I know you. You are a husband, maybe my husband, and you have a wife that is somewhere between the ages of 40 and 90. You may not even know or remember exactly what that age is, but you know that she had a 40th birthday once, and she isn’t dead yet. You may have noticed that lately, things are changing. You may have even been stupid enough to ask once (and only once…) “What the hell is wrong with you?” Or you may have accidently been watching afternoon TV, heard about menopause, and decided to Google it. You may have ended up here to get more information. Smart move.
There are some rules about being a husband of a wife of a certain age. These rules have been around since women began living past child bearing age. Unlike the Ten Commandments, God did not alert man to the rules of menopause, this being the cruelest of jokes, and further proof that God may indeed be a woman. You know how this goes. “I won’t tell you what you are supposed to know, you should just know. If you loved me, you would know.”
Rule #1: YOU ARE NOT READING THIS. If you are asked by your wife what you are reading, you are to come up with a golf or power tool related story in which no one else is interested. The reason you are not reading this is the following: if you are trying to find out what is “wrong” with your wife, then you are saying something is wrong with your wife. It is allowable for us to cry and yell, “What is happening to me?!” It is not allowable for you ask or to answer that question. You are to simply say, “I don’t know what you mean…I think you’re amazing.” Go ahead. Think what you want about menopause. Google away. Find out all the information you can. Just keep it to yourself. Because we are amazing and that’s all we need to know you know.
Rule #2: Understand that you will not understand menopause. You can read all the articles. You can ask a physician. Hell, you can return to medical school and obtain multiple degrees in gynecology. You. Will. Not. Understand. Menopause. Likewise, women can read about getting kicked in the nuts. We will never understand how it feels to be kicked in the nuts.
Rule #3: If you think we need to be medicated, shut the hell up.
In a nutshell, menopause is when we stop being able to have children. If you don’t know how that works, I’m sorry. Return to a fifth grade classroom and watch a video on puberty. That’s the beginning of the process. Menopause is the end. If you are learning things out of order, it’s pointless to continue. It would be like watching the last Matrix first.
In our late 40s, early 50s, our bodies stop making hormones that make eggs, and we run out of eggs. (And no. We can’t go to The Walmart and buy more eggs.) When this process happens, it creates all sorts of issues in our bodies and in our brains.
Our Periods Stop.
Eventually we stop having our periods. Now, you might think from watching Tampax commercials that we love having periods, that we laugh with our friends and celebrate the joy of our uterine linings falling out by dancing on a beach. Alas, we do not. It’s a pain in the ass. It hurts, it’s gross, and it is an inconvenience having to find restrooms in public places and carrying around scads of pads or tampons.
So yes, it’s great, this part. The unfortunate thing about this is, before the periods stop altogether, we often have longer periods, sometimes one long period that can last for weeks. And weeks. So you might think we aren’t having sex with you because we don’t like you anymore, or maybe because we have just been pretending we like sex and now we have stopped pretending. I’m not saying this isn’t the issue. For some, it might just be. That will take more than Googling to fix. That takes a marriage counselor, and maybe a gym membership. However, the no sex thing might just be due to a really long, painful, pain in the ass period.
Should you ask your wife about it? Well. Like most questions, this one can be loaded with what we might see as criticism. Approach it carefully. “Christ, are you on the rag again?” is not going to score you any points. “Are you feeling ok?” is appropriate. And say it nicely. With actual concern. While giving her a hug. And offering to make dinner.
Sex Can Hurt.
Another reason we might be avoiding sex with you could be that intercourse can be painful due to some hormonal changes that affect our ladybits. You might know this from a commercial on TV for medication that can help this. This commercial, by the way, is for you. It’s to let men know that this is, indeed, a thing. We don’t really need a commercial, because if our vagina is hurting, we sure as hell are going to ask our doctor about it and get the medication ourselves. Unless we just don’t want to, because we want a valid reason to not have sex with you. Again, counseling.
Your Wife is Hot.
You used to have a hot wife. Now you have a wife who is fucking hot, all the time, so hot that sweat is pooling in her bra and turning her into a stinky mess. Imagine you are watching football, just minding your own business, and suddenly someone turns up the thermostat to 97 degrees without asking. And lights a fire in the fireplace. In the middle of August. Imagine you are in a meeting with your boss and you can’t stop sweating. Imagine this, because this actually happens to us. We work now. We have jobs and bosses. We sweat through our shirts in front of our bosses. It’s as horrifying for us as it would be for you.
Superfluous Facial Hair.
You’re losing hair. Your wife has found it. It’s on her chin.
It’s hormonal. It happens. It doesn’t mean your wife is turning into The Bearded Lady. Your wife is probably aware of it, likely very acutely aware of it, but sometimes she may miss one or two errant hairs. DO NOT point this out. Frankly, you cannot win at this game. If you tell your wife about the hair, she will be mad. If you don’t tell your wife about the hair and she sees it in the car visor mirror, she will be mad. You could be subtle and say, “Hey, today this woman at work had some hair on her chin. I don’t know if she even knew about it.” This could serve as a hint, but it’s as close as you need to get to this burning sun.
FYI, when your wife is in a coma or otherwise completely incapacitated, she wants you to pluck those hairs for her. It’s important.
We Will Be Moody. Er.
Hormones are weird. They make us weird. You might remember that from when we were pregnant. When we are bitchy, first ask yourself, “Did I do something stupid?” If the answer is yes, then fix it. If you think you’re in the clear (now be totally honest with yourself, here…) just stay off our radar. You can be nice to us when you notice we are moody, but not too nice, or we will think you are being condescending.
Try to remember that addition to the chemical changes happening inside our bodies, we also may be feeling a sense of loss in our hearts. For some women, our identities have long been tied to being maternal. We had dolls. We dreamed of being mommies. Then we were mommies. Then we could be mommies again, if we chose to be. Now that choice has been taken from us. It’s a difficult thing to accept.
Also, know that we work hard to try to stay young, not just for ourselves, but to keep the attention of the guys we love (that’s you.) We color our hair. We work out. We might even get Botox or boob jobs. We can totally lie about our age, or maybe convince ourselves that age is “just a number.” But when menopause hits, that’s nature’s way of saying, “Face it. You’re old.” (Maybe God isn’t a woman, after all.) It’s a fact that centuries ago, most women died before they were menopausal. Biblically speaking, we have now “outlived our purposefulness.” Sure, your wife isn’t so stupid as to actually believe that, but it’s a thought that’s likely floating in her head anyway. It makes her angry and sad. And bitchy.
WHAT WE NEED FROM YOU.
Advice? No. Seriously, no.
We don’t need to talk to you about this. We need our friends, our sisters, and near strangers at a Zumba class. But not you. The last person your wife wants to know about her aging ovaries is you, the one person she hopes still thinks she is sexy and cool. It wouldn’t kill you to grab her ass once in a while, so she still thinks you’re hot for her. Don’t pity us, just realize that this time can be pretty shitty for us. And for God’s sake, don’t try to DO anything about it. If you were hit in the nuts, you wouldn’t want your friends to try to fix it. You would want them to just stand back, grimace and nod, and not laugh too loudly, until you are ready to get back in the game.
And we will be ready to be back in the game soon. It may be on a different playing field, with more timeouts and less bouncy balls, but we’ll be playing nonetheless. Your wife might be a little different than she was at 21, but so are you, honey. Viagra wasn’t an accidental discovery. Welcome to your own change of life.