Healthy relationships play a big part in our happiness. And if menopause brings challenges, our relationships can sometimes be a casualty.
This isn’t just with a ‘significant other’ – although these close relationships are often the ones most obviously affected. But our relationships with children, parents, wider family, friends and colleagues can sometimes come under the spotlight, too.
If menopausal symptoms are causing you to suffer, support from your network of family, friends, colleagues and manager is vital. Which means keeping the lines of communication open, being as honest as you can with those around you and leaning on your nearest and dearest when things become difficult.
During your life there will have been people you have supported over the years, and the chances are they’ll be more than happy to help you when it’s your turn to ask for support. Remember, if you don’t tell anyone how you’re feeling and why, they can’t read your mind. In particular, your partner and children, if you have any, will know that there’s something amiss and want to help, but they won’t necessarily know how. It really is a good thing to talk to them openly, involve them wherever possible and help them to understand.
As menopause still isn’t talked about openly there can be a lot of unnecessary worry – it’s time to demystify menopause and make it a normal topic of conversation. Let people help you as you would help them. You’ll find it serves to make your relationships stronger.
How do I talk to my partner about menopause?
It can sometimes be difficult to know how and when to communicate best with your partner. Menopause is a time when patience can be tested and understanding is needed. It’s useful for partners to recognise that any mood swings, distress and anxiety are not really anything to do with them. Sometimes, though, this is easier said than done. Being there emotionally is a skill that requires individuals to suspend their own emotional needs, not to try and ‘fix it’ but to simply be there. It’s more than empathy.
Here are some tips for starting the conversation:
- Find the right place. What’s best for you? Sometimes it can feel easier to have a difficult conversation in a public place, like a café or restaurant. Or you might prefer the privacy of your home.
- Choose the right time. Some people like to talk at the end of the day, while others feel too tired by then. Decide if you’d prefer the conversation to have a natural time limit, such as the duration of a car journey.
- Decide on whether you feel more comfortable talking face to face, or maybe side by side – sometimes walking together can feel more natural than facing each other.
- Prepare the ground. Tell your partner what you want to talk about, so you are both focused on the discussion when the time comes.
- Think carefully about what you want to say. It can be useful to write things down.
- What do you want from your partner? Communication is a two-way process, so you need to consider what their response might be.
Communication isn’t always easy, even with those we love and share our lives with. While we might easily have conversations about day-to-day life, talking about more personal or intimate matters can be more difficult. But it’s vital to be heard, and to listen.
Try these tips to improve your communication skills:
- Use “I” statements rather than accusing your partner, e.g. “I feel angry when you leave the toilet seat up” rather than “You always leave the toilet seat up. You make me so angry”. This means you’re taking responsibility and ownership of your feelings rather than blaming your partner. This is immediately easier for them, as they won’t be on the defensive. You can then discuss together how you can address the way you feel.
- Take turns to talk and to listen. If the conversation is becoming heated or you’re talking over each other then you won’t achieve anything. You could set a time limit, or find a household object like an ornament, and whoever is holding the object speaks until they pass it back to their partner. It may sound a little strange, but it’s a great tip for clear communication.
- Paraphrase what you are both saying. After one person has finished talking, the other could try paraphrasing what they’ve just heard – “So to me it seems like you are saying…” Again it might feel a little odd at first, but it’s an excellent technique for listening and understanding – rather than just waiting to talk.
- Communication is a skill to be learned like any other. By building positive habits into your conversations with your partner you will find it increasingly easier to make yourself heard.