Do you have a partner in perimenopause – someone who can support you throughout the transition? Whether it’s your significant other, your teens, your friends, or another close person, it’s important for us to have at least one perimenopause ally.
What do I mean by that? Well, think about how we look at teenagers going through puberty. Yes, we might want to tear our hair out in frustration at them sometimes! But we make allowances for what their hormones are doing to them. Mood swings, churlish behaviour, the growing pains, the awkwardness – all of this is allowed for.
But what about when it comes to those of us in perimenopause? Perimenopause has a lot of parallels with puberty. But despite that, there’s often a lack of empathy or understanding for women going through a transition that is just as normal as puberty.
You deserve the same care!
If you have a teen, you’ll know what I’m talking about. We let them sleep in, we understand sudden outbursts and changes in mood. When they have their first few periods or have a tough day, we make sure they have some comfort food, a cosy spot to curl up, a heat pack and their favourite show.
And often, we do this while completely neglecting the process we’re going through! I remember adjusting our routine to make space for my child’s changing needs – but most of the time, I was ignoring my own changing needs.
But for a moment, imagine if we applied the same and the same amount of empathy towards women in perimenopause. How different would your life be? Would you feel better able to cope with what life is throwing your way?
One time, my forgetfulness (classic perimenopause, right?) was really frustrating my child, because I forgot to do something that was important for them. I felt terrible that I’d let them down.
But it was a real turning point. Why?
Because I realised that what my child, the rest of my family, my friends, the people around me needed to hear was that I was struggling. They needed to know that I actually needed some grace and space to be able to show.
Unlike my teen, my brain was going through this upheaval, but I still had adult responsibilities. And those responsibilities were keeping me from being able to sleep as long as I wanted to, lighten my load, or even just chill out for a while!
But once I started to recognise what I needed – not only from myself but from my people – things really started to shift. And that’s when I began to understand that perimenopause doesn’t have to be a horrific time.
What it takes to be a good perimenopause ally
There are a few key steps (in my humble opinion!) that lead to someone being a good perimenopause ally.
This is the first step, for obvious reasons! What is perimenopause, what can it look like, why is it affecting someone? Many people don’t really know about perimenopause, that it can start in the late 30s to early 40s, that it can last for up to a decade… and all of this is important to understand.
This also includes understanding the symptoms. There’s more to it than hot flushes and grumpiness! And of course, everyone’s symptom picture is unique. This is where sharing about the changes that are happening can help.
Even if you talk about the absolute basics of what is going on: gradually producing less oestrogen and progesterone, which leads to numerous physical, emotional and hormonal changes. And let’s not forget about progesterone there as well.
And if you don’t really understand it yourself? Good news – you’re in the right place? You can read all of my blogs and also tune into my podcast.
Start having conversations
When I was growing up, we didn’t really talk about periods or the menstrual cycle. And I certainly had no clue about perimenopause!
So because of that, I felt ashamed when I started to experience it. I thought that it meant I was old, which was something I didn’t want to think about!
But now we have an opportunity to create a perimenopause ally in our kids. By talking about it as a natural part of life, they won’t experience the same shame, stress, isolation that many of us have.
And of course, it’s not just the kids. Male partners & hubbies probably heard even less about perimenopause than we did, which is saying something!
When we openly discuss perimenopause, we can break down that stigma and that misconception of it being for old people or it being something to hide. Every conversation you have not only opens them up to be a perimenopause ally for you, but it has a beneficial effect on future generations.
This comes from both sides of the story. It’s something that those of us in perimenopause need to do, but it’s something we need from our allies as well.
How are your active listening & communication skills? Most of us weren’t raised with them, so it’s ok if they need some work!
Often, when we’re having a discussion or expressing needs, we’re not fully focused on understanding, listening or hearing what the person is talking about. We might be thinking ahead to what we’re going to say or what else we’ve got to do on our to do list today. And that can lead to a lot of misunderstanding & hurt.
Instead, we want to be tuning into the person talking. And we want to be showing that by nodding, reflecting back what they’ve said to you asking follow up questions.
Active listening can be a great bridge to deeper understanding. So if you’re a perimenopause ally, practicing active listening is essential for building that connection.
Sharing the load
In most cases, women bear the brunt of the household management. And on top of that, the mental & emotional labour is huge when you’re running a family home.
But this can become even harder in perimenopause. Your brain is not functioning as it normally would, or you’re tired, or you’re not sleeping, and that makes it hard to do it all yourself.
This is where your partner, your kids, whoever your support people are need to step in. It might be meal planning, cooking, shopping, juggling the school logistics… whatever it is that they can help with and you need off your plate.
If you’re a perimenopause ally? Please don’t wait to be asked before you take some of the load! It takes mental capacity to reach out and ask for help, and we often don’t have that to spare.
If you’re the perimenopausal person? Don’t resort to silent treatment, martyrdom or passive-aggressive behaviour if you’re not getting the load support you need. Unexpressed and unwritten expectations are so often fuel to the flames of rage in perimenopause.
Yes, you deserve some help – but you also need to express what you expect & need of others if you want to get it. I know it’s hard for us because our generation were conditioned to not express our needs. But it’s worth it to overcome that conditioning and share exactly what you need from your support people.
Navigating mood changes
It’s natural to take it personally when someone has a mood swing around you. But I ask you to be patient and remember that it’s not about you! There are so many things that can contribute to that mood swing – hormones, poor sleep, stress, uncomfortable symptoms…
This is a time to use some empathy and understanding. Sometimes, all we need is to get something off our chest and feel like someone is listening!
But on a similar note…
Don’t make jokes at our expense
This is something that a lot of people tend towards (husbands, looking at you!)
It’s one thing to diffuse the situation with humour if it’s a joke you both share. But if I’m already irritated and you make a joke about me – well, you’ll regret it for years to come!
Basic self-care support
A really simple way to be an ally is to make sure your perimenopausal person is looked after. I’m talking:
- 3 balanced meals a day that keep blood sugar levels stable
- Enough sleep – both quality AND quantity are important here
- Sunshine & a regular dose of nature
- Movement that makes us feel good
- Fun & joy
- Some form of stress relief or management (and no, a glass of wine won’t cut it!)
Now obviously you can’t spoon-feed this to us. But you can help by making sure there’s time in the family schedule for our needs, taking some of the load around food, scheduling date nights that fill up our cups as well as yours…
Because yes, we are adults. Yes, we have some idea of how to take care of ourselves. But it can be incredibly helpful for our people to help us and remind us that it’s important to look after ourselves.
All too often, we’ll fall back into that habit of putting everyone else before our needs. So when that happens? We need a gentle nudge back in the right direction.
Keep the discussion going!
I cover these ideas and others in one of my podcast episodes here. Why not listen to it with your potential perimenopause ally (or allies!) and have a chat about what stood out for each of you?
Feel like you don’t have a perimenopause ally in your corner?
You’re not alone, and you don’t need to do it alone. Help is at hand.
Are you ready to feel calm, in control, less stressed and able to put yourself first? I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but these things are within your reach with the right support.
Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how I can help you to take care of yourself – mind, body and spirit.