Perimenopause Advice for Husbands: Honey Dos & Honey Don’ts

by Magnolia on October 16, 2011

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I’m sorry I’ve forced you gentlemen to wade your way through so much context on this subject before I finally get around to offering specific things you can do.

But if you are a regular reader, then you know I’m a believer in context.  I strongly believe that if we have a clear understanding of the “where-fores” and the “why-fores” of specific situations, we are in a much better position to make good choices.

In light of that, my belief has been if you understand exactly what perimenopause is, then the chances of  being able to navigate the situation successfully have increased substantially.

That said, it’s also important that you understand  these suggestions are just that – suggestions.  Anything and everything I say should be filtered through your personal situation and applied judiciously.

If you don’t feel that some or any of these suggestions are entirely useful for your circumstances, by all means, take the meat and spit out the bones.

So let’s start with the don’ts.

Don’t

Assume she will “get over it”and withdraw from her  – Something I’ve learned about men (both here and in my personal life) is that when they are in conflict with women, they want to pull back and stay out of the line of fire.

The assumption is, if you stay out of the conflict arena long enough, she will get over whatever is bothering her and everything will resume back to normal.

While I certainly see the logic of this approach, and I would also agree  there are times when this is exactly what you should do,  it is not a good blanket strategy when dealing with women.  Let me tell you why:

When women are suffering, that is, if we are hurt, if we are struggling with a problem, or we have some kind of mental or emotional pressure, we generally want to talk about it.  Not only do we want to talk about it, but we want whomever we are discussing it with, to empathize and show a concern for what we are going through.

In short: we need and want emotional validation.

We need to know someone cares about what we are going through.  We need to hear that you care, not only by what you say, but also how you say it.  Easy enough right?  But, here’s the other thing:  we don’t want to have to ask you to notice.

I can almost hear the collective groan over that last statement.  Why?  Because I know that men are pretty straight forward.  If you want something – ask.  Again, there are times when I would wholeheartedly agree with you.  Like, say, if I want a picture hung or have the brakes on my car checked.

I’m also willing to concede this might be a good place for women to step outside of their comfort zone and actually say, “hey, honey, I’m having a tough time right now and I really need to talk.”

Fair enough.

I can’t guarantee, however, that it will happen.  I mean, have you seen a woman in the midst of a raging mood swing?  Exactly. It’s highly unlikely she will feel like stepping outside her comfort zone.

So don’t, gentlemen, pull away from her.  I’m not saying she deserves a turn of goodwill. You may have plenty of good reason to withdraw and wait it out.

I’m just telling you – it’s not the best strategy if you really want to help your wife.  Approach her.  Pursue her.  Be direct and let her know straight up that you care what she is going through and you want to help.

Ask her what you can do for her.  Then do it.

Hit back when she lashes out at you – I promise you this is not a conspiracy.  I’m not trying to set you up to get railroaded or to be her sitting duck.  What I’m trying to tell you is how women think.

Here’s the deal:

If we are overly-emotional, ranting, raging and basically completely out of control from hormones gone wild (yes, it happens) and you are able to remain cool, calm and collected, even when taking what might be some pretty darn unfair barbs your way, she will notice.  I promise.

Nothing gets to a woman’s heart like a man who has backbone and the ability to remain calm and confident in stressful situations.  Liken it to what women do all the time for screaming, out of control toddlers.

If we lost our minds and gave our 2 year-olds, exactly what they were giving to us, chances are it would scare the holy moly out of the child.  And it would certainly make a bad situation worse.  In fact, that we are able to keep our cool and stay calm when they are losing their little toddler mind actually instills a sense of safety in their lives.

Translate that to your wife.

If you remain calm, non-defensive and in control of your emotions when she is out of control of hers, you have just created an environment where she will feel safe. Do I mean stand there while she throws things at you?  No.  Duck.

What I mean is, don’t give her back what she is giving you.  If she has just an inkling of character, she will notice, and you will have done a great thing in helping her bounce back from hormone insanity. Easy to do?  No.  But, try it.

