Menopause and relationships: Issues to consider and how to cope
It is refreshing that menopause is becoming a subject that is being talked about more widely in the media and that people are feeling more comfortable in discussing the impact it has on their lives.
Women are living longer and so have many more years living in the post menopausal world than previous generations. Davina McCall and other celebrities have done great work in bringing these issues to the television and social media.
The campaign to prevent women from having to pay multiple HRT prescription charges in a year was a huge success in October 2021 and resulted in some great national publicity for this issue.
Sadly, the introduction of an annual charge has just been delayed by the government until 2023 which is a blow to the campaign into which many women have put a huge amount of time and effort. HRT prescription charges are free for women in Scotland and Wales.
Most recently we have seen media discussion concerning the availability of some HRT products with the government appointing a tsar to find out why there are supply shortages and what can be done to alleviate the problems. A significant number of women rely on HRT products to alleviate what can be debilitating symptoms of menopause.
Menopause can impact family relationships
We see the impact of menopause in many aspects of the legal work we do. In the family law context, menopause is often a subject discussed with clients and one which has caused significant issues in their close relationships. It can coincide with children leaving home and becoming more independent which will also affect the family dynamics.
A survey published in The Independent in 2021 found that 65% of women surveyed said menopause had impacted their marriage. Two thirds of women surveyed said they did not think their spouse or partner properly grasped the physical, mental and emotional repercussions menopause causes.
The symptoms that each woman has to deal with differ widely and are often not immediately identified as being part of the menopause process. Some of the more well-known physical symptoms are a loss of libido and changes such as vaginal discomfort, night sweats and hot flushes.
Changes in hormone levels can affect your mental health
Mental health issues are equally important. Changes in body hormone levels will occur as your ovaries slow down.
Women who have suffered from depression may experience an increase in their feelings of depression. Issues can develop with anxiety, forgetfulness and brain fog and many women have reported suffering increased lapses in concentration.
All of these symptoms made lead a woman to question herself, her marriage/relationship and her working aspirations and goals. Partners may not fully understand the impact menopause is having on their loved ones and maintaining an open dialogue is so important.
Menopause can also impact your job
In the sphere of employment, published statistics show that 42% of women consider leaving their job due to menopause and 20% of women actually leave their job due to menopause symptoms.
Recent research released by the Menopause Experts Group show that employment tribunal cases mentioning menopause rose by 44% in 2021, with 23 cases referencing it compared to 16 the previous year.
Seven tips to help you cope with menopause changes
So how can you cope with menopause changes? Here are seven tips to help you.
1) Know you are not alone
Women need to know that it is normal to experience these symptoms and they are not alone. We need to talk openly to friends, family and colleagues. Getting this message out there and removing the taboo is so important – women all deal with this life event at some point.
2) Share how you are feeling
It is especially important to share how you are feeling with your life partner. We regularly have spouses and partners who consult us because their partner is dealing with issues which they refuse to discuss. Their partner feels blocked out and isolated because they are not being allowed to properly understand what is happening to offer support.
3) Seek support
Think about seeking about support from organisations such as The Menopause Charity or joining a menopause support group. Fortunately, there is a lot of help, guidance and assistance out there. Communicating with others who are experiencing the same sort of issues as you can be a great help and support. It is important to know you are not alone.
4) Don’t make hasty decisions
It’s important not to make any hasty decisions. If you feel that your relationship is in trouble then take some time to think carefully about the reasons that have led to the difficulties. Consider couples or family therapy as a way of allowing everyone to express their feelings and exploring the way forward.
5) Speak to your GP
Consult your GP and see whether there any medical options that could assist. Carefully consider and research the options available to you.
6) Take care of your body
Eat well and exercise. Do what you can to assist your body in dealing with these changes. The right diet, rich in phytoestrogens and a reduction of caffeine, alcohol and processed foods, can help to dramatically alleviate menopausal symptoms.
7) Ask for support at work
If you are struggling at work, speak to a trusted friend or adviser there. A lot of organisations now have menopause policies and Champions in place who have been trained to help colleagues dealing with any menopause related problems.
Helen Young is a Partner in the family and divorce team at law firm Debenhams Ottaway.
Photo by Allef Vinicius