Menopause is a time of profound change for women, both physically and emotionally. But what about the husbands and partners we share our lives with? How are the changes we are going through affecting them?
It’s a subject that touches millions, but is rarely spoken about. Until now. In her new book, Sex, Meaning and The Menopause, psychotherapist Sue Brayne persuaded a group of men, all married to women who were going, or had gone, through menopause, to open up about their experiences.
Their stories show how menopause can cut right to the heart of a man’s sense of masculinity.
Women have each other to talk to or pick up the pieces when our worlds fall apart. But men don’t have that innate capacity. They may mumble to their friends about something that’s bothering them, but it’s rarely an open or honest conversation.
Most of the men featured in the book had never spoken about these things to anyone, but they were desperate for an outlet for their fears.
As one husband said, "its personal to talk like this, but I feel a sense of relief that I’ve been able to put it into words."
One husband, 67, confessed he had an affair when his wife was going through menopause 13 years ago. While the father of four ended his transgression long ago, the emotion is still raw. ‘I don’t know if she was in denial about what she was experiencing, but it ended up with me shying away from speaking to her about anything to do with intimacy.
‘Only now can I see what a monumental change she went through. She moved from the role of wife, mother and lover to this matriarchal authority figure. That was a real challenge for me. Being married to a post-menopausal woman makes you face your own aging process. At the time, I didn’t understand any of this, so I reacted by falling in love with a much younger woman. And, then, of course, the damage is done."
This might be an extreme example of the havoc the menopause can wreak, but I'm sure there are many men who will empathise with those who confessed they suddenly found their menopausal wives to be almost impossible to live with.
Some husbands found the change so dramatic they compared it to their wives undergoing a personality transplant. "I have no problem with my wife’s body or the fact she’s aging. So am I. In fact, I love the way she looks. She’s still a beautiful woman to me. But I get confused when she wants to get close to me because in the past this always led to sex, but now she rarely wants to make love."
In the past ten years, divorces among the over-50s have triped, with the majority being filed by women
It's clear that ignorance and confusion add to the problems couples suffer when a woman goes through menopause. It’s so important to give men a chance to speak up — some women might be astonished to learn what they really think.
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