Come back for more…….I’ve got plenty.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Hoover March 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I beleive my wife is going thru perimenopause. Irregular periods, withdrawl, depression, mood swings, change of character. To be honset it is like permanent PMS. When I asked what was wrong she said the problem was that I did not know and that I would had I been paying attention. Our daughter has tried to talk to her about this and my wife gets very defensive. I know something is wrong and I want more than anything to help my wife. My wife has asked me to just leave her alone this has been going on for 7 months. She has been in counselling all this time. We had some marriage counseling together but she has made it clear she wants nothing to do with it. Our marrriage counselor (a woman) has advised me to stop pursuing and stop trying to help my wife. I am frustrated and confused. I feel like I am losing my wife. I need help!
Sincerely,
Joe Hoover

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Magnolia March 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Hi Joe,

thanks for reaching out and I’m sorry you’re having a tough time with what is happening right now. First, does your *wife* think she is going through perimenopause? Has she said anything? Has she seen a physician.

A lot of times when we first start going through it, for some stupid reason, we can’t see the forest through the trees. When the men in our life suggest that we might be, we usually don’t take it too kindly. Not rational, reasonable, or even remotely fair, but that is a fact. But, I’m sure you already know that.

Yes, you are right……it *is* like a permanent PMS – but even worse and a lot more intense. The good news though, in time, it will lessen in intensity. Menopause is an entirely different ball game. I assure you.

If your wife wants you to leave her alone, the counselor is right. Stop pursuing. However, I *would* ask your wife what exactly you can do (besides leaving her alone) to help her through this.

if she continues to say”nothing”, then communicate back to her….”Okay, so you REALLY don’t want me to do ANYTHING?” If she says, “yes, that is what I mean…..” Then leave it with this….”Okay, but if you change your mind, I’m here and willing to help”

And then? Cut it loose.

Don’t stop being loving. Don’t stop being patient. Don’t stop letting her know that you love her when it is appropriate and doesn’t come off as desperate. But, essentially, let HER give you the signals and let her lead.

You are not losing your wife. But, Joe, she *is* changing. And she won’t be the same person she was before perimenopause.

I would strongly suggest that you read as much as you can about perimenopause and menopause so that you understand what is happening physically and emotionally. Pick up Dr. Christianne Northrup’s book “The Wisdom of Menopause”

Find Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book “The Female Brain” and learn as much as you can about how hormones and menopause affect a woman’s life.

And finally, if you want to make this as painless as possible……..be willing to change with her. And remember that life is all about change. Your wife is not the same person she was at 15 years of age, 21 years of age, or even 30 or 35. And truthfully, sir, neither are YOU.

Step up and roll up your sleeves. You can change right along with her.

Magnolia

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Joe Hoover March 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm

When this started she went to the Dr. She had blood work and all the female checkups. I’m not sure if they checked her hormone levels. She would only tell me that everything is fine. She also has type 1 diabetis, so she sees her indocrinologists regularly. I have not broached the subject with her. My daughter has and she rejects the idea that she may be going thru the change. The brunt of her outbursts are directed towards me. We have not talked even to say hello or goodbye in months. When I try to talk she lashes out at me with cutting words. She wants nothing to do with me yet we still live in the same home with our now adult children; 18,20 and 21. We still sleep int the same bed yet I am not allowed to touch her and she stays as far to the ohter side of the bed as possible. Patience and kindness are the only resources I have. Even these things make her angry at times. Thanks so much for your wisdom and help. I will try and find thesed books to gain some understanding.
Sicerely,
Joe Hoover

Reply

Magnolia March 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm

You’re welcome, Joe. Believe it or not, there is a glimmer of hope for you. 1) You are still sleeping in the same bed. 2) she has not said she wants a divorce

By the time many men make it to my blog, they’ve already reached crisis mode and are desperate for answers. At least she hasn’t slipped that far yet.

I know how nasty we can get when we are in the throes of a mood swing. And I also know it is not “fair” that we lash out at you (the men in our lives) and our children.

But, if you can find it in you to tell yourself over and over again – it’s NOT about you. No matter how personal it may feel. It is NOT. That is not to say that some gripes she may have about you as a spouse are not valid. But, what she is going through has nothing to do with your performance as a husband.

And also try, if you can, to realize that if you think YOU are having a tough time……she is getting beat to hell and back physically and emotionally.

