The Best Way Husbands Can Support Partners During Menopause

Menopause notoriously causes mood swings and other challenges

Smiling Mature Man and Woman hiking
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When a woman is experiencing mood swings and other challenges of menopause, their husbands or partners may not know how to support them. This overview includes tips for ways loved ones can stand by their spouses during this transition. After all, many people want to be there for their partner as they enter menopause but may be clueless about how to be supportive. In fact, a common complaint is, “I just feel wrong no matter what I do.”

Partners of women experiencing menopause should remember that decreasing hormone levels may result in them having negative emotions. Such women may feel that they lack sex appeal and are old, unattractive, or dispensable. The physical changes they endure during this time may cause weakness, forgetfulness, or discomfort. Finally, women in menopause may feel sad or angry as they enter a new stage of life.

Not All Menopausal Women Have Mood Swings

Some women in menopause may look forward to this transition and feel strong, happy, or hopeful. They may also feel that their life experiences have made them competent, wise, and indispensable. Far removed from the pressures young women face, menopausal women may feel as if they're just getting their second wind and free to live as they please. If they are in good health during this period, they may also appreciate the fact that they've weathered the years well.

How Partners or Family Members Should React 

Partners typically don't discuss how to be supportive once menopause arrives. But during this time in life, partners may spend more time together than they have in years, especially if their children have left home or an aging parent has died and no longer needs care.

For some couples, more time together is the good news and the bad news.

It is the beginning of your “next phase” as a couple, and the great thing is that you can make it a very rich time in your lives. Fine-tuning your relationship skills and a willingness to weather the changes menopause brings are key during this time. You can support your partner by learning about menopause, exercising patience with her as she transitions, and taking an interest in her interests.

Tips to Support a Partner in Menopause

Educate yourself. Learn everything you possibly can about what menopause is like and what changes and experiences are common. Once you see that mood swings and hot flashes are typical and that it is nothing you are doing, you can relax about her ups and downs.

Talk, even if communication doesn't come naturally to you. If you tell her that you want to be helpful, then your menopausal partner will, at least, know you are on her side. If you are already a good communicator, tell her you can see that menopause is not for the faint of heart, and ask her, “What’s the best thing I can do to help you get through this?”

Believe her. This can be a really trying time, so if your wife or partner says she is doing the best she can, believe it.

Sometimes women feel fragile and hardly know themselves during the menopause years. Even if it looks to you as though she could “help it” if she wanted to, it may not be that simple.

Be patient. Patience is vital in both the short and long term. Cutting her some slack when she seems sad or angry will go a long way. The message you send when you are patient is, "You are worth waiting for and this isn’t going to last forever."

Don’t personalize her moods. If your partner gets upset, don’t turn her upset into your upset. She can be angry, sad, or frustrated, and you can listen to her without making it about you.

Offer to help. Getting help with the dishes or having the living room picked up when she gets home can help ease a hectic schedule. Do whatever you can to keep her from feeling overwhelmed. 

Approve of her. This is a perfect time to tell her that you admire her and why. Don’t patronize her, though. Be honest in your praise.

Remember why you're together. In the heat of the moment, remind yourself why you have chosen to stay with her. In a calm moment, you might even want to share that with her.

Help her get the sleep she needs. Insomnia is very common during menopause, and if you are a snorer, find a way to prevent waking her up. If you need a sleep study, get one and use a CPAP to decrease your snoring. (It will help your heart too, since sleep apnea can cause cardiac damage.) Offer to sleep in the guest room on weeknights, so that she can get some real sleep and to turn off the television in the bedroom. A good night’s sleep will help her mood tremendously.

Support her interests. If she wants to take a night class or join a book group, do what you can to make it easy for her. She will feel more hopeful about life if she can do the things that interest her. 

Support her health. Getting started on an exercise plan is easier if you have company. Offer to take nightly walks with her or bike around a lake every weekend. It can become a healthy ritual that you both feel good about. If she is worried about weight gain, plan to cook healthful meals.

Plan Ahead 

Talk about situations that stress your relationship and make a plan for dealing with them. If visiting your mother sends her over the edge, talk about the best way to manage these trips. If you often fight about money, devise a plan to discuss your budget without setting each other off.

Be Playful

Plan surprise gifts or secret dinner outings that celebrate your connection. Keep your sense of humor to let her know your relationship can still be fun. But be careful not to use sarcasm to make a point or humor as a way to show anger or disapproval. If both people aren’t laughing, then it’s not funny. 

Don’t Pressure Her for Sex

Sex is a common struggle during the menopausal years, when libido may wane for her (or for you), and one partner wants sex more than the other. The trick is in finding a balance of closeness, touch, and sexual activity. Focus for a while on just staying physically close. Ask her what feels good to her and offer to do it. A foot rub or a shoulder massage can keep you connected.

Vaginal changes during menopause may make sex uncomfortable or even painful. If she is experiencing pain with intercourse, encourage her to talk to her medical provider about treatments that might relieve the discomfort. 

If your sexual appetites are vastly different, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to reconcile them, it might be time to consult a sex therapist. These professionals can help you find the middle ground.

Get Help

Not every woman will need heavy-duty support through menopause. Many will, at least, need a little boost from time to time. Your intentions mean a lot and just knowing that you want to support her (and not blame or punish her) will go a long way.

Women in menopause need patience, friendship and lots of laughter. She needs to know that you love her and that once you are through the worst of these changes, you will still be a couple. If you don’t have the skills to support the woman in your life during this transition, try couples counseling. 

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