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A Guy's Guide to Menopause

6 tips on how to support the woman in your life

Every time I give a lecture or seminar, I'm bombarded with the same question from men: "My wife is in menopause. What can I do?"

See also: Sex after 50.

I like that these guys are eager to help rather than to just gripe about their partner's mood swings and hot flashes. (Trust me, boys. It's no picnic for us, either!) So here's what I usually advise:

A Guy's Guide to Menopause

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If your wife is going through menopause, look for ways to minimize her discomfort.

1. Know what to expect. Some women sail through menopause with hardly a symptom, but most experience varying degrees of mood swings, depression, night sweats, hot flashes, disrupted sleep and other unpleasant sensations Be sensitive to what your partner is going through and be sympathetic to how she's feeling. Telling her, "It can't be that bad" will only add to her frustrations. Look for ways to help minimize her discomfort. Bring her a pitcher of ice water to help her cool off or rent a movie (I suggest a comedy) to boost her mood. What if she rebuffs your offers of help? Don't push it. Eventually, you'll get points just for trying to be a good partner.

2. Don't take it personally. You need to realize that your partner's distress over her body, lack of libido or prevailing angst is not about you. Her comments might be directed your way, but really it's the hormones talking. Don't think your relationship is falling apart or that she doesn't love you anymore. Remember, this period will eventually pass.

3. Share your feelings. While your role is to be supportive, don't resign yourself to being her punching bag. If you feel she's acting very unreasonably, tell her how you feel and how her actions affect you. Be specific: Explain how hurt you felt when she screamed at you for not turning on the air conditioner or how she blamed the fact that she couldn't sleep on you. You need to be understanding, but you don't have to silently take abuse.

4. Know when it's serious. If your partner has withdrawn from her usual activities and seems extremely miserable, urge her to see a doctor. Depression can be a seriously debilitating condition and might not get better without intervention. You need to be at her back if she can no longer see reality and needs some medical attention.

5. Seek help if you need it. If your wife's menopause is making you overly angry or exasperated, you might benefit from some professional help, too. Ask your doctor, clergy or trusted friend to recommend a support group or a therapist who is acquainted with these kinds of issues. Sometimes just talking things out can be helpful, and a wise therapist can offer good advice on how you can make yourself and the woman in your life feel better.

6. Stay optimistic. Remember, this too will pass. You will get your partner back. She will want to have sex again. She'll turn the air conditioner back to a reasonable setting. Meanwhile, try to be patient, helpful, supportive and thoughtful. She would do the same for you. If you are exasperated or angry, go get some help.

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