Thriving together at midlife
This month we chat to Katie Day, a Director of RDP International Ltd (www.rdp-int.com) and runs workshops for women on the menopause.
What is midlife and when does it occur? The ‘Second Spring’ (as it is known in Asia) and ‘The age of renewal’ (as it has just been officially named in the Arabic language) is generally accepted to be the decades between 40 and 60 for most women and men.
Whilst the menopause is now being talked about far more openly over the last few years, male midlife is still even more of a taboo. If we live long enough, we will all go through our version of midlife. For some, this is a period that barely justifies attention, as life continues virtually unchanged in any significantly negative way. For others, the transition can mostly be manageable, with the occasional period of angst. For others it can be overwhelming, debilitating and completely life changing.
Dealing with midlife whilst in a relationship can add to the levels of stress and anxiety. We all know that open and honest communication is key to all good relationships and midlife can shine a spotlight on any areas where communication might benefit from a little attention.
The midlife transition can lead to misunderstanding, blame, resentment, confusion, anger and division for couple (or whatever dynamic). However, it can also offer an opportunity for renewal, reconnection, a deeper understanding and dialogue about the joint vision for the future.
How do we manage this pivotal part of our lives – for ourselves and those we are in a relationship with?
Firstly, as mentioned, communication is key. What can really help is an understanding of what the other person may be experiencing and going through. Partner that with a deeper appreciation of what is happening to you too. It is difficult to communicate to others how we are feeling if we don’t first understand why we are feeling the way we are.
Some of the ways midlife can affect women:
- Brain fog – lack of memory
- Lack of sleep
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Feelings of aggression and anger for ‘no logical reason’
- Lack of confidence, self-esteem and feelings of self-worth
- Loss of libido
- Painful sex
- Aching joints
Some of the ways midlife can affect men:
- Loss of libido
- Erectile disfunction
- Reduction in penile sensitivity
- Lack of self-confidence, imposter syndrome, lack of self-worth
- Depression or anxiety
- ‘Acting out’ (what would normally be considered inappropriate behaviour)
- Issues with self-image (eg. hair loss, weight gain)
- A significantly-elevated risk of suicide
Some things that may affect everyone:
- Middle age spread (central adiposity)
- Muscle loss / reduction in strength
- Osteoporosis (generally more serious in women)
- Reduction in collagen (affecting skin, semi-permeable membranes (eg. vagina, nose)
So, how might you support each other through this transition and emerge stronger?
- Try not to take things personally, it is rarely meant to be!
- Please don’t ‘blame’ your partner – whilst they go through this phase, they often find it difficult to be in control of their feelings, for example
- Try not to compare your partner with others, it’s as bad for them as it is for them, and it’s as bad for you as it is for you
- Talk, talk and then talk some more! ‘A problem shared’, as they say – it may not halve it, but it will help immeasurably and take a great burden off both of you
- Be prepared to show vulnerability with each other
- Each partner should reassure the other that it isn’t about them
- Recognise that the other person really does feel out of control and they are not doing this on purpose
- Understand that it is a transition, therefore has a beginning, a middle and – most importantly – an end
- Remember why you fell in love
- Jointly plan for the future and focus on the positive
- Have fun together and laugh as much as you can!
Our half-day online session Thriving together at midlife can offer couples an opportunity to reconnect and discover what on earth is going on! Our ‘couples retreats’ will follow when the world opens up further.
For more information on these or our Menopause Demystified and Mastering Male Midlife courses, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.