I’ve got an admission: I haven’t got a vagina. I haven’t got ovaries either. Or a uterus. Or a cervix: which most blokes would think is a brand of tumble dryer. With all that in mind, I’m sure you’re wondering what qualifies me to talk about menopause. That’s a good point. But there is someone special in my life who has got a vagina: plus, all the bells and whistles that come with it. My wife, Michelle. I love her to pieces and I can’t even imagine what menopause is like for her. On the other hand, (and let’s be honest), being around a menopausal woman isn’t always a bundle of laughs. So, I thought it would help to get a better understanding of what she was going through. Then I could look at things from a husband’s perspective and we could deal with everything better, together.
Let’s all talk about it!
If you’re a husband, boyfriend or partner, you will be wrong like never before. Get over it. And embrace the fact that you will irritate your other half even more than you do already. I know, that’s hard to believe. But during menopause there’s a logical reason for that. The usual levels of irritation can rise, and she may be snappier than usual. Take it in your stride. Be patient, understanding and extra mindful of what you say, what you do and what you don’t say and do. And always remember she still loves you, even though she thinks you’re a clueless idiot.
Tread carefully. Menopause is a minefield
I know it’s usually the little things that drive my wife mad. So, when I shave, I don’t leave hairs in the sink. I try very, very hard to not snore. And I always, always make sure I put the toilet seat down. Now this is really important, because if my wife’s struggling with night sweats, she’s knackered through lack of sleep and dying for her 7th wee of the night, she won’t want to sit on the cold rim of a toilet. For my own safety, I don’t want her to either. If things do blow up, don’t get defensive. Maybe just give her a bit of space and let the atmosphere calm down. At the other end of the scale, there might be a lot of tears. They can come out of the blue. And there might not even be a reason. Or what looks like a reason to you. All you can do is give your wife some love and understanding. Even though you don’t understand.
Begin an epic charm offensive
Most women beat themselves up enough already: on the scales, in front of a mirror, or in a changing room, and if they worry about how they look normally, menopause turns every negative opinion and self-doubt up to 11. Again, be sympathetic and kind. Keep telling your wife she looks great, make her feel desirable, sexy, hot. There are lots of other physical changes, too. I’ve discovered that fluctuating oestrogen levels can make nails more brittle and hair weaker and thinner. With that in mind, don’t baulk at the cost of a cut and colour. The way I look at it, the price of this pampering is worth every penny if it helps my wife feel the way she used to.
Table for two please
Now, there is the tried and trusted way to make your wife feel special: take her out for a romantic meal, but that does come with a caveat. Caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods can all trigger hot flushes. If you plan to go out for a curry, a nice bottle of wine and an espresso, it could make things worse. Or not. Everyone’s different so you’ll just have to suck it and see.
Blowing hot and cold
Personally, I’ve found my wife’s hot flushes and night sweats really upsetting. Because there’s literally nothing I can do about it. And like me, you’ll just have to get used to the fact that one minute she’ll cling to you for comfort and warmth. The next moment, she’ll shove you away and chuck the duvet back like you’ve just done a stinking fart. The only thing that helps, bigger picture, is get some early nights in. Lack of sleep’s a killer. Chances are if she’s awake, you will be too. Then both of you are ratty in the morning.
Sex. Sex. Sex.
Now that’s a biggie. Because loss of libido can really put a strain on a relationship and it throws up a lot of doubts and questions. For me, I wondered if Michelle had stopped fancying me. For Michelle, she was just wondering what the hell had happened. Losing her sex drive almost overnight was a scary thing. It made her confused, sad and angry. She said she felt old, past-it and less of a woman (as if there wasn’t enough to deal with already). My wife’s a generous lover and we’ve kept the flame alive. That’s why she also worried about me, how I’d react, whether I’d see her differently and whether I’d fancy someone else: and likely someone younger. That’s why it’s so important to talk, share your thoughts, get everything out in the open. Don’t make your wife feel guilty or let her think you’re disappointed in any way.
Learn to love lube
Lubricants and moisturisers help with vaginal dryness. And the good news is, lube can increase a man’s sensitivity and pleasure, too. Just don’t squirt it up her like it’s a sealant or slap it on your cock like sun cream. Take it slow and make it part of your foreplay. It can be sensual, erotic and just downright sexy. It’s one area you can definitely own, so get involved. Just one word of warning: do your homework and choose wisely. Some of these lubes can actually make things worse. A company called SYLK make a water-soluble, pH friendly lubricating gel that’s very female-friendly. Don’t stop having sexual intercourse and maybe even try to have it as often as possible. Why: because a good old shag can increase blood flow to the vagina. It also helps stimulate the production of natural lubricant! The flipside is that not having sex can make vaginal dryness worse.
So, for what it’s worth, I’ll end with advice I’d give any man:
And just be there
And remember, if you don’t understand menopause, you don’t understand your wife or partner.
Mate: sort it out!