Chapter 8: Navigating The Menopause Minefield

“An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have; the older she gets the more interested he is in her.” – British Crime Writer Agatha Christie

If your wife or girlfriend is 40 or older, or has had a partial or full hysterectomy, you had better get ready to grab yourself by the ass. Because you may be in for the ride of your life, if all of my interviews are accurate.

Nearly 80 percent of the people I interviewed over the age of 40 were divorced (Since 1990, the divorce rate has doubled among people ages 50 and older according to The Gray Divorce Revolution by Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University.) Some had remarried. Half of the men I spoke with told me that failure to deal with menopause was the big reason for their divorces.

Menopause is that time in a woman’s life when her ovaries gradually shut down. Think of it as the beginning of the end of the childbearing chapter. It’s the time in her life when a woman must say goodbye to the young, fertile woman she once was. Kids leaving home to go to college or make a way for themselves makes this whole chapter even more difficult. It makes a woman feel as through time really is catching up to her.

Many women are highly sensitive about their age. As they pass 40, then 50 they think they aren’t desirable anymore. This dovetails with and exacerbates menopause.

But this isn’t the whole story. What triggers this process is the gradual halting of the release of the hormones that regulate fertility cycles. The loss of these hormones not only brings on physical symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, occasional bouts of rapid heart rate, and itching, but also can touch off huge swings in personality and behavior. (Research shows that women who exercise, are not overweight, and are generally in good health are better equipped to handle menopause.)

The dramatic shifts in behavior happen because the hormones that regulate the physical parts of the fertility cycle affect moods too. These hormones also drive a woman’s urge to nurture and help her tune into the feelings of others. When these hormones are cut off, all hell breaks loose. She can cry for no reason. She can go from sweet and serene to crazed monster at the flip of a switch.

These swings can scare the living crap out of a man because he never knows who he will be dealing with from moment to moment. (Some women have little or no adverse effects from menopause, but I didn’t find many.)

Women who undergo hysterectomies also show these hair-raising swings. But the shift can be more dramatic because the hormones get cut off instantly–with the flick of a scalpel. One of the men I interviewed had been married for many years and he and his wife had always enjoyed a fantastic relationship.

Then she had a hysterectomy. It changed her from her teeth to her toenails. She could go from pleasant to violent in an instant. She would break into crying fits for no reason. But here’s what was odd about this incident: She had no idea she was behaving this way. She was completely unaware that she had changed.

Another man I interviewed decided to leave his girlfriend of ten years because her personality changed so dramatically—from sweet and even to erratic and nasty. She was as mean as a bulldog. They discovered her changes in behavior were because of menopause, an insight that came too late to prevent the break up.

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