"My wife is going through the menopause, and it’s like living with a dangerous dog that bites and barks. She has lost her libido which is leaving me feeling very frustrated – the only consolation being that she is such a nightmare that I often wouldn’t want to make love to her anyway! The pressure of it all is revealing cracks that we have managed to live with over the years, but they are now widening and dividing us more. Should I just bury my head in the sand for the next ten years?"
It is no wonder that many marriages end in divorce at this stage, or people slip into affairs, as the pressure of the menopause can be huge. However, your lovely wife will return. If by burying your head you mean not reacting when she ‘bites and barks’, turning a blind eye to hurtful behaviour, and staying solid and consistent for her and the family, I applaud you. To offer her patience and kindness, gentleness and self-control, grace rather than anger, has to be the Holy Spirit’s way. I am sure she does not like living with herself like this either, and she will have some awareness of how prickly she has become. There is a place for you to help her realise how she is coming across to you and others. The Holy Spirit offers her the gift of self-control too, however much this is in conflict with her huge hormonal tides. So pick your moment and let her know what is difficult for you. We all have cracks in our own personalities, and in particular in the unique dynamic that spins between the combination of the two personalities within marriage. While these flaws need grace, they also should not be swept under the carpet. Take a positive rather than confrontational approach. Talk together about how you both managed aggravations in the past. What did you do that worked? What attitude has helped you cope? Having shared this history, rather than attempting to ‘fix it’, ask each other what might help now. I also want to encourage you to refocus on the positives. Write each other a list of what you are grateful for from the other, and make it a regular habit to top it up. Make the most of the greater freedom you have at this stage in life, and think about how you can use it to benefit your marriage. Consider reinstating ‘date nights’ together. Women often shut down sexually during the menopause. It can cause us to put on weight, making us feel less sexy physically, grieving the loss of previous looks. Hormone changes can give us fewer sexual urges than before, coupled with psychological factors of how we view older age and the meaningfulness of sexual intimacy. Hot flushes, greying hair and less lubrication even when you do feel turned on all conspire to undermine your sexual confidence and drain you of energy. It is going to take some delicate skill on your part to coax her gently on. Help her to find ways to feel feminine, be that through nice clothes, a makeover, or giving her a candle-lit massage. Be romantic again. Remember that cooling off sexually doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you any more. Reassure her that you still find her sexy, whatever the physical changes are. If she has put on weight, help her to focus on the positive bits that you both like. If she is lacking sex drive, don’t give up all together, but be physically intimate in a low-key way so that you are keeping the foundations to sex that you can rebuild on in the future. Focus on sensuality together, if not sexuality. It may help her to know that when you get cuddly you are not expecting intercourse. When you do make love, get some good lubricant such as Sylk or TLC Lube, or Replens vaginal moisturiser if you need something internal as well. When all else fails, go fishing, hit the golf course, the gym, or do whatever is your escape to regain your equilibrium. It will all be worth it when you are holding hands in your old age, knowing that you have loved and been loved to the deepest level.