I had just celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary when the first hot flash hit. It didn't occur to me that I was standing at the threshold of menopause; I was in complete denial and convinced that the prickly heat spreading throughout my body was due to a faulty thermostat in our home. But when a second and third hot flash hit the following day, I realized it had nothing to do with the air conditioning system and everything to do with my internal female clock.
For several weeks I experienced unpredictable bursts of intense heat that left my skin wet with perspiration and my clothes uncomfortably damp. Even my husband was astounded by the amount of heat radiating from my body during a hot flash, and he understood why I no longer wanted to cuddle under the covers with him at night.
By the time I turned 50, menopause was in full swing and took a toll on our marriage during the first year. No one warned me that the "change of life" meant that I would be at war with my own body; rapid mood swings, weight gain, fatigue, depression and insomnia - all symptoms of menopause that can wreak havoc on a marriage.
The pain I associated with sex, coupled with my plummeting libido, caused the romance in my marriage to fall by the wayside.
My husband was baffled by the sudden change in my demeanor and we were arguing more frequently than we ever had before. I was irritable and impatient, snapping at the littlest things he did, because everything at that point annoyed me - whether it was the dirty sock he left on the floor, his nightly snoring, or the fact that he forgot to replace the toilet paper roll in the bathroom. If I wasn't busy picking at him or chugging multiple cups of coffee to stay awake, I was shimmying into a snug pair of jeans in an effort to convince myself that I wasn't really gaining that much weight.
Denying the changes that were happening to my body only reinforced the issues that were already coming to a head in my marriage – mainly, a lack of intimacy. My husband's healthy libido had always been stronger than mine, but when menopause struck, a line was drawn in the sand.
I was unaware that one of the symptoms that occurs during "the change" (but is seldom discussed) is vaginal dryness, which made intercourse uncomfortable for me. The pain I associated with sex, coupled with my plummeting libido, caused the romance in my marriage to fall by the wayside. This left my husband increasingly frustrated with my lack of interest in sex.
No matter how much I assured him it was not his fault and told him not to take it personally, he was certain that I no longer found him desirable. What he didn't understand was my own frustration at not being able to lose weight and feeling ashamed of the way I looked. My lack of confidence and the constant fatigue I struggled with daily killed any chance of feeling sexy in the bedroom. My husband's efforts at seducing me came to a halt, and although he still hugged me and told me each day how much he loved me, I felt guilty for not being able to give him the intimacy he craved.
My lack of confidence and the constant fatigue I struggled with daily killed any chance of feeling sexy in the bedroom.
I needed him to understand what I was going through as much as I needed to understand it myself, so I sought the advice of a physician and scoured menopause websites for answers that would help alleviate some of my symptoms. My husband also became proactive in the research, and together we learned that there were natural remedies as well as prescription medication that could help lessen the effects of menopause on the body.
In the meantime, I joined several online menopause support groups, and the camaraderie I felt in these midlife women's communities improved my attitude about the aging process. It was empowering to discover that I wasn't alone in my struggle and that there were plenty of women who shared my concerns.
With the help of my physician and the menopause support networks, I began to feel better about myself and more accepting of the changes occurring in my body. I was placed on antidepressants to curb my anxiety and depression, and used homeopathic remedies to combat the hot flashes and weight gain.
More importantly, I joined a Zumba class at the gym that did wonders in helping me regain the confidence I'd lost at the onset of menopause and in getting my "sexy" back. My husband noticed the changes as well, and delighted in the fact that I was more responsive to his touch in the bedroom.
Over the last few years, I've learned that menopause is just one of many phases in a woman's life that brings positive changes. On the plus side, I no longer suffer from menstrual cramping and heavy bleeding, nor do I need to worry about birth control. I'm more in tune to what my body needs at this stage (better supplements, more rest at night, and an active lifestyle to stay in shape).
I worry less about my weight and am kinder to myself, because I realize now that I'm not going to have the same figure or face that I did in my twenties. I'm also more appreciative of my husband, who has been incredibly sensitive to my needs, and as a result, our marriage has become stronger. Being able to accept myself for who I am has been amazingly freeing, and by letting go of the negative emotions I once harbored, I'm a better wife and mother today.