. Steven Hotze or perhaps even “The Female Brain Gone Insane” by Mia Lundin.
Once you have a good handle medically, perhaps you could present it to your wife. I realize you said she is in denial, but don’t let that stop you from presenting to her what is wrong.
Maybe it’s a combination of things, like hypothyroidism which is a common, oft overlooked effect of perimenopause and has many symptoms that women associate with perimenopause.
She needs to have the medical facts presented to her and encouraged to see a good, compassionate, knowledgeable physician to have her physical/emotional state evaluated.
Having raised two teens (as you are), it is very similar in many ways. When the adolescent hormones begin, they go a bit loopy for a few years. I’ve certainly had horrible clashes when my teens during the worst of their physical changes and it was rough going. However, knowing that it was in part, at least, hormonally based, enabled me to keep my head and ride the storms. That would be my best advice to you.
Keep your head.
Please, as a woman who has been through perimenopause and is still in that place at times, do not tell her she is crazy, think that she is crazy or approach her in that manner. Women are VERY sensitive to that sort of thing, Andy. So many of us have experienced dismissive attitudes from men or male physicians when it comes to our emotional state and it can be maddening. so, that she would become angry with you for suggesting that she’s a “bit unbalanced”, does not surprise me. I felt the same rush of anger toward my husband when he suggested that I ‘just get a grip’
And finally, it has been suggested by a few of my informed readers that old emotional and psychological wounds and issues seem to resurface during menopause. Yet, just another phenomenon I find completely fascinating because I’ve experienced it myself. So, what you have described with your wife and her childhood issues seems relevant to me.
It could very well be that she is now trying to understand some psychological issues that she effectively buried for most of her life and now perimenopause is unearthing some of those things and she’s not prepared to cope with them.