Midlife is a season of change. As a woman, you’re approaching or going through menopause and everything seems disrupted – including your relationship with your husband. If you are intentional, you can navigate your changing needs, emotions, and sexuality and strengthen your marriage at the same time.
Today I’m talking to wives. Don’t allow yourself to feel like a victim, even though that may be tempting. There are many things you can’t control; focusing on those things doesn’t help. But there are choices you do have, things you can do, that truly make a difference. You’ll likely have to be more intentional about where you invest your energy during this midlife season than you have been before, and that’s OK.
If you’re a husband, I’ll have some specific thoughts for you next time.
So here are four specific things you can do as a woman that will significantly strengthen your marriage even while you’re navigating midlife and menopause.
Care for Your Body and Mind
It may seem you can’t “trust” your own body and mind the way you’re used to. Aches and pains, hot flashes, changing sexual response – you’re not at all sure you like this changing body.
And it’s still up to you to take care of it.
You’re NOT a victim to your changing hormones. If you need some input from a medical professional, get it. You may need to clean up your eating habits. Getting regular exercise can help your mood and energy level a lot. And you’ll have to be more intentional about daily, weekly, and yearly rest in this midlife season also.
For many women, “stuff” comes up during midlife that you may have thought you’d already dealt with. Unhealed wounds, heartaches, habit patterns – you can’t hide them as well as you could before. You can use this as a wakeup call to connect with other healthy women, get some professional counseling, or seek God in a new way.
And as you learn, grow, and become better, you’ll have a lot more clarity and resilience in how you bring yourself to your marriage, and to make wise decisions as you address challenges together.
Take Ownership of Your Emotions
Many women feel more moody and irritable during the midlife season. Your rapidly changing hormones are certainly a part of this. And so are the many other life issues that always seem to crop up at the same time.
But none of that gives you a free pass to withdraw from your marriage, or to take it out on your husband. You’re still responsible for how you respond – to him, to life, to everything.
First, what NOT to do. Don’t stuff it, or pretend everything is OK when it’s not OK. Don’t blame your husband, or anyone else, when you feel upset. And don’t give yourself an excuse when you respond in an abrasive or hurtful way.
What TO do? Notice that moment between the rise of a feeling and your response. That may seem like an infinitesimally small moment, and your changing hormones make it even more challenging. But you can still do it. You can train yourself to pause and tell yourself, “I’m tired. I feel overwhelmed.” Or, “That triggered me. I’m feeling angry.”
And when you practice that pause, you gain a greater ability to choose what to do next.
Acknowledge Your Husband’s Frustration
Plenty of husbands feel as though their wives pull a “bait and switch” on them as they approach menopause. Their emotions are less predictable (were they ever really predictable?). Their sexual interest and response usually changes – either more or less. This isn’t the woman I married!
Acknowledge your husband’s frustration. If sex is important to him and you’re now struggling more than usual with intimacy, let him know that you know how hard that must be for him. If you find yourself emotionally less stable, tell him you know that really affects him. When you say or do something hurtful, apologize.
Relationships in midlife require flexibility, commitment, and unselfishness. You’re only responsible for you, but do your part.
And if your husband is basically a person of good will, learn to intentionally take a mental step toward him. Sex begins in the mind. Take that mental step and your body has a good chance of following.
Be Specific in Asking for Help
Many men love to fix things. Your husband may feel especially powerless in not being able to fix you as you’re experiencing menopause and everything that goes along with it.
It will help both of you if you let your husband know what he CAN do to help. And you need to be specific. Something like “be more understanding” is like Greek to him; it’s not helpful. Asking specifically might look something like:
- I’m a lot more tired than I’m used to. It would really help if you could take over (the vacuuming, making dinner a couple nights a week, or something else specific.)
- I want to feel close to you, but it takes me longer to warm up. If you would sit next to me, hold my hand, and watch a movie together, I might be able to get in the mood.
- Our looming retirement is worrying me. If we sat down and planned our finances for the coming years, it would ease my mind a lot.
- When I’m feeling upset it really helps if you can just listen. I don’t need you to fix anything, and I’m not particularly asking for advice. Simply listening to me does help me.
Your husband can’t read your mind, even though you may wish he could. Be specific, and he’s much more likely to come through.
Your marriage can not only survive midlife; you can thrive. Your intimacy and satisfaction can deepen. And you can together experience more of God’s purpose for you as a couple.
That’s why I created the Navigating Midlife online course. This honest look at midlife, aging, and how to live Fully Alive in this season will not only empower you, but will strengthen your marriage also.
Your Turn: Have you been allowing midlife and menopause to sabotage your relationship with your husband? What will you start doing to strengthen your marriage instead?
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