Relate, the UK’s largest network of relationship counsellors, has worked with Health & Her to develop advice to help you and your partner work together through menopausal symptoms. The stress, anxiety and anger that arise seemingly out of nowhere around menopause can be really tough to deal with, but it’s possible to work together to overcome it and feel more connected.
Menopause isn’t just a physical change to your body it can have a big impact on how you feel too. During menopause your brain and body go into a kind of survival mode, this can leave you feeling exhausted and experience problems with chaotic thinking or becoming quick to anger.
You may also experience episodes of anxiety. You might worry about:
- How your body is changing
- If you will ever feel like yourself again
- Whether your partner’s feelings for you will change
- How to cope with new symptoms as they arise
Why do you feel different at menopause?
There are a number of factors at play. Starting menopause isn’t something you choose to do and it can be quite unexpected when it does start. This can leave you feeling out of control or unprepared which adds to your anxiety.
Other members of your family may have had a very difficult time going through menopause and so you might worry that you are going to have a similar experience. Some women find they are overwhelmed by negative feelings or tiredness and start to become depressed.
What can you do together to manage the situation?
Although it’s difficult to live with some symptoms there’s a lot you can do to alleviate them. Looking after yourself and getting advice from your doctor can make a big difference to the severity of your symptoms. It’s also be helpful to remember this is a natural process and you will eventually come through it.
Counselling can be very effective if you find you are really struggling to cope with feelings of depression, anxiety, loss or anger. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to commit to seeing someone for a long time, you might just find it useful to see someone for a single session who understands what you’re going through and can help you find ways to cope.
What can help me feel better?
There are lot of different approaches you can try; depending on your symptoms, you might find the following helpful:
- Talking to other women. Other women can suggest practical ways to cope with the symptoms you’re experiencing or offer a listening ear when you’re having a tough day. Hearing different experiences is very helpful for normalising what you’re going through and stopping you feeling isolated.
It’s also a good way of putting into perspective your partner’s response to menopause. You might find out that other people’s partners have been less or more supportive than your own. Learning about how other women got their partner to be more supportive can give you some ideas about how you could encourage your partner to be more involved. Conversely, it can be useful to see how women whose partners haven’t been very supportive have built different support networks.
- Research the symptoms of menopause and possible treatments. Go to your GP with your research and talk to them about treatments you could try. This might be HRT, other prescription medicines or counselling. It’s worth finding out as much as possible about the different treatments so you can have an informed discussion with your doctor and make the most of your time with them.
- Look after yourself and have fun. Boosting your mood can help you cope better with feeling of stress and anxiety. Plan in activities that help you unwind and feel more positive, you could try a relaxing bath with your favourite oils and beauty products, taking a day off to do just what you want to do, spending the whole day with a close friend, or going for a massage or facial. If you’re pressed for time you could try taking half an hour to have a cup of tea and read a book or listen to your favourite podcast or music.
- Be more selfish. You need time to take care of yourself and recover, this means putting yourself and your needs first. This might not come naturally so if you’re used to taking caring of others before yourself make a conscious effort to reverse this pattern. Try to think about the advice you would give to a friend or perhaps how you would look after a child and apply to yourself instead.
- Counselling can help. You could go either on your own or with a partner. It’s a chance to get a different perspective on what’s happening to you. If you go to counselling as couple it might include an element of education; the counsellor will want both of you to understand the biological changes that are happening so you don’t misinterpreted these as a loss of interest in the relationship itself.
- Try mindfulness. Some women have found mindfulness helps them cope better with feeling angry, anxious or having difficulty thinking clearly.
- Tell your partner. Make sure they know how you’re feeling and what they can do to help. Men have never experienced having periods so they may be completely unaware of ways in which hormones can affect your mood and general mental health. If you’re not sure how to start this conversation then you might find reading about how to improve communication in your relationship helpful: How to do relationships: A step-by-step guide to nurturing your relationship and making love last
Which treatments work best for you will depend on your own personal circumstances as well as the severity of your symptoms but many women find that adopting a healthier lifestyle and paying more attention to their own needs really reduces the intensity of their negative feelings.
Regular exercise, changes to diet, and paying more attention to their own needs really reduces the intensity of their negative feelings. Practices like yoga and mindfulness can be really helpful too. Exercise is helpful because it helps to boost endorphins which is a natural way of boosting mood and reducing anxiety.
It’s also worth researching all the symptoms of menopause, even ones you might not be experiencing at the moment, as this can help you feel more prepared and less overwhelmed when a new symptom starts.
Finally, it’s important to remember this will end. Many women say they feel more relaxed and confident once they have finished menopause. This is a phase you are passing through and your emotions will settle with time.
Seeing a therapist
The kind of therapy that works best for you will depend on what you need help with:
Anxiety and mood swings. A CBT therapist will help you come up with strategies to change how to think about situations that make you feel anxiety or angry. They will also look at how you can change your behaviour so you feel less anxious.
A relationship counsellor can help you resolve tensions or conflict in your relationship or if you feel you have drifted apart find ways to start talking and feel connected again. You can go to see a relationship counsellor on your own or as a couple.
Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, and last year they helped over two million people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities to strengthen their relationships.