How menopause can threaten even healthy relationships | Michele Willmott

How Menopause can threaten even healthy relationships!

How your Menopause can challenge your relationship!

Perimenopause and Menopause are a time of transition for women and a time in which many relationships can come under much pressure and scrutiny. It is perhaps hardly surprising that a larger percentage of divorces that take place do so between the ages of 40-60 years and “women are the ones who most often file for divorce”.

Up until this point in a woman’s life she may well have been living ‘by the book’: juggling a career alongside managing a household; her friends and extended family; plus trying to meet the needs of her husband and children. The period of hormonal fluctuation characteristic of the menopausal years can have a huge impact on a woman’s emotional and physical health. This coupled with less of a need or desire to look after others, can cause some serious questioning in regard to one’s chosen life partner.

I see this time as an opportunity to take a closer look at our romantic relationship and in particular, where we are projecting our disowned qualities onto our partner or hiding ourselves and not speaking up out of fear of rejection, dismissal or humiliation.

A story of how menopause can threaten even the best of relationships

My story is what I see as a classic example of how the ego can come in & ruin many relationships. which are fundamentally healthy albeit in need of some tweaking & up-levelling. I am proud of what I have created in my relationship with my husband. I have been married for 18 years and my husband and I have the sort of relationship where we communicate openly and honestly with each other & enjoy the freedom to show up and be accepted for the individuals we are.

However, despite all of this, going through the perimenopause put my relationship under pressure. When I look, I can see that I started experiencing symptoms in my early 40’s although I had no idea it was due to the perimenopause. When I hit my mid 40’s things started to get worse in that I began to suffer from terrible anxiety and insomnia. The interesting thing was that although many an expert would probably put this anxiety down to an hormonal imbalance and I’m sure there was an element of this, I think it was more the case that it was time for me to heal those parts of me that were still lurking around unhealed & that would often trigger me emotionally in certain situations with my husband.

Watch out for the Ego during Menopause!

For many women, during this time of life, the ego can act as an inner bully who enjoys telling us that out partner is not matching up to our perfectionistic standards. This internal bully can also tell us we are not enough. Not attractive enough, not fun enough, too emotional, and so on. This has the knock-on effect of triggering us into victim-hood.

Essentially, we are giving power away to this voice within us and this is exactly what happened to me. I had a voice in me that would often tell me that my partner was not passionate, dynamic, or inspiring enough for me and thus I could do better. The trouble was, any information that I came across on social media, which seemed to reinforce the idea that as women we should not settle, served to enhance the idea that my partner was not good enough.

In addition I was fuelled by the idea that I should ‘feel the fear & do it anyway’, which provoked huge anxiety in relation to the idea that I ‘should’ leave and all that this represented practically and financially.

Thankfully during this time, another voice deeper inside of me said ‘hold tight’ and I knew this felt right. This was no time to make such a drastic decision when I knew I still loved my husband dearly. It meant that I had to ride the anxiety. I spoke it out loud and I told my husband that a part of me was questioning our relationship and persuading me that leaving was a good option. It was an emotional time, but the more I shone the light on the bully voice within me the more I could see it for what it was and my husband, who is an amazing man stood by me throughout.  It was hard for him too, but he was used to me speaking up & being vulnerable with my emotions in all our years together.

Whilst taking action despite of our fear can be the wise thing to do for many people, I always advise my clients to proceed with caution because jumping ship from a relationship is often the easier option. On the other hand, staying and opening yourself up to more love is the scary thing and this is what the ego does not want us to do. The ego thrives on keeping us feeling separate and acting from a fear-based perspective.

When is it a good time to leave a relationship?

For some women, leaving a relationship is the right thing to do especially when abuse is taking place. Also, if your partner consistently fails to step up and support his words with action to the extent that you feel that your most important values are being dishonoured then this may also signal the end of a relationship. Every situation is different so therefore we must be discerning.

However, when a relationship is fundamentally healthy, this is often calling us to our next level of growth. Here, we have the opportunity to heal our old attachments wounds, whereby we are fixated on getting our partner to love us in a certain way or where we are holding them responsible for our feelings and thus we fail to take responsibility for our own emotional well-being.

Healthy Communication is Crucial

Therefore, healthy communication is a fundamental part of navigating the periods of perimenopause and menopause. Couples need to have a foundation of good open conversation so that they can deal with the tough times. It is never too late to learn how to communicate in a more effective way or to start speaking up. We are all human beings with emotions and it is more than okay to feel what we feel and to speak it out loud, but this really needs to be done from a place of responsibility where we are not just continually moaning, complaining and criticising.

Here are some important ways in which you can help yourself and your partner when it comes to communicating during perimenopause and menopause.

1. Learn to acknowledge all your emotions. Give yourself time and space to let yourself feel your current emotional state rather than resisting it or trying to push your emotions under the carpet.

2. Take responsibility for your emotional and physical well-being. It is not your partner’s responsibility to make you feel happy. Try to refrain from blaming and criticising. Do whatever you need to do to help yourself.

3. Express what you would like simply and clearly. For example, “I would really love a hug right now”

4. Get used to expressing yourself in a way that does not hold your partner responsible. When you notice yourself feeling anxious, flat or depressed and this does not have anything to do with your partner you can say “I want to express how I am feeling right now, and I don’t need you to fix me or provide a solution. I would appreciate it if you could just be a listening ear for me.” In this way you get to let off some steam and your partner does not feel the pressure to solve anything.

5. Take a time out. When you feel your emotional state is connected to your relationship dynamic and maybe you notice a tension between you or you feel upset or angry by something your partner has said or done, this can be trickier as one or both of you may be feeling triggered. Sometimes taking a time out is an effective way of giving you both some space to calm down and gain some clarity of thought.

6. Remember relationships can be messy. We cannot always get everything ‘right’ and there is always “I am sorry, I did not get that quite right, can we start again”.

If we truly want a relationship in which we feel seen and heard and where we feel loved and accepted for being who we are, we must be courageous enough to take some risks in revealing our true vulnerabilities and trust that we will be supported in doing so. At the very least we need to stand by ourselves and know that we are taking a stand for what we believe is important. In my experience there is nothing more beautiful or freeing than being able to be yourself fully in your relationship. Life is without a doubt, too short to settle for anything less.  

Image: Unsplash Gabriella Clare Marino 

About the Author

Michele Willmott, Relationship Coach and Mentor. I help successful men, women and couples renew and transform their relationship for the long-term.