Many women have no idea what to expect when it comes to menopause, and that often means their husbands, partners, managers, and colleagues are even more clueless.
But because menopause and the symptoms it brings can have a significant effect on women’s lives, being aware of what their wives, partners, female employees, and colleagues are going through is equally as important for men. Here’s why knowledge is power.
Offering support at home
I’ve had at least two men who have attended my manager’s awareness sessions tell me that learning about the menopause probably helped save their marriage.
When a wife or partner is going through menopause and experiencing symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, hot flushes and more, many men walk on eggshells, not knowing what to do or what not do.
Understanding the symptoms
The main problem is a lack of education and awareness around the menopause. No, your wife or partner is not ‘going mad’ and the menopause is not all about having a few hot flushes and you’re done. Menopause symptoms can be debilitating and can significantly affect day to day life. Symptoms can include:
Trouble concentrating and remembering things
Loss of libido
Hot flushes and night sweats
Understanding how it can affect your relationship
The loss of libido and mood swings can affect both of you. Even not being able to be as physically close because your partner just gets too hot at night and can’t sleep can be a factor and without the understanding that these things are related to the menopause, relationships can be put under a lot of strain.
Understanding that you CAN do something to help
Rather than tip-toeing around your partner for fear of having your head bitten off, or simply because you have no idea what to do, look for the symptoms. Does your partner seem much more tired than usual? Is she being snappy or tearful more often? The last thing you should do is bite back. Just pause, offer support, and listen-without lecturing or being dismissive!
Understanding what you DEFINITELY shouldn’t say
Okay, I know that many men are reluctant to discuss anything related to ‘women’s problems’ and the truth is, even women themselves can find it difficult. However, that doesn’t mean that when you do open your mouth you have to put your foot in it!
Don’t negate what your wife or partner is going through by saying things like ‘well everyone goes through it’ or ‘my mother went through it and she was fine.’ Every woman is different and has a different experience of the menopause. Even other women are guilty of this; if they’ve got through the menopause fairly easily, they can be quite dismissive of women who say that they’re suffering.
Understanding that you can face it together
Menopause is a part of life, and arming yourself with the information, advice, and support that you and your partner need is the key to being able to face it together. You will have dealt with plenty of things together before, and no problem is insurmountable, as long as you talk about it.
Offering support in the workplace
Do you work with, or manage women? If so, knowing about the menopause can be really helpful. Many women who are going through menopause feel reluctant to talk to their manager about their symptoms, particularly if they’re male. Instead, they struggle on, afraid that if they disclose their symptoms, it will look like they can’t cope or do their job well.
Most women need more advice and support at work, or organisations face losing some very valuable talent. Around 10% of women consider giving up work because of their symptoms.
This is a situation that could be avoided with more education and awareness around the menopause, as well as putting clear supportive pathways in place for women.
Supporting women at work
So if you work with, or manage women who are going through the menopause, here’s how you, and your organisation can offer support.
All line managers should receive training around the menopause, how it affects women, and how they can offer support. This training should be part of a wider information and awareness campaign in organisations, so that all employees know that the organisation encourages discussion and openness about menopause. Information and advice should be available to everyone-it will help women to understand their symptoms and it will help men understand what their female colleagues and partners are going through.
Understand that female employees might not want to talk to you
You might consider yourself clued up on the menopause, but realise that female employees simply might not want to discuss their symptoms with you. You should make other avenues of support available, such as an Occupational Health Nurse or someone from HR.
Some women experience menopause symptoms that are so debilitating that they need time off from work. This needs to be approached sensitively and flexibly, and women shouldn’t be afraid that having time off for menopause-related sickness or to attend medical appointments will be detrimental to their career.
Make reasonable adjustments
Certain adjustments might need to be make to the working environment so that it doesn’t make menopausal symptoms worse. The temperature, ventilation, access to toilet facilities and cool drinking water are all things you have to think about.
The menopause is a natural part of life, and if it’s met with understanding, women and their partners, male colleagues, and managers will be able to navigate it much more easily.
The key to understanding is awareness, and if more men knew about the menopause, and women felt supported at home and at work, imagine what a difference it could make to their experience of it.
Raising awareness about the menopause among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.
If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org