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Menopause: A Survival Guide for Men

Straight talk from a woman having some serious hot flashes

Woman sitting on a giant ice cube surrounded by electric fans
Trunk Archive

Guys are curious about menopause. And not just because it’s happening to the women we love. Seventy-seven percent of men said that menopause symptoms negatively affect their lives, according to a 2019 survey.

You have questions. And who better to answer them than a woman currently in menopause, who’s willing to give you the unfiltered truth. Emily Flake isn’t a medical expert. She draws cartoons about relationships for magazines like The New Yorker. But she sure as hell knows what a hot flash feels like.

Is sex out of the question while she’s in menopause? And if so, how long do I have to wait?
—Franklin, Chicago, IL

Her body is up to a whole host of awful new tricks, none of which are conducive to anything even remotely resembling sex. Everything hurts and her lady business feels like a desiccated piece of old gum. Would you want to get busy if your penis felt like you’d left it in the desert for a week? 

Give her some time to figure out her new human form, and in the meantime, communicate with her about her needs, her desires, her body. I’m afraid there’s not a timeline here, bud, but I do suggest you use whatever downtime you get to learn about your wife and stop checking your watch like the sex-train is late.

My wife’s been having hot flashes, and suddenly it’s always too hot in our house. She’s messing with the thermostat, which has always been my job. What’s a realistically comfortable temperature for a woman going through menopause? It can’t be 60 degrees, right? That’s bonkers!
—Andy, New York

Years ago, I got bawled out by my landlord, who insisted that legally she didn’t have to keep the heat set above 60. She was right, technically, but it was freaking cold. She was also a terrible person who used to yell at trees and kick neighborhood dogs. 

All this to say, I feel you, buddy. But I do have to raise an eyebrow at your characterization of the thermostat always having been “your job.” Thermostats can be managed by anyone regardless of gender, unless your thermostat is the kind you operate with your penis. 

I’m afraid I’m going to have to tell you what my dad always told me when I tried to mess with the thermostat — goddammit, Emily, put on a sweater.

My wife’s mood swings are something else. Do I just have to take it on the chin? I know it’s not in her control, but she’s getting really mean.
—Todd, Jacksonville, FL

At the risk of betraying my Sisters in Misery, there’s a difference between a reason and an excuse. Your wife, like anyone going through a rough time, may have a reason to be unpleasant as hell. She is, however, still an adult and responsible for how she treats other people, and I don’t think it’s Bad Feminism to hold women in menopause to the same general standards of decency we’d hold anyone else.

That said, I don’t know your emotional pain tolerance, so I can’t speak to your metric for “meanness.” Are you a stoic, silent-sufferer type, or, when you get your widdle feewings huwt, do you cwy like a pro soccer player writhing in fake agony? Examine your reactions as well, it can’t huwt. Sorry – hurt.

Somebody told me that massages are good for women in menopause. But the last time I tried that, my wife said, “Put your hands on me again and I’ll end you.” So ... no massage?
—Alan, San Mateo, Cali.

Your wife is having a new and complex relationship with her body. Maybe she hates how her body feels, and doesn’t want to be reminded that it exists. Maybe she feels as if her body is betraying her, and a massage would only remind her of how and where it’s falling apart. This is pure conjecture on my part, because I don’t know your wife, and I’m not there to ask her. But you are! 

The best advice I can give you is: Ask this specific woman what she’d like, what would feel good to her. But in the meantime, you wanna come work these knots out of my shoulders?

Follow Article Topics: Sex-&-Relationships