Why navigating relationships during menopause is hard

Why navigating relationships during menopause is hard

Data suggests that within most romantic relationships, menopause is unspoken territory. A study of 2,000 menopausal women aged between 46-60 revealed that 86 percent of participants experienced mental health issues, yet 80 percent had not discussed their struggles with their partner. Furthermore, 37 percent of women hadn’t received any support for their symptoms (Censuswide, 2019). 

Additionally, an Australian survey of 1,600 women aged 45 and over found that less than two in five women (38 percent) felt comfortable speaking to their partner about perimenopause and menopause (HCF, 2023). Less than half of post menopausal respondents had reported having mentioned their experiences of menopause to their spouse during that time.

But, why is that? In most cases, menopause occurs naturally as women age, so why do so many women struggle to speak with their spouse about it?

Cloudiness surrounding menopause and perimenopause means that many women have to navigate these turbulent times on their own. Symptoms such as hormonal changes, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, changes in libido, weight gain, stress and fatigue can also impact the dynamics within a relationship. A survey of over 1,000 women between 50-65 showed that for 55 percent of participants, their close relationships suffered (Mira, 2022). For many women, their partner lacks knowledge surrounding menopause and is therefore unaware of how to properly understand and support them. So not only do those experiencing menopause have to try and comprehend the unfamiliar processes happening within their own bodies, they also have to try and articulate it to their spouse.

In order to explore this further, PhenXX spoke to a random sample of 25 women aged 40-60 from around the world about their menopausal journeys and how their relationships were impacted during this time. 

50-year-old Andrea reflected on a moment of conflict with her partner, heightened by her emotional struggles. “I snapped over something trivial, and it turned into a much bigger argument. It's tough when your emotions are on a rollercoaster you can't control.” 

As another woman described, "Menopause is a test of love.. It's hard when your partner can't understand the emotional hurricane you're going through.” 

A 2010 study in Poland investigated the relationships between men and women during the menopausal period. Approximately 58 percent of the men involved accepted symptoms related to menopause in their partners and tolerated the changes that appeared during the climacteric period. However, 100 percent of men did not talk about menopausal struggles with their partners and did not support them in this difficult time. 

The study concluded that the male respondents found their partners attractive in the perimenopausal period, accepting the obstacles presented by menopause. But whilst most of them understood changes occurring in their partners, they did not assist in dealing with them.

Trying to navigate menopausal symptoms without support or understanding can fuel feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and poor self esteem. A study of 5000 women showed that approximately 9 percent of women would have suicidal thoughts and 86 percent would suffer mentally and psychologically due to hormonal shifts. And yet, 80 percent of participants expressed that they would not share these feelings with their partner (OnePoll, 2022). 

The previous data suggests that menopause can be a driver of relationship breakdowns. Over 60 percent of divorces in the UK are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Considering that perimenopause generally begins during the mid-40s, and that the average age of menopause is 51, it suggests that many relationships struggle during this time. In fact, a survey of 1,000 women conducted by The Family Law Menopause Project and Newson Health Research and Education, showed that 7 in 10 women (73 percent) who responded blamed menopause for the breakdown of their marriage.

These findings are further reflected through PhenXX’s own discussions with women.


One 57-year-old woman described how menopause fuelled the disintegration of her marriage, which she had been in since she was 27-years old. 

“As hormonal shifts stirred a whirlwind of emotions within me, it seemed like an emotional rollercoaster I couldn't control. The mood swings, night sweats, and the constant struggle with sleep took a toll on my well-being….The strain became too much, and my husband and I grew apart….In the end, menopause became not just a personal journey but an unexpected turning point in the story of my marriage." 

And whilst many relationships withstand the obstacles menopause can present, there is a plethora of misinformation and ignorance surrounding what it is and the symptoms it can cause. Education is crucial in removing the stigmas associated with menopause and encouraging couples to discuss it openly and comfortably. Greater public knowledge will help eradicate the stigmas attached to menopause, ensuring that future generations feel safe and supported during this transformative stage of life.


HCF Australia. (2023, May). Menopause Matters: A report into the impacts of menopause and perimenopause on Australians. https://www.hcf.com.au/pdf/general/2023/HCF_REPORT_MANAGING_MENOPAUSE.pdf

Shahzady, F. (2023, March 29). Menopausal and getting divorced? How to make your split as smooth as possible. Balance.


Szpak, R., Folwarczny, W., Drozdzol, A., Szuścik, A., Skrzypulec, A. & Skrzypulec, V. (2010). Relacje partnerskie w okresie klimakterium [Partner relationships in menopausal period]. Ginekol Pol, 81(2), 115-9. Polish. PMID: 20232709. 



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