How To Best Support Your Partner Who’s Going Through Perimenopause—And Save Your Relationship in the Process

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Nobody told me it was going to be like this. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office saying those very words as I tried to explain how perimenopause was affecting my life in ways I’d never imagined. The physical symptoms brought on by my fluctuating hormones—hot flashes, trouble sleeping, body aches, and debilitating migraines—were bad enough, but I was totally unprepared for the emotional and mental changes I experienced alongside them.

I went from being a fairly happy, well-functioning person to dealing with mood swings and brain fog that left me feeling like someone I didn’t recognize had taken over my body. While all these changes were hard on me, they were also taking a very real toll on my relationship with my spouse. We argued more (a lot more), and I found myself withdrawing from him, exhausted from coping with the aforementioned hot flashes, migraines, and lack of sleep.

Experts In This Article

Turns out, we were far from alone. In a 2023 survey of more than 800 postmenopausal women, a common theme among responses was the negative impact of menopause on relationships1, with even some respondents who had a supportive partner still noting that menopause symptoms caused tension in their relationship. And in a 2022 survey of 1,000 menopausal women, 73 percent said menopause negatively affected at least one category of interpersonal relationships (with romantic being most common). Plus, 73 percent of the 1,000 menopausal and divorced women in a 2022 survey conducted in the United Kingdom blamed menopause for the breakdown of their marriage.

And it’s certainly not just the person in menopause who feels the relationship troubles. In a 2019 survey of 450 men with menopausal partners, 63 percent said their partner’s symptoms personally affected them2, with over half saying that they negatively affected their relationship.

How menopause can negatively affect your relationship

Where menopause is technically defined as the time at which a person with a uterus has gone without a period for 12 months in a row, perimenopause (also called the menopause transition) is the lead-up to that point, during which the sex hormones progesterone and estrogen begin to drop, bringing on the symptoms associated with menopause.

The vast majority of us women and people with female anatomy going through the menopause transition—85 percent, in fact—report experiencing menopause symptoms, including vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats); psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, and mood swings; changes in sexual functioning; and sleep issues. Fun, huh?

These symptoms are tied primarily to changes in hormones, “which can take a rollercoaster ride, sometimes surging, sometimes dipping [in perimenopause],” says board-certified OB/GYN Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, a senior medical advisor at menopause education platform Kindra and author of Menopause Bootcamp. The result of all those fluctuations? Sporadic, unpredictable manifestations of the symptoms noted above.

Such symptoms can be especially difficult on relationships because they may lead the menopausal person to behave in ways that seem unusual to their partner, says reproductive psychiatrist Sarah Oreck, MD, co-founder of maternal mental health platform Mavida Health. Not to mention the psychological nature of the symptoms themselves, which can also include “increased emotional sensitivity, decreased interest in sex, and altered self-image,” says Dr. Oreck, “all of which can put a strain on a relationship.”

“[Menopause can bring] increased emotional sensitivity, decreased interest in sex, and altered self-image, all of which can put a strain on a relationship.” —Sarah Oreck, MD, reproductive psychiatrist

The fallout of all these new symptoms happening at once can also “make women feel out of control over their bodies, their lives, and their health,” says board-certified OB/GYN Lyndsey Harper, MD, founder and CEO of sexual wellness platform Rosy. The unsettling nature of that feeling, in and of itself, can spark increased tension in a relationship, too, she adds.

That was certainly the case for me, as a Type A personality. Before entering perimenopause, I was always the “family manager”—the one who organized, made plans, and generally kept everything in order. Yet, many days during perimenopause, I could barely function. How could I explain what I was going through to my spouse when I barely understood it myself?

This is where it can be so helpful for a partner or spouse to learn how to support their partner in menopause—so that the onus of navigating this transition doesn’t just fall on the person going through it. After all, menopause symptoms can last as long as 10 years. And it’s bad enough to go a decade with these symptoms, much less a strained relationship, too.

How to support a partner in perimenopause or menopause

When it comes to learning how to support a partner in menopause, the first step is learning about, well, menopause itself. “Partners need to understand that the changes their significant other is going through are primarily hormonal and physiological,” says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz. “Mood swings, irritability, and other emotional shifts aren’t personal, but instead related to a whole swirl of hormonal changes happening in the body.”

Simply learning more about this biological reality of menopause can help you better empathize with a partner going through this transition and offer support, says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz.

