Part of being an adult means we’ve most likely learned the proper etiquette of never asking a woman, “When is your baby due?” Because, if perhaps, the woman in question is NOT pregnant, we’ve just completely offended her and ruined all chances of further conversation. Open mouth, insert foot.
In that regard, what is proper etiquette when speaking to a woman in perimenopause or menopause? For example, what should you say to a woman who is visibly having a hot flash? Is asking if she’d like a cold towel or a glass of ice water equivalent to saying, “So, how far along are you?”
If you or someone close to you is experiencing perimenopause or menopause, these talking points may save a marriage/relationship/help those around you better support this transition.
How Not to Talk to a Woman in Menopause
In my research about what not to say to a woman in menopause, or how to talk to a woman going through “the change,” I came across things like, “Communication is key,” and “Ask them how they feel and what they’re going through.”
While I agree that good communication can be beneficial to any relationship, I’m not sure how I feel about someone – especially a MAN – asking me to express my feelings in the middle of a hot flash or a mood swing. My first response to that question would be, [said as Frank Costanza in Seinfeld, asking Elaine, “You want a piece of me?!”] “REALLY? You want to know what I’m feeling RIGHT NOW?! You want to know what I’m going through?! Let me tell you ALL about it!”
Hopefully, you see the absurdity of asking a woman to express her feelings at a moment when she may have no words to explain this new emotional and physical experience.
Some other things to avoid saying to a woman having a hot flash, night sweats, mood swings, or dealing with low libido and vaginal dryness, include:
- “I’ve been through it. You’ll survive.”
- “Look on the bright side! No more worrying about getting pregnant!”
- “Why would you complain about not having periods anymore?”
- “If you’re concerned about gaining weight during menopause, maybe you should exercise more.”
- “Aren’t you too young to have these symptoms?”
- “It’s definitely NOT hot in here. Must be you.”
- “It’s just your hormones. You need to stay positive!”
Oh, and this goes without saying, but never use the word “crazy” when expressing your concerns about her behavior.
Helpful Things to Say to Menopausal Women
Imagine instead, if you find yourself in the company of a perimenopausal or menopausal woman, offering positive suggestions to her about the intense hormonal imbalances she may be experiencing. You could talk about how important it is to find the right kind of doctor – one who specializes in hormone therapies.
You can also let her know that even if you don’t fully understand what she’s going through, you’ll help her figure it out. Maybe you can offer to do some research or take something off her plate so she can rest after a sleepless night (another symptom related to hormone changes).
You could let her know you’re there to support, listen, turn down the thermostat, or find some humor – whatever she needs at the moment.
Some helpful things to say, include:
- “I empathize with you. Going through a life change isn’t easy.”
- “Don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. Menopause affects everyone differently.”
- “Have you considered Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy as a way help replenish hormones and reduce symptoms?”
Also, remember that menopause isn’t “just your hormones.” It’s about the physical, emotional, and psychological effects that declining hormones create when women transition from childbearing years to their reproductive system shutting down. For many of us, it’s a lot to handle all at once.
Be kind. Be patient.
Unlike pregnancy, menopause isn’t a temporary stage in life that quickly comes and goes during a predictable time period. For many women, menopause is a long haul; a marathon, not a sprint. And once a woman transitions into menopause, she’ll be there (and postmenopausal) for the rest of her life.
It won’t all be miserable, and it won’t all be easy. The good news is there are ways to get relief from many of the life-disrupting symptoms.