Perimenopause hormone havoc!
June 10, 2010 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Help! Perimenopause is wrecking havoc on my marriage!

I am 47. Recently, I've been going through some very difficult, uncharacteristic mood swings, crying jags, feelings of helplessness and despair--a lot of depressed-type emotions. I'm not sure how many of them I should be attributing to perimenopause. My periods HAVE started to get erratic over the last 6 months, and there as been some weird adult acne (also very uncharacteristic), but no hot flashes as of yet). However, the main concern I have is how this is (very negatively) affecting my marriage of 5 years.

Whenever I get moody or snappy, it quickly escalates into a fight with my husband (the argument may be initiated by either one of us). My (sensitive) husband quickly retorts by pushing my most sensitive buttons (and knows how to do this): by either mocking/sneering or laughing derisively at me, talking down to me like I'm an idiot, or calling me "insane", "psycho", or "in need of psychiatric help". These are all delivered with a lot of anger and hostility, and I don't really feel he is really trying to offer 1) a shoulder to cry on first, which is what i feel i need--in this context--or 2) some sort of assurance that we'll make things better. What I do get, however, is this: "You can't just conveniently blame hormones on your actions. You have to take full responsibility for your actions." I agree with this of course, from a court-of-law point of view. But when I am feeling this strangely emotional (in a bad way)--which is terrifying and weird--I need him to hug me and tell me everything's going to be okay. But instead, he gives me the above lectures about how hormones aren't an excuse and that I am psycho and crazy.

I am normally a very nice, kind, reasonable, intelligent person who is well-liked, very close to my family, and has an otherwise nice life. I am mortified at what is happening to my emotions sometimes, though, and extremely disappointed in what I perceive to be a total lack of understanding/support from my husband. What ever happened to "for better or for worse"? I am terrified if this truly is perimenopause, and this is what is capable from a hormone standpoint (and worse, that my husband doesn't believe me), I am absolutely terrified of when Real Menopause hits in a few more years.

I have several friends who have been through Menopause and have said that, without the kind, PATIENT, and infinitely supportive help from their significant others, they never would have made it. Based on the above, I may be one of those people for whom menopause is going to be difficult.

I'd really appreciate feedback from peri- or post-menopausal women who have been through this,as I am feeling very, very low right now.I have no aversion to hormone drugs, as of yet, because i know nothing about them. I'm just trying to gather information. Thank you!
posted by salmonking to Human Relations (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am neither peri nor post-menopausal nor a woman, but I can tell you this much: your hormones are not causing your husband to mock you , sneer at you, laugh at you, talk down to you, address you like you're an idiot, call you "insane" or "psycho," tell you you're in need of psychiatric help, or treat you with anger and hostility. He's doing those things on his own, and needs to learn not to. This would be bad marital behavior at any time of life.

The hormones are yours. The bad behavior is mostly his.
posted by jon1270 at 1:46 AM on June 10, 2010 [36 favorites]

Thanks. Believe me, our fights have not been pretty: I have slapped and punched him on the chest and arms (he is 6'4" and 300 lbs; I am 5'4' and 120 lbs). I can't possibly actually hurt him due to our size difference. However, even though I can't actually HURT him I am very sorry for my physical attacks and have HUGE remorse for those times. It always happens after he has called me a name like Psycho or Insane, or has laughed condescendingly at something I have said in earnest, just trying for an honest, truthful, nonsarcastic response. I realize that NO HITTING OF ANY KIND is okay, but he deliberately pushes the button, then is able to call me the villain when I hit him after he's pushed the button and released my temper. He also does not honour the "time out" request from me, if I feel my temper rising and want to just calm down for 5-10 mins before reconvening. We have discussed the Time Out rule before, and 100% of the times I've tried it (about 3-4 times), he has not honoured it.

The problem is that lately, I feel as though I am not fully in control of my emotions, and I have to wonder if hormones play a part because I am seeing the symptoms and I'm at the right age.

I need to know that my husband will educate himself about these changes and will TRY to accomodate (not hitting of course!) but some edginess or moodiness--over a TEMPORARY time span in our marriage--but I am not convinced he is willing or able to do that.

When I met him, he was an insecure, sheltered introvert who barely talked to other guys, muchless girls. I have helped bring him out of his shell, make him feel better about himself, and encourage him to step outside his comfort range a bit (to get raises he deserved, to meet friends who turned out to be awesome people), etc. I'm mentioning this because I have really gone out of my way to help him become a more confident and happy person--and he is. I guess, now that I am having a tough time,I would have hoped that the 'better or worse' clause would have kicked in and that he'd try to understand where I might be coming from.
posted by salmonking at 2:01 AM on June 10, 2010

Hi, peri-menopausal woman here. Also previously married 17 years to an abusive husband. have two different issues going on, but I think you know that, right?

