A gynecologist at Riverside Private Hospital in Francistown, Dr Kuma Biel, says when a marriage is strong and is not based purely on sexual attraction, the challenges brought about by hormonal reactions caused by menopause should not be a threat to the marriage at all.
However, if a marriage relies conditionally on sexual satisfaction it causes a great distress for both partners as menopause changes the whole perspective of the woman anatomy.
A gynecologist called Robert Wilson (1966) argued that the menopausal woman was “an unstable estrogen starved” woman who was responsible for “untold misery of alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce and broken homes’.
This belief might seem extreme to our 21st-century minds, but Western biomedical science still promotes a view of menopause as a time of poor emotional and physical health.
Over 60 percent of divorces are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s or 60s, the menopause years, according to a recent survey conducted by AARP Magazine.
Menopause can be a tricky time for marriages or intimate relationships. Wives and girlfriends have to come to terms with changes in their body while dealing with all the hot flushes and night sweats life can throw at them. And husbands can often feel like they’re walking on eggshells trying to support their wives through unpredictable mood changes and other unpleasant side-effects.
“Scientifically, when a woman reaches the age of 40 or above she may start a gradual process of menopause. Some hormones especially estrogen starts to decrease in concentration, she may start to feel hot flushes even during the winter, and sweat excessively at night. Some women may experience insomnia, but it varies from woman to woman. Most become irritable, a little aggressive and easily annoyed,” said Biel.
Biel said the most serious is changes of bones called Osteoporosis; which is the reduction of density thus leading to fractures of the bones. He said menopause leads to loss of sexual desire and dryness on the woman’s part. The downside is that with menopause there is no definitive treatment.
“We can give small doses of estrogen and progestin to minimise the side effects of menopause, but not every woman can use HRT. If a lady has had breast cancer for example she cannot use HRT,” said Biel.
One other thing to keep in mind is that as women age they face a change in perception of attractiveness. Research from 2005 found that women’s perception of their own attractiveness decreased with age (although it was not directly linked to menopausal status), and lower self-rated attractiveness predicted lower sexual satisfaction and less sexual activity.
Very few marriages or intimate relationships are killed by menopause. But if a couple does not take precaution during this time it could prove challenging to their bond. Biel said communication during this time of change is key to making it work, it does not mean a couple stops having sex at all. If simply means they find better and alternate ways of having sex that is not too painful or unbearable for the woman.