Your Second Phase
Author - Kate Usher
Publisher - SAGE, Rs 550
Your Second Phase: Reclaiming Work & Relationships During & After Menopause by Kate Usher is a survival guide for women to cope with menopause at work, home and play. An edited excerpt:
Dear partner, this is for you. Menopause can be a big deal, and maybe your partner is having a hard-enough time to have given you this book. This is unlikely to be easy. Sorry. This is not a slight blip in the road; you are effectively on a journey together that will take some time to get to the end — estimates range from 4 to 14 years. There will be challenges and setbacks but, at the end of it, you and your partner have the potential to be astounding. But you will both need to work together and have a clear understanding of what you want from this second phase of your lives together.
The fact that she has given you this book is an indication that she loves you and wants your support. She is also saying that she is in need of some words to successfully communicate with you what this is like.
THE ICEBERG EFFECT
Menopause is like an iceberg, in that the majority of what is going on is beneath the surface. You might think you are getting the rough end of the deal. While I sympathize with you, I can assure you, you are not.
Your partner’s hormones are slowly but surely receding to their steady post-Menopausal state. They play such a pivotal role in her sense of who she is, and how she is in the world that as they diminish, they cause havoc with her sense of self and her day-to-day behaviour. Their increasing absence delivers a whole host of symptoms as well.
You are likely at the sharp end of her symptoms, vicariously experiencing them with her. Most women require reassurance that their partners are still committed to them and the relationship. It’s easy to believe that you’re all right and that this is her problem. To some degree it is, but it would be unfair of you to believe that this was completely the case.
You are a team of two that no doubt has had to face adversity before. How did you manage it? What was the dynamic between you? Is this the same or different? If it’s the same, due to its unpredictability or that one of you needs additional consideration and support, you already have a model of how to work together. If it’s different, what kind of different is it? If it’s different because it was you who needed support and now it’s her, then there is an element of quid pro quo. How did she manage it, what did she do that was so effective and also, what was ineffective and why? These are all things you both can learn from.
Discuss between you what worked and what didn’t and identify what you can use here.
WHAT IS THIS THING THAT’S HAPPENING TO HER ... AND ME?
Earlier in this book, you will find a section on symptoms where we discuss the variability in women’s experience of Menopause by duration, type and their severity. Please read through it, as awareness is a considerable part of successfully supporting your partner.
First, Menopause is not a sprint, which is essentially what the monthly period experience was, or even an 800m run, which was pregnancy. No, Menopause is an endurance race, and it goes on for years. With this in mind, it’s important to make yourself aware of what your partner might be experiencing and think about what support she might need.
Please note, this does not give her a licence to be revolting to you without any form of comeback. If her behaviour makes her more difficult to handle than a bag of poisonous snakes, you have a right to say so. This is about creating a psychologically safe place for both of you to air your grievances without a shouting match or sulky silences. This space should be non-judgmental, with no fear of consequences. You are adults and now is the time to behave like it.
Where do the two of you get uninterrupted time to chat face-to-face? Whether over breakfast, dinner or some other time, whenever it is, choose a day when you know neither of you will be preoccupied or focused on something else. Be clear that this is a conversation about understanding what is happening and what it feels like for her. Make sure you are actively listening - a method of intently listening to what the other person is saying whilst giving them your full attention.
Once you have actively listened, ask questions and share how you feel about it. Please note, this about listening, sharing and reconnecting, not about point scoring or arguing. If you find that you are descending into this, you may need to walk away and come back later. You are both adults and equal partners — you are not a winner or a loser, a leader or a follower, in charge or subservient. You are a team of two equal parts.
Excerpted with permission from Your Second Phase: Reclaiming Work and Relationships During and After Menopause by Kate Usher, published by SAGE Publications India.