Is It Really Menopause?

Dear Doc,

I am a 55-year-old man with a 48-year wife who still looks good for her age. We are Malay Muslims and have been married for almost 26 years. We have four children who are grown up. I am self-employed, whereas my wife runs her own childcare centre.

Based on her age, I understand my wife is probably experiencing early menopause. From my reading, I learnt that menopause is due to a loss of estrogen that causes various menopausal symptoms such as feeling hot and perspiring even in an air-conditioned room, irregular periods, muscles aches, headaches, bad temper and lack of interest in sex.

My wife seems to be experiencing all of the symptoms and I try to understand. Yet, I am very distressed by my wife’s behaviour which seems to exceed the usual menopausal symptoms. What I’d like to know are as follows:

  1. Is it a menopausal symptom for a wife to start hating her husband? My wife appears to hate me even to the extent that she cannot bear the sight of me.
  1. Does menopause causes changes in behaviour? My wife speaks to me very harshly, often shouting and in a hostile manner but she is very warm and friendly with her colleagues and friends.
  1. Does menopause create unfounded fears? My wife is afraid of me, claiming she fears I will force her into sex. It’s totally uncalled for because she brushes off my hand even when I try to touch her. I’ve been giving in to her because I’m not a sexually demanding person who wants intercourse every week. Yet, the times we’ve have intercourse in the past year can be counted with one hand. To suppress unnecessary urges, I fast almost every Monday and Thursday (as recommended by Islamic teachings).

This situation has been dragging on for the last 2 – 3  years yet my wife is still not menopausal, with irregular periods.

I wonder if she is really going through menopausal symptoms or is she deliberately being difficult. This has caused many misunderstandings and quarrels between us, with her accusing me of not understanding her struggles through menopause. Whenever we fight, she always says it’s because of her menopause.

I pray hard for this difficult situation to be over but the quarrels and misunderstandings are causing me great distress. Please advise, as I still hope to save my marriage.

-Tortured husband

ANSWER:

Prof Dato Dr Nik Mohd Nasri Nik Ismail, Dean & Professor O&G, Islamic Science University of Malaysia replies:

By definition, your wife is not yet menopaused , but she is undergoing the period called Peri-menopause which starts a few years before menopause. It is a very troublesome period for many women. In Malaysia, the mean age of menopause is about 50.7 years.

Every woman experiences menopause differently. Some women don’t feel anything at all, whereas some may get extreme symptoms to the point of contemplating suicide. Some women even chase their husbands out of the house because they feel stressed by his presence.

It is not uncommon for menopausal women to feel worthless, lack self esteem and depressed, so much so that they’re sometimes thought to be suffering from psychiatric problems.

If the husband does not understand these changes in a woman during her menopausal years, separation or divorce almost always happens. Stay patient with the changes that your wife is going through. Bring her to seek medical attention from an O&G doctor who specialises in menopause treatment.

The personality changes that happens to a woman during menopause often turns families into victims and chaotic. Various changes can take place during the peri-menopause and menopause phases, sometimes lasting for years if no treatment is sought.

The way to handle this difficult time is not to take your wife’s behaviour to heart. The signs you have mentioned indicate that she is experiencing severe menopausal symptoms and needs immediate help. Try to persuade her to seek treatment. Usually her symptoms will cease once she is on menopause therapy which is commonly called Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT.

Hormone therapy will help to balance the decrease in hormones that is causing the distressing symptoms in your wife. There are also other benefits that can be achieved by HRT. The doctor will explain these benefits. With the necessary treatment, your wife will  revert to her normal self who is loving, pleasant and responsible.

*Extracted with permission from Berita Menopos (June 2010 issue)

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