That may not make you feel any better or less wounded. But, if you can put it in a different perspective, sometimes it does help.

Magnolia

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Joe Hoover March 15, 2012 at 4:03 am

Thanks again for your help and wisdom. I do appreciate it. I will take it to heart what you have said. We have been married 22 years 23 in June. She has always been my best friend. The hard part is; not being able to help, missing her presence and the time we had together. She has been my life for so long and I am powerless to help her.
Thanks again,
Joe Hoover

Reply

Magnolia March 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

You’re welcome, Joe.

Yes, nothing is harder than feeling powerless to help those we love. I do understand that. Sometimes, I think that vulnerability is actually good for us. By shaking up our world, so to speak, I also think it opens up new opportunities to learn to love more and deeper than we ever have.

To let go of a situation to allow someone to do and be what they need, takes an enormous amount of real love in my view. As a parent, I’m sure you understand that notion quite well.

But, while you cannot balance her hormones for her, you CAN be a consistent presence in her life. If you can offer empathy, validation, and the emotional support WITHOUT judgment, you are doing her, your family, and yourself a huge service as a husband and father.

As a woman, I can tell you, women need that kind of love like we need to draw our next breath.

Magnolia

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Joe Hoover March 16, 2012 at 4:01 am

Magnoli,
I am not the usual deadbeat, brain dead husband. All of us are a little slow to get it but the difference between me and a lot of fellas is that I want to get it. When this came down I could not imagine what was going on and she couldn’t tell me. She keeps pushing me away little by little. Its a slow death and painful. I will admit that I haven’t handled this very well and after reading a lot of your blog, I can see that I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I have to tell you I love my wife warts and all. The word is unconditional. The vows said for better or for worse, in sickness or in health. I will be here as long as she will let me. I am wondering if there are other guys out there like me and how to get in contact with them. I would like to talk to some guys who have been thru this and came out alive and still married on the other side. Question; why is it that you can not get anyone to talk about this issue of perimenopause. Our family Dr. didn’t want to talk about this, my wife, her counselor, my counselor, our counselor, friends, other family members. I’ve been told that you don’t want to go there and to leave it alone. Our marriage counselor said that if this is perimenopause it will soon be over. Then I read that this could go on for years…. I want to scream HELP!!!!!! When my wife started showing the symptoms of diabetis, i.e. weight loss, ecessive urination, drinking lots of water and eating 6 meals a day. I talked to my wife, we called a Dr. and he scheduled the labs we needed, the diagnosis was made and we started treatment. Why is it that I can’t even get to first base on this one with anybody?
Thanks,
Joe

Reply

Magnolia March 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

Joe,

You ask valid questions. And I have asked the same questions too. You are correct. No one wants to talk about it. Your frustration is exactly why I started writing about it 5 years ago.

If you think YOU are frustrated, women who are in perimenopause and thinking they are going crazy are in a bono-fide tail spin. I just wrote a piece for another medical site. Here is the article: http://www.healthline.com/health-blogs/hold-that-pause/perimenopause-not-sissies

I addressed these exact frustrations. No one wants to talk about it. No one. It is also the reason I am now in graduate school earning my degrees in healthcare consumer advocacy. Because, no one will talk about it.

I do not know of any men to connect you with. But, I have strongly considered launching a forum here at my blog to make a place for men like you to talk and share your experiences. To also, hopefully, help one another through it.

I believe you when you say you are not a dead-beat husband. Just the fact that you are reaching out trying to get help, speaks volumes.

But, since I have no communication with your wife, I have no clue what HER side of the story is. But, as a woman who has gone through perimenopause and who completely understands how it affects you, I can tell you, it runs deep. Very deep.

Look, perimenopause or not, if your wife is asking for space, you MUST give it to her. Panicking and running around in desperation will only make it worse. I say that to you as one who has behave this way herself. Don’t do it to yourself or your family.

I would highly recommend that you find a counselor for YOU. A place where you can vent and work through your feelings. Not with the express purpose of winning your wife back, but in order to keep you from going insane with all of this.

You are certainly welcome to continue to come here. I will glad provide a place for you to dump your thoughts and give you any insight I am able.

Don’t panic. Just don’t panic.

Magnolia

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