That applies even if you’re going through menopause, too. After all, no two people experience menopause the same way; just because you’re going through “the change” with a partner doesn’t mean you won’t experience friction, whether due to similar or different symptoms.

“Come prepared with a big dose of patience, understanding, and open communication.” —Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, board-certified OB/GYN

“For same-sex couples, it is often interesting to see firsthand how the menopause transition for one partner may look quite different than for the other,” says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz. As a result, her advice is much the same as it is for different-sex partners: “Come prepared with a big dose of patience, understanding, and open communication.”

If you’re also going through menopause, however, Dr. Gilberg-Lenz suggests you also “share what is happening in your body and encourage your partner to do the same.” The more you both understand about what each of you is experiencing, the better you can support each other.

How to support a partner through the most common menopause symptoms

1. Anticipate mood swings, and practice patience

Fluctuating hormones during perimenopause can impact mood-regulating neurotransmitters3 like serotonin and dopamine, leading to mood swings. “Additionally, the physical discomfort of symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats can exacerbate irritability,” says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz.

This can often mean more petty fights: It’s common for normal emotions to get magnified and feel out of proportion for both you and your partner, says Dr. Harper. (In my case, I’d find myself lashing out at my husband for the slightest thing, often many times a day.)

This is where being patient and understanding, and recognizing that these episodes are not personal attacks is key, says Dr. Oreck. “Listen actively and validate your partner’s feelings, showing that you understand their emotions,” she says, adding that small gestures of physical comfort and offers to take on extra responsibilities can also ease their stress.

Another part of learning to support a partner in menopause is actively avoiding escalation by taking a break to cool down whenever things get tense. Consider suggesting that you and your partner do some stress-relieving activities, like exercise, regular date nights, daily walks, or meditation (which was a game-changer for me).

2. Be an uplifting, loving presence

It’s very possible that your partner in menopause will encounter mental health issues. While a prior depressive episode is the strongest predictor4 of whether someone will experience depression during the menopause transition, about 16 percent of women will experience depression or anxiety for the first time during perimenopause or menopause. “Additionally, the transition into a new life stage can be emotionally intense, especially if paired with other life transitions like aging parents or children leaving home,” says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz.

If your partner seems to be worrying more often, getting stuck on negative thoughts, having feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, or having an overall lack of interest in things that might normally be fun, there’s a good chance they’re dealing with depression or anxiety, says Dr. Harper, and could especially use your support.

Dr. Oreck suggests fostering open conversation about feelings and experiences, and being a reassuring presence. “This can include regularly affirming your love and commitment, which provides emotional security and reduces feelings of isolation,” she says, adding that you can also encourage them to do relaxing activities, like yoga or walking, with you.

If you notice continued symptoms of anxiety or depression in a partner going through menopause, however, it’s best to encourage them to seek professional help.

3. Discuss intimacy issues without placing blame

Menopause typically goes along with a decrease in sexual desire5 and an increase in vaginal dryness and vaginal or pelvic pain during sex, due to declining sex hormones6. Plus, weight gain and other body changes typical of menopause can trigger body image issues that might lead a person to shy away from wanting to be intimate—which is to say, it’s not you.

If your partner in menopause suddenly lacks interest in sex or begins to turn down your advances, it’s important to recognize that they likely aren’t rejecting you… and it’s also not their fault, either. Resist the urge to place blame, and instead, start an open conversation about lack of intimacy with understanding and patience, advises Dr. Oreck.

She suggests finding a private setting where you both feel safe and using “I” statements to express how you feel, such as, “I feel distant and would love to find ways to reconnect with you.” From there, listen actively to understand your partner’s perspective and whether there might be adjustments you can make to better address both of your needs.

Not sure where to start? Dr. Gilberg-Lenz recommends getting creative in the bedroom—incorporating lubricant (like a lube made for vaginal dryness), vaginal moisturizer, or sex toys into your sex play, and scheduling intimate time that’s not focused on the goal of having sex, but on rekindling exploration and desire, can help.

If you and/or your partner are still feeling unsatisfied with your sex life after trying the above, Dr. Oreck suggests seeking the guidance of a therapist or sex therapist.

4. Offer to help out more with household tasks and other responsibilities

A simple fact: Your partner may not be able to tackle all of their typical tasks as quickly or as easily during perimenopause as they once did. After all, up to 62 percent of women report cognitive issues like memory problems7 during the menopause transition.

Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and stress are all contributing factors to what’s often referred to as “brain fog” or that fuzzy, forgetful feeling common during perimenopause, says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz. And related issues with short-term recall and word-finding “can be embarrassing, causing increased self-consciousness in women who are used to communicating clearly and effectively,” says Dr. Harper.

This was a biggie for me—I had always planned everything from our schedules to our vacations, and yet, during perimenopause, there were several times when I literally could not recall my phone number when asked, never mind being a writer staring at a blank screen futilely trying to construct a sentence. The frustration and fear of what would happen if I couldn’t “man” the planning controls didn’t help the mood swings or irritability I was already experiencing, and my husband usually reacted by being short-tempered with me, too.

What I really needed was for him to pick up the slack on the things that were suddenly more difficult to do than ever. “Partners can help here by being proactive with household tasks and other things on the to-do list,” says Dr. Gilberg-Lenz. “Supercharge that shared calendar, and take some work off your significant other’s plate.”

To start, you might consider just asking them how you can be of help, if you aren’t sure. Turns out, offering my husband specific guidance went a long way toward getting the support I needed.

It’s also important to be understanding when your partner experiences lapses in memory and encourage them to engage in activities that support cognitive health, like exercise and hobbies, says Dr. Oreck. If you notice they’re really struggling with everyday tasks, you might suggest they speak to their doctor to see whether medication or hormone replacement therapy could help.

Making menopause a shared experience

Learning how to support your partner in menopause can seriously improve their well-being and also boost the health of your relationship. But then again, the responsibility isn’t entirely on you; just as it takes two to tango at any stage of life, both people in a relationship can and should play a role in navigating the menopause transition. Indeed, making perimenopause a “shared experience” can strengthen your bond, says Dr. Oreck.

That means “supporting each other through active listening, validating each other's feelings, and jointly seeking information or counseling,” says Dr. Oreck. “Emphasizing teamwork in navigating perimenopause can transform the challenges [of this period] into opportunities for growth and intimacy in the relationship.”

“Emphasizing teamwork in navigating perimenopause can transform the challenges [of this period] into opportunities for growth and intimacy in the relationship.” —Dr. Oreck

Dr. Oreck also suggests connecting with other couples who have managed the turbulent relational waters of menopause for both community and advice, as well as an important reminder that you’re not alone.

Hard as it may seem, it can also help to reframe your perspective of your partner entering menopause from something negative to a time when you can both grow and learn more about each other. After all, “plenty of women find new strengths, interests, and a deeper understanding of their bodies and emotional needs during this time,” says Dr. Oreck. And as the partner of someone going through this phase of life, you can benefit from their self-discovery, as well.

Two years post-menopause myself, I can confidently say it made both me and my relationship stronger. I realized that if I could get through this—if we, as a couple, could get through this—then we can get through anything, right? Yes, things were rough, and some days, they still are, but knowing we both can play a role in handling the hardest parts of it has made all the difference.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Aljumah, Rawan et al. “An online survey of postmenopausal women to determine their attitudes and knowledge of the menopause.” Post reproductive health vol. 29,2 (2023): 67-84. doi:10.1177/20533691231166543
  2. Parish, Sharon J et al. “The MATE survey: men’s perceptions and attitudes towards menopause and their role in partners’ menopausal transition.” Menopause (New York, N.Y.) vol. 26,10 (2019): 1110-1116. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001373
  3. Santoro, Nanette et al. “The Menopause Transition: Signs, Symptoms, and Management Options.” The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism vol. 106,1 (2021): 1-15. doi:10.1210/clinem/dgaa764
  4. Soares, Claudio N. “Depression in peri- and postmenopausal women: prevalence, pathophysiology and pharmacological management.” Drugs & aging vol. 30,9 (2013): 677-85. doi:10.1007/s40266-013-0100-1
  5. Avis, Nancy E et al. “Longitudinal changes in sexual functioning as women transition through menopause: results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation.” Menopause (New York, N.Y.) vol. 16,3 (2009): 442-52. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e3181948dd0
  6. Scavello, Irene et al. “Sexual Health in Menopause.” Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania) vol. 55,9 559. 2 Sep. 2019, doi:10.3390/medicina55090559
  7. Conde, Délio Marques et al. “Menopause and cognitive impairment: A narrative review of current knowledge.” World journal of psychiatry vol. 11,8 412-428. 19 Aug. 2021, doi:10.5498/wjp.v11.i8.412

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