You will be relieved to know we are setting the bar really low on this one, guys. Basically, all you have to do is not make matters much, much worse. Do not say or do anything incredibly stupid or insensitive, and make sure you are around and available when she needs you, and you can get through this, I promise.
Your first task is to become an informed husband. You will be amazed at how much better you become at dealing with her apparent possession by satanic demons once you understand what is really going on. Otherwise, you will probably find yourself flipping through the Yellow Pages to E for “Exorcist.”
Luckily, there are some great books out there that clearly explain not only what she is going through, but also what you as a husband should do to preserve your marriage and dissuade her from smothering you with a pillow one night.
The great book to read is Your Guy’s Guide to Gynecology, by Bruce Bekkar and Udo Wahn. It deals with PMS and menopause in a chapter aptly entitled “Attack of the Killer Hormones.”
Get the book and make sure your wife sees you reading this book. You will learn everything you need to know about your wife’s body. And, once you have seen what a speculum actually looks like, you will never doubt her tales of gynecological woe ever again. Here are some tips from the Guys Guide to Gynecology for dealing with PMS:
- Since stress can exacerbate the effects of PMS, you should do whatever you can to help her relax during this time. If that means helping out more around the house, then do it. Basically, your investment in her relaxation will pay dividends in the form of your own preserved sanity.
- Her apparent insanity is not something she is doing to you; it is not completely under her control and it is definitely not something she is thrilled to be going through. She may even feel guilty. So be sympathetic, not defensive. Engage with her, and listen to her.
- Get out and exercise with her, or make sure she can get some time to go to the gym. Physical activity will go a long way toward making her feel better.
- Help her avoid sweets, salty foods, caffeine, and alcohol, and encourage her to eat frequent small meals rather than a few big ones. All this will help minimize the symptoms of PMS.
Another great book that helps men deal with menopause is Dick Roth’s “No, It’s Not Hot in Here: A Husband’s Guide to Understanding Menopause.” Roth goes into clear details about the physiology and psychology of menopause, the science and controversies surrounding it, and how it can affect your relationship.
Roth’s ultimate goal is to help husbands understand what is going on and what they should and should not do to help their wives through this process. “Remember,” he says, “there is nothing wrong with her. She is just going through the menopause, so there is nothing to fix. You are not a mechanic; you are her husband,” Here are some tips from “No, It’s Not Hot in Here” for dealing with menopause:
- Educate yourself about menopause. It is an amazing process, but can be scary as hell. You and your wife need to go through this together, with a complete understanding of what is happening.
- Remember, there is nothing to fix here, and you probably do not have any answers anyway. Just be supportive, ask a lot of questions, and listen to her.
- Menopause can have significant sexual side effects. Many women experience a decreased sex drive (although some experience an increase). Do not take it personally. If you have followed steps 1 and 2 above, it is probably the menopause, not something you have done that’s turned her off.
- Be patient. When she does want to have sex, recognize that her diminished estrogen levels can cause slower lubrication. Once again, be patient, and plan on using a water-based lubricant. Luckily for you, the conventional wisdom is that sex will become easier once you do it.
- Be involved. Participate in her medical consultations and remind her to take her medications on schedule. Improve your diet and exercise regimens together.
Remember, guys, it is quite possible that you will be going through some serious life transitions at the same time. Do not let your own issues cause you to get defensive or distant with her. Use this time to grow together, not apart. So, if there is a new little red sports car in the garage, you may want to let her drive it every once in a while, too.