Menopause, Marriage, & The Male Brain

by Magnolia on March 5, 2014

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Dr. Louann Brizendine is a doctor of psychiatry and neurobiology.  She is the founder and director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic in San Francisco, California. She is also the author of the books The Female Brain and The Male Brain.  

I have referenced  The Female Brain  here many times, because in my opinion, it is one of the best books I’ve ever come across which describes exactly how hormones affect a woman’s body, her development, her brain, and her behavior.

I first discovered Dr. Brizendine’s books while searching for information that might help explain why so many women reach perimenopause and menopause, decide they no longer want to be married – often after very long marriages – and either begin talking about leaving their marriage, or  actually file for divorce.

It was Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause who first made me aware of this phenomenon.  But it was Dr. Brizendine’s work which explained it more fully.  If you haven’t read The Female Braindo yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It’s an easy read and you won’t find a better book on the subject in my opinion.

That said, I ready to begin the a new series on the topic of perimenopause, menopause, and marriage.  It is a topic that never seems to grow old.  My posts on “How to Help Your Wife in Perimenopause” continue to draw considerable traffic, which tells me it is a topic of great concern to my readers, and which is also not getting adequately addressed.

In the past, I have attempted to explain to my male readers how hormones affect women, in the hopes that it might enable them to not only understand their wives more, but to also realize that women are not choosing to experience perimenopause symptoms.  That is, contrary to how it may appear, women do not get up every day and make a conscious decision to have mood swings, a crashing libido, depression, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and night sweats, and erratic menstrual cycles.

These symptoms, like many other functions in both the male and female bodies, are the direct result of hormones, and more specifically, hormone imbalance during perimenopause.

While many men seem perfectly willing to accept that this may be true in the abstract.  They aren’t always so willing to accept this when it is their own wife or partner who might be experiencing the symptoms.  Particularly if she is exhibiting severe mood swings where he is the target of her hormonal wrath.

Diminishing sex drive and loss of libido is another area men have a difficult time accepting that it is not a woman’s choice. Far too many of them think  if their wife or partner is lagging in sexual desire, it is a commentary on their worth as a husband or a man.  Rather, rather than the result of fluctuating estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone during perimenopause.

Some of my male readers have been honest enough to admit that they did take their wive’s perimenopause symptoms personally, and sincerely wanted to look at it from a different angle.  Others, however remain impervious to any explanation other than their own ill founded belief that “she’s doing it on purpose.”

In light of this, I’m thinking it is time to present this issue from an entirely different point of view altogether. Perhaps if I can demonstrate to my male readers that their behavior and attitudes are also largely directed and influenced by hormones, then perhaps they might be able to better understand the behavior and symptoms of their wife and partner.

Will I succeed in convincing the masses?  Probably not.  But, for those men who are sincere in their efforts to understand perimenopause and how it is affecting their wives or partner, I feel certain they will find these posts of value.

We will begin with Chapter One in The Male Brain, entitled “The Boy Brain” in the next post.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison March 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Can’t wait for this blog…my husband says it’s all a choice..my moods, my physical symptoms should be pushed through ..he says prople feel bad everyday and still do things…there is more compassion on heavy period days..but all the other days if the month nothing , and he dies t believe that my PMS symptoms can now be every day of the month ….frustrating…

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Magnolia March 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I wonder if your husband thinks his facial hair growth is a choice, Allison? How about the mass of his muscles? How about the depth and tenor of his voice? How about his sex drive? Does he think he wills all of that into being?

Magnolia

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SuzyQ March 7, 2014 at 12:12 am

A “choice” is to purposefully run over his golf clubs. Or not make him dinner. To battle depression and other emotional and physical symptoms isn’t a “choice” nor is it a demonic possession to make men’s lives miserable “just because”. Allison, somehow I get the feeling a Dr’s note is needed for you to be excused from powering through 24/7. A little compassion can go a long way.

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Magnolia March 7, 2014 at 7:56 am

SuzyQ,

You make me laugh. :)

Magnolia

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SuzyQ March 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

Sorry, my facetious side was making an appearance and it tends to be delivered with a sprinkling of humor. ;) I hope Allison knows that her situation isn’t to be “devalued” just because someone thinks it should. I think that’s a common thread woven through the issue.

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SuzyQ March 7, 2014 at 12:33 am

I think it’s a splendid undertaking and thanks for the book recommendation. I tend to be one of those persons who wants to know the how’s & why’s of things that involve or interest me so that’s right up my alley. In fact, I was thinking when a poster in the aforementioned thread said “I had no idea”, that when it comes to men learning about women’s issues, they really do have no idea. They obviously have internet connections and know how to work search terms well enough to end up here, problem is it’s more “reactive” than “proactive” and could have helped learn about issues before they took them personally. I read that women initiate marriage counselling by a large percentage over men. There’s a correlation with my point about proactivity.

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Magnolia March 7, 2014 at 7:55 am

And women in their 50s and over, tend to initiate close to 80% of all divorces, SuzyQ. I also took the plunge when I reached menopause, to get out of my marriage.

