Menopause, A Man’s Perspective…

Having survived the last thirty to forty years since leaving school and making my way in life, I am now in a position to look backwards as well as forwards from the crossroads of being in my late 50’s. Keep that fact between you and me as, just between us, I’m still 27…

Settled within a loving relationship with my wife and best friend of 14 years, we have seen the children grow to adulthood, leave home and set up their own lives. We as parents are only needed now as bankers. Basically a withdrawal service from wherever in the world they are when they find themselves short of a bob or two. 

As the last child leaves home, the ’empty nest syndrome’ notches up a gear as childhood boxes find their way to the loft or attic space of whichever grandparent now lives closest to each of them. 

Not only are they spaced out across the globe, Australia, England and Scotland, Charlotte and I now live in French France. The chances of any of them 1. finding us or 2. wanting to stay here, are thwarted by a) our lack of good Wi-fi or b) having a swimming pool. 

Our empty nest is truly devoid of any fledgling child. They have spread their wings and are on their own journey to weave their individual tapestry of their life.

That leaves us, Darby and Joan. The generation before. The oldies. The ones who are there for inheritance purposes only. ‘Just look after the house until you die and pass it on to us’. The most deserving generation known to mankind!

So here I am. At a type of crossroads of life. The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. Looking back on what was but also forward to what is to come. And not without a certain amount of trepidation I might add, as the preceding years have been a rollercoaster of emotions and life education. If they are anything to go by, the years to come are going to have their fair share of events too. Good and bad to experience and record in Life’s Rich Tapestry.

I’d like to name this juncture in life’s road a type of pause. A man pause. As what I once had and was, is no longer. What is to come is going to be different too. I am going through a change. A metamorphosis of crystallisation. Of joints, of thoughts, of life’s abilities. My body is not what it once was.

This isn’t too dissimilar to the female menopause either.

I am fortunate to have married a woman considerably younger than me, or so she repeatedly tells me.

She has to keep repeating herself as my brain has also gone through a sort of transformation where remembering things she asks me to do get forgotten exceedingly quickly, yet things from the past haunt and disturb my memories with surprising ease of recollection. 

Although my wife is exceedingly younger than moi, she too is changing. Her own pause is upon her. An onset of the menopause in her early 40’s has had effects on her body and mind that are undeniably troubling. To the unsuspecting female experiencing the youngest child leaving home at 16, her empty nest has coincided with her inability to reproduce any more offspring. A burden that many ladies of a certain age feel as time marches on and the body clock ticks louder and louder as the impending inability urges ‘just another one’ before it’s all over and the feelings of inadequacy and inability well up to impress the unfairness of life onto the woman who has just made it to a position where childbearing should at least be a financial breeze. 

Job wise, the 40-something woman is in her prime. Experienced and skilled not only in life but also usually in a position of employment. Just at the time when hormonally the barrenness of the body also leaves the brain without the necessary fuel to drive it forward. Instead huge personal feelings of inadequacy arise when confronted by a younger, more virile generation, which threatens to take everything that she has worked and lived a lifetime for, when she should now be enjoying the summer holidays of life in the safe knowledge that experience matters. The lack of these life-giving hormones, now depleted from her at menopause, can result in inferiority complexes and  a feeling of uselessness, resulting in many women at this age simply withdrawing from the workforce.

I haven’t even started on ‘the bedroom’ aspect of this condition.

Now that the children have left and I am still in my prime, I could be forgiven for thinking that I could resume from where we left off. When feeding, nappy changing, sleepless nights and ‘I can’t sleep, can I get in with you?’ followed by subsequent teenage angst and staying out late, with all the worries and concerns that come with being a parent are supposed to end, fact is, I can’t resume! 

For what was, is not now. 

Not only has my body changed from being able and willing at any hour of the day or night, it now only functions at about 4am…for about 30 minutes if I’m lucky! I’m usually not lucky, as 4am is not conducive to waking up a sleeping partner on the premise that she might like to do something that happens to be the furthest thing from her desire at such a time as she has only just managed to fall asleep herself! 

Desire is depleted. 

My desire, her desire. 

Her body has changed too. As it no longer is available for reproductive purposes, the desire to do anything more than cuddle has also more or less disappeared and sailed away over the horizon of yesteryear.

Nothing either of us can do about this. It is just another part of Life’s Rich Tapestry that they fail to teach and warn you about when at school. 

AND the twenty eight day, four week cycle, thirteen times a year IS STILL THERE!

Just when you thought that the arrival of menopause would dispel the ups and downs caused by the ‘time of the month’ of the preceding years, you now get the chance to chart the progress of ability to deliver versus overwhelming floods of tears and saying it’s all too much, hot flushes, insomnia and a sliding scale of all the above, day to day, week to week.

Throughout all these versions of my wife I have learnt to stand alongside her and support her. But it’s only in knowing these fluctuations and charting them that you can successfully manage expectations for a whole four weeks. What was impossible for her to even contemplate last week is now simply a minor blip on her smooth surface of ability. 

What might be a good or bad idea to do, say, go to, buy or sell, has to stand the test of time of all four weeks before it can be agreed upon. 

Such is the pattern of menopause, that only by the appreciation of knowing her, can all things be worked through. 

I don’t have a stiff upper lip or a ‘pull yourself together attitude’ anymore. 

Cuddles work and sometimes a cup of tea, but above all, an understanding that I can love every aspect of my wife as she battles through her own pause at this ‘time of the month’.

DJ

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