Twice as Hot: What happens when you enter perimenopause together?
Entering perimenopause as a couple
Lorraine and Claire have been together for 26 years, and in August 2018 celebrate 12 years of marriage following their Civil Partnership in 2006 and subsequent ‘conversion’ to married in February 2016.
Following successful careers as musicians, Claire studied trumpet at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Lorraine the Trombone and Singing, at The Royal Academy of Music. Both have dedicated the latter years to teaching and consider themselves privileged to have taught in some of the country’s leading Independent schools.
They both share a passion for sport. Claire takes this to extraordinary levels, competing in endurance events such as swimming the Channel, Ironman triathlon and long distance cycling. Lorraine also enjoys these things (although perhaps not as much as Claire!) and considers her role as ‘support’ in the camper van, very important!
Claire has type 1 diabetes, so coping with that on top of perimenopause has been a challenge in itself.
Lorraine and Claire share their experience of entering perimenopause as a couple
HF: Let’s start pre-menopause, if it’s not too nosey, as two women living together, did your menstrual cycles sync?
Claire: I had Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) for many years and took the contraceptive pill to ease the symptoms, consequently my periods were strictly every 28 days.
Lorraine: Not really. I usually had periods every 5 weeks - inevitably our cycles did coincide occasionally.
HF: Were you prepared or aware of perimenopause and what stages of menopause are you both at now?
Claire: I was made aware of perimenopause when I was advised by my gynaecologist to stop taking the pill, in my early forties. I consider myself to be perimenopausal now.
Lorraine: I was only aware of the existence of perimenopause when it was mentioned to Claire. The occurrence of my periods started to become erratic in October 2017, therefore with only 4 periods since then and other indications (to be touched on later!) I consider myself to be in the early stages of menopause now.
HF: We all have different menopause symptoms, have you two experienced more physical or more emotional symptoms?
Claire: My symptoms have been mostly physical. I have experienced significant fluctuations of energy, blood sugar levels and the ability to sleep.
Lorraine: According to Claire, my symptoms have been emotional!! Several months before the physical indication of sudden irregular periods, I began experiencing irrational anxiety about trivial things and very disturbed sleep patterns, not necessarily connected to the anxiety just very awake, several times throughout the night. Recently the most physical manifestations of menopause are the hot flushes, which tend to come in waves and the significant weight gain, which is less acceptable!
HF: Did you notice a change in your partner before they noticed it in themselves? If so, are you able to say what it was, and if you raised it with them?
Claire: I noticed Lorraine’s anxiety about the trivial things. I thought Lorraine was overreacting to what I might had considered to be minor frustrations. We spent many hours talking about it walking on the beach on holiday in Florida.
Lorraine: I was obviously aware of Claire’s erratic blood sugars (due to her diabetes) and sleep patterns and as always, we discussed this, the possible reasons for it and the best way to deal with it.
HF: Does having your own menopause symptoms and experience make you more (or less!) sympathetic to the other’s experience?
Both: Without a doubt, much more sympathetic
HF: Some men report feeling ignored or left out by their partners as they navigate menopause. As two women experiencing menopause together, how would you say your relationship has weathered the hormonal storm?
Both: Extremely well! The physical and emotional empathy has been so very welcome. It is hard to imagine having a partner who did not or could not understand - guess we are very lucky!
HF: Which, if any, of the symptoms experienced by either of you, have at times impacted on your relationship?
Both: Should our short - fused moments coincide there is obviously the potential for explosive encounters, however, once again the empathy we share most certainly helps to dissolve the situation and often turn it into a humorous moment, as we head off to our own corners! It is also quite convenient to ‘blame’ any unpleasant behaviour on the menopause, without fear of reprisal!
HF: How did you both arrive at your chosen method of menopause management? Were you on the same page in terms of HRT and other options?
Both: To be honest, at the moment we do not have a chosen method of menopause management, apart from a good sense of humour, a decent bottle of red and of course, www.hotflush.info! Should it become necessary to consider HRT or any other option, we would both be open to the idea - there seems little point in ‘suffering’ unnecessarily
HF: Has talking to us opened up any new conversations between you?
Both: Most certainly. It never hurts to consider where our type of behaviour comes from and how it can impact on one another.
HF: Finally, who wins the duvet tussle in the night sweats war?
Both: Score draw - equal share of the duvet, multiple pairs of clean pj’s stored under the bed and the treasured ceiling fan!
23rd August 2018
Read Claire's story on how she manages type 1 diabetes whilst her hormones fluctuate. Coping with diabetes through menopause.