You need to do two things right away: get to a doctor and have your symptoms checked. Yes, this may be peri-menopause, but it may not be. Women experience these symptoms differently, but from what you're saying, sounds like it's what you're going through and these symptoms can be minimized so you can function normally. Peri-menopause does NOT mean a commitment to temporary insanity.

But your bigger issue isn't that; it's your relationship with your guy. Psycho? Crazy? These are not the words of an understanding partner; these words are markers of emotional abuse. And then you hit him?

Seems like the two of you need to meet with an impartial person and hit a giant "reset" button. You're both treating each other pretty badly right now and you've got to get some help.

So the second call you need to make is to a marriage counselor. Or maybe it should be your first call.
posted by dzaz at 2:19 AM on June 10, 2010 [15 favorites]

I agree with dzaz -- off to therapy with the both of you. You know that you don't deserve his contempt, and his contempt doesn't justify hitting, but neither of you can help yourselves right now. Dealing with such situations and emotions well is a set of skills that can be learned. Go learn them.
posted by jon1270 at 2:26 AM on June 10, 2010

I've tried counselling a few times throughout my (long) life, and every single time it's been fairly unhelpful. I'm sorry to say this, but others I know have concurred. I wish it were that easy.

What I was really looking for in my original post, was suggestions or advice from perimenopausal women who have had a very hard time with hormones (have REALLY noticed changes) and what they have done/not done, or how they have dealt with them, as they really do wreck havoc in every area of your personal and professional life. thanks!
posted by salmonking at 2:37 AM on June 10, 2010

Okay then...perimenopause should NOT wreck havoc in every area of your personal and professional life.

See a doctor.
posted by dzaz at 2:54 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

When you bring up a Giant Red Flag of a problem when asking your question, we will address that as well.

As dzaz said: get to your gynecologist and discuss these symptoms, find out how they can be managed medically.

Then you and your husband need to have a really long talk about how his treatment of you is Completely And Totally Unacceptable and it needs to stop yesterday.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Using your hormones as a means of deflecting the blame for this situation away from the one you love and your relationship will not make things better.

Like dzaz says, there is more than one issue here, and you need to work on all of them to get to the situation you envy your friends - a supportive, happy marriage.

See a doctor, go to marriage counselling (I've seen bad therapists too - doesn't mean I gave up on the whole thing. Did you give up on love because of a few bad boyfriends) and talk to each other about it as much as possible, in a non-argument scenario.
posted by greenish at 3:30 AM on June 10, 2010

I need to know that my husband will educate himself about these changes and will TRY to accomodate (not hitting of course!) but some edginess or moodiness--over a TEMPORARY time span in our marriage--but I am not convinced he is willing or able to do that.

So have you told him that? And what has he said?

Or are you afraid to tell him that?
posted by Omnomnom at 4:15 AM on June 10, 2010

I'm sorry you're in such a tough situation. I'd say you definitely need to go to your doctor and talk about your symptoms. It could be the perimenopause or it could be something else entirely. Either way, your doctor will be able to help.

Is there any way you can get out of the house for a bit? Go and stay with a friend or family? That way you and your partner can have some space while you're going through this difficult time.
posted by teraspawn at 4:23 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to your gyno, and meantime tell your husband to Grow Up.

(51 year old premenopausal woman here who could write an encyclopedia on the topic of moodswings.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:51 AM on June 10, 2010

Your husband is emotionally abusive and you are physically abusive (it doesn't matter than he's bigger with you or "pushes your buttons"). If you want to salvage your relationship, make an appointment with a marriage counselor now. Though, sadly, it sounds unfixable to me. I've yet to meet a couple with a similar story and a happy ending.
posted by Jambi at 4:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've tried counselling a few times throughout my (long) life, and every single time it's been fairly unhelpful. I'm sorry to say this, but others I know have concurred. I wish it were that easy.

No one said it was easy--and a lot of people here have disagreed that therapy is "fairly unhelpful." I will say straight out that it has tremendously improved my quality of life. It's a combination of finding the right person and being willing to do very hard work. Neither of those are "that easy."

You need therapy--you both do--but not because you're "psycho." It's up to you whether you want to use the resources that are best for solving these problems.
posted by liketitanic at 5:30 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I need to know that my husband will educate himself about these changes and will TRY to accomodate (not hitting of course!) But some edginess or moodiness--over a TEMPORARY time span in our marriage

Unfortunately the only person's behavior you can control is your own. He is apparently not sympathetic to your explanