As I have gotten older, so has the age range of the women I am dating. As women get into their 50s, they often experience menopause. I have been told by several woman friends who have gone through menopause that each woman has a different experience with menopause. For some women, menopause is mild, while for others menopause is more severe often bringing hormonal imbalances that result in symptoms which, on a case-by-case basis, can include irritation, hot flashes, tiredness, reduced sex drive, lack of self-esteem, anger and irrationality. While menopause can exaggerate the behavior of women, (which is often perceived and experienced by men as being irrational), the following tools actually apply to women at any age and can help men and women have more loving and harmonious relationships.
Mistakes I made:
Being inexperienced with menopause and its symptoms, I failed at creating harmonious relationships with truly wonderful women who I loved. I attempted unsuccessfully to gain some sense of rationality, self-evaluation and objectivity from my partner in the face of her being overcome by hormonal overload caused by menopause. I would attempt to show her that her feelings, while real to her, were not based upon true facts, but an exaggerated perception of reality. I would attempt to rationally work through a process to get her to calm down and be more objective. I would attempt to "fix" the situation.
This was like throwing fuel on the fire and the results were disastrous.
While my intentions were loving and I truly tried to reach a resolution, what my girlfriends heard and felt was that I was making them wrong, attacking them and not seeing, hearing or supporting them in their feelings and experiences.
Many women don't know exactly what to expect or how to handle menopause. And when their hormones and emotions create exaggerated perceptions of reality, many women don't have the tools to be rational, loving, kind and considerate. They often feel unattractive, angry, stressed out, dark and/or frightened about the changes in their bodies, and uncertain how to respond to situations that used to be normal.
Suggestions for Creating Harmonious and Loving Relationships:
After my last girlfriend, who I loved deeply, I spoke with a former girlfriend, who is a PhD in psychology. I wanted to learn from her what happened in our relationship and see if she could share some tools that I can use to help me better understand and support my loved ones through the challenges of menopause and hormonal imbalances, so that we can have more harmonious, loving and fulfilling relationships.
Here are 5 Tools that she gave me to help me better understand, communicate with, and improve my relationships with women:
1. Be a Good Listener -- Really hear exactly what she is saying. Don't give solutions or answers. Talk very little, if at all. It's more effective to ask questions such as
"How can support you?" or "What would you like me to do, if anything?" or "How can help make you more comfortable?"
2. Be Fully Present for Her -- Look into her eyes, let her know you are there and that she is important enough to have your full attention. Don't criticize or minimize how she feels. Don't get distracted (e.g., texting, watching TV or letting your mind wander).
3. Be Empathic -- Be understanding, empathetic and sympathetic about how she feels. Know that she loves you and isn't fully in control of her actions. Try to feel what it is like to have hormones taking over your entire being, causing extraordinary sensitivity, rawness and emotion, and removing your ability to be rational as well as physical discomfort. Support her with statements showing that you understand her feelings (e.g., "I see why you feel the way you do. I would feel the same way if that happened to me"). You don't have to agree, but you can understand and validate her state of being (e.g., "I understand that your son is acting in way that is causing stress" rather than "I agree your child is a total self-centered entitled brat.")
4. Be Patient and Nonjudgmental -- Be personally detached and neutral even when the comment is personal. It is the hormones speaking. Even if the communication and behavior is exaggerated, irrational or factually inaccurate, don't judge her or make her wrong. Allow her the time to feel her feelings fully before offering any solutions or improvement.
5. Be Supportive -- You're in it together. It's kind of like when couples say "we're pregnant." Actually she is going through similar changes, discomfort and hormonal adjustments which often can be similar to the changes felt in pregnancy. We just need to love and support them in the process. Often women tell you they want space and to be left alone, when they really want to be held, loved and nurtured. Say, "Please tell me what you want so I can best love and support you?"
Here is an example of how to lovingly respond and engage in these situations...
• "Honey, I'm here for you and want to understand what you're feeling, even though it may not be possible for me to truly understand your feelings."
• "What's going on? What do you need? How can I help support you?"
• "I'm listening and really want you to be free to express yourself. I want you to be able to come to me for support."
• "Honey, I think you are beautiful and we will work together to get you through this."
Let her express herself and no matter if what she says is right or wrong or exaggerated or an attack on you, just listen. Be neutral. Don't take it personally. Just remember, it is the hormones speaking. Don't judge, correct or comment. Just listen and memorize exactly what she said.
Once she feels heard, felt, seen and supported and once she has shifted from the effects of hormonal overload, then ask if she would like to discuss what transpired. If she doesn't, respect her wishes. She will eventually come around. Don't push it.
When she is ready to discuss her feelings and reactions, remember exactly what she said. Don't embellish. Don't create a story. If you are going to discuss what she said, state exactly what she said in the most loving, patient, and non-judgmental way possible. Ask what you can do to help support her so that you can together achieve greater love and harmony in your relationship.
During this entire process, repeat steps 1-5 above.
And remember, menopause doesn't last forever! You both can survive this if you work together!!
I hope these 5 tools, help you improve your relationships and have a more happy, loving and harmonious life.