Best Ways To Support Partners During Menopause

When a loved one is experiencing symptoms of menopause, their spouses or partners may not know how to support them. Part of the reason may be that many people do not fully understand what menopause is or take the time to learn. To them, it may be something that you "cannot do anything about" and, as such, something you step away from.

Romantic senior couple at home expressing their love
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This is more often than not the last thing you should do. Partners should remember that decreasing hormone levels during menopause may trigger negative emotions. The changes can also make a person undergoing menopause feel as if they lack sex appeal and are "old" and "unattractive."

The physical changes can make things worse by causing weakness, forgetfulness, changes in skin texture, or physical discomfort. All of these things can cause anger, sadness, and even depression.

By better understanding what menopause is and why symptoms develop, you can provide greater support to your loved one.

Educate Yourself

Education is key to dealing with menopause, whether you are the loved one undergoing menopause or a partner or spouse. It is important to learn everything you can about menopause and what changes and experiences are common, including:

As a partner, understanding these things can prevent you from asking things like, "Why are you gaining weight?" or "Is your hair thinning?" Saying things like this can make your loved one feel self-conscious or as if they are somehow to blame.

Anticipating Moods

Not everyone undergoing menopause has mood swings. Some people, in fact, look forward to the transition and feel strong, happy, and hopeful. Far removed from the pressures of their monthly cycles, people undergoing menopause may feel as if they're getting their "second wind" and are free to live as they please.

If you are a partner of someone undergoing menopause, don't assume that the worst will happen; it may not. On the flip side, if a bad mood develops, don't assume that menopause is to blame.

Mood swings, by definition, are sudden and often chronic changes in mood that disrupt one's daily life, including work and relationships. They are not simply the occasional bad day. If mood swings occur as part of menopause, recognizing them and responding accordingly can help you both deal with them as a couple.

If mood swings occur during menopause, remind yourself that they are largely influenced by the depletion of hormones. Rather than pointing this out to a loved one, try to adjust your response and not take them personally.

Fine-Tuning Relationship Skills

Partners typically don't discuss how to be supportive once menopause arrives. And this can be a challenge given that partners often spend more time together once their children leave the house or one of them is nearing retirement age. For some couples, more time together can be both good and bad news.

In beginning this"next phase" of your relationship, it is important to fine-tune your relationship skills. Start by discussing menopause and your willingness to weather the changes it can bring.

It also helps to discuss "rules" to help you over sudden impasses or trauma. This may involve knowing:

  • When your partner need to be alone
  • When your partner needs support
  • When it is time to step away from a fight
  • How to calmly discuss feelings when things get tough

Doing so can strengthen a relationship by affirming that you are in this together. Taking an interest in your loved one's interest can also help.

How to Communicate

It is important to talk with someone experiencing menopause, even if communication doesn't come naturally to you. If you tell a loved one that you want to be helpful, then your partner will at least know that you are on their side. It often helps to simply ask, “What’s the best thing I can do to make things better?"

Here are other things you can try:

Practice Patience

If your loved one tells you that they "cannot control themselves," believe them and be patient. Patience is vital in both the short and long term. Menopause is not a "problem" to need to get over but a change in life that allows you to prepare for this next stage in your relationship as a couple.

A sense of humor can help. Keeping your sense of humor can remind your loved one that your relationship can still be fun. (But be careful not to use humor as a weapon to express sarcasm or to vent.)

Avoid Personalizing Moods

If your partner gets upset, don’t turn their upset into your upset. Allow your partner to be angry, sad, or frustrated, and try to listen without judgment. Expressing understanding goes a long way toward turning a mood swing into a confrontation.

If an argument or attack gets personal, suggest that it may be time for you to step away because of how you are feeling (rather than what your partner is doing).

Express Approval

Don't leave things unsaid. If you are not someone who easily expresses appreciation or admiration, now is the time to learn. Don't rely on the cliché that you are the "strong, silent type."

If your partner looks attractive, say so. Remind them what qualities drew you together—and still hold you together—as a couple. You can even plan the occasional surprise gift or dinner outing to show your appreciation.

If you find it unnatural to express praise, say so... but still make every effort to praise. The effort means more than you can imagine, and over time expressing appreciation may become natural to you.

Practical Tips

In addition to education and communication skills. there are some practical tips that can improve the life of someone undergoing menopause.

Offer to Help

Menopause can trigger anxiety and cause your loved one to become easily overwhelmed. Doing simple things like washing the dishes or cleaning the living room help ease a hectic schedule.

Planning ahead also helps. Things that break a normal routine can cause stress. If there is anything that may cause anxiety and tension (such as a home repair, a visit from relatives, and a work deadline), discuss what you can do to lift some of the burdens. Being proactive rather than reactive is always the better option.

Manage Sleep Problems

If there are sleep issues like insomnia, common in people with menopause, discuss how to deal with them together. This may involve exploring CPAP therapy if there is sleep apnea and improving sleep hygiene practices.

If you as the partner have a sleep problem, such as snoring, you can help by occasionally sleeping in the guest room if your loved one has insomnia. A good night's sleep can go a long way to improving anyone's mood.

Get Healthy Together

Support your loved one's health. Doing so not only makes them healthier but can improve moods and change how they feel about themselves.

Don't sit on the sidelines. Getting started on any exercise plan is easier if you participate. Offer to take nightly walks or weekend bike rides. These can become a healthy ritual that you can both feel good about. 

The same applies to weight loss. Rather than stranding your partner is a separate diet, share the experience together. If you don't need to lose weight, you can bolster your calorie intake separately but still enjoy the same breakfast, lunch, or dinner with your loved one.

Tips About Sex

Sex is a common struggle during the menopausal years when the libido can wane and one partner may want sex more than the other.

The trick is to find the right balance of intimacy and sexuality. Focus for a while on staying physically close rather than making sexual intercourse the hard and fast rule. Ask what makes your partner feel good and offer to do it. Sometimes, it may be a simple foot rub or shoulder massage that keeps you both connected.

Vaginal changes during menopause can sometimes make sex uncomfortable or even painful. If there is pain with intercourse, encourage a discussion with your partner's gynecologist. There are certain treatments, like estrogen cream, that can help.

If your sexual appetites are different and there doesn’t seem to be a way to reconcile them, it may be time to consult a sex therapist. These professionals can help you find the middle ground and improve sexual communication skills as well.

A Word From Verywell

Not every person with menopause needs the same amount of support. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or step-by-step guidebook to help you as a couple through this otherwise normal transition.

The best way to deal with menopause as a supportive partner is to pay attention, ask questions, and remind yourself that the challenges of menopause involve both of you as a couple.

If you are unable to cope, do not hesitate to seek couples counseling. There is no shame in working with a therapist who can provide you with the tools to improve your relationship whatever the challenges.

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