But, honestly, my marriage was deeply toxic, dysfunctional, and unhappy for many, many years BEFORE menopause. I just finally found the gumption to do what I probably should have done many years before.

It is a subject that I find very fascinating and compelling. It is a subject that really needs to be addressed. I do not delude myself that I will be the one to fix this problem forever, and ever, amen.

But, I do want to address it.

Magnolia

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SuzyQ March 10, 2014 at 10:23 am

I’ve been learning a lot about codependency in relationships and find that women generally slide into the dependent role and sacrifice of themselves to be a “good” wife and mother often to thier detriment. Throw in the hormonally imbalanced state of peri-menopause and any system gets distrubed. Like you, at 51 I’m beginning to recognize that something isn’t working anymore and things have to change ( I enable my husband who is more of the classic CD dependent type and relies on me to run just about everything. I’m consistently in control/rescuing which means I’m drained and resentful most times). I’ve learned that I can only manage me, but it’s hard when they want you to manage for them too. ;) There’s a saying a lady psychologist I follow says often about close relationships between people… “We come together at our common level of woundedness”. I think that some of us emerge through menopause and realize we don’t want to wear the wounds anymore and some of our relationships change if they want to stay stuck in pain, breaking the system. Make sense?

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Magnolia March 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

Yes, Suzy,
It makes perfect sense. I was a very co-dependent person too. And I was married to a man who was more than happy to help me stay in the “caring for me and caring for him” role as well.

It worked because I had a tendency to blame myself for everything that went wrong, and he had a tendency to blame ANYBODY but himself for anything that went wrong……so it was the perfect set up.

Especially for him.

He had somebody to blame for everything and I was wounded enough to allow it to happen.

I love the quote from the Psychologist. It’s a great one and speaks wisdom.

Magnolia

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SuzyQ March 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

Funny how that works, huh? ;) It’s largely unstudied but the common thought among people who study this stuff is that a large percentage of us citizens have some type of codependency issues (uncovered in therapy a lot). They’re estimating like 80% of us. That will def influence a couple’s experience of menopause and marriage in general. Makes me curious about the divorce rate correlation in general. Common threads…

The psychologist’s name is Margaret Paul. I follow her and she’s heavy into inner child work so a lot of that eludes me (I think I disowned my inner child ages ago… lol! ). Lot’s of good insights into CBT.

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Chloe Jeffreys March 7, 2014 at 3:39 am

It really is quite distressing to realize how much of our behavior, and even our personalities, are hormone driven. We all like to think we’re intentional beings in charge of all we think, feel, and do. But that isn’t the case. Menopause has taught me just how much of a slave to my hormones I really am. And the truth is that my husband is just as much a slave to his too. The problem is that we’ve accepted the male hormonal state as the standard and that somehow women, in all the ways we deviate from maleness, are aberrant. This is what needs to change. Women are not aberrant! We’re just not men.

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Magnolia March 7, 2014 at 6:29 am

It’s true, Chloe, the male body has been used as the “standard” for health for centuries…..thousands of years, really. I could easily go off on a rant as to why that is, exactly, but I shall refrain. I just want to hopefully make a few new inroads into the minds of some of the men who come here looking for information and help on what perimenopause is and how it affects the women in their life.

Here’s hoping I have a little success.

Magnolia

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Rashaad March 16, 2014 at 3:05 am

I’m not concerned about the lack of sex or the changes in her sex drive. After 27 years, I still love her the same. The problem I’m having is the lack of conversation or when something occurs with her body, she says “That’s personal.” That concerns me because I feel like she should be able to talk to me about this. If we are to work through this together, she must continue to talk to me because I’m experiencing this with her at this point. How do I deal with the personal statement?

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Magnolia March 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

I would suggest that you respect her feelings on the matter, Rashaad. It may be in due time if she feels safe and able to discuss it more with you, she will. Yes, it is true that you are a part of the experience, but please do not confuse your role in the matter.

She is the one who is primarily going through it, and you are being affected by the changes to be sure. But, please be careful that you do not tend to magnify your own experience above hers. Now is the time to think less of you, and perhaps more of her.

Magnolia

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Jennifer Boire April 4, 2014 at 11:31 am

what a great conversation. I never thought my husband would be weeping at movies, opening up and talking about his feelings, growing a beard, joining three different bands, and the list goes on. He is experiencing andropause, big time. So I can’t wait to read more about the Male Brain. I went through menopause ahead of him, so feel like I have some empathy – but the crankiness and super touchiness he exhibited at first took me by surprise – he’s such a gentle soul usually. What was said above about our woundedness is so true. We went to an Imago workshop with a psychologist, (I suggested, he accepted!) which really helped us discover our little triggers (they seem little, why are you always late? and why do I feel abandoned when you do that?), and rediscovered some empathy for each other, instead of piling on more resentment. Yes women get the urge to get up and go, speak their truth, and stop playing Mrs Nice, but before leaving, consider learning how to dialogue, how to express your needs, how to own your own shadow instead of projecting it onto your ‘other’….anyway, great to read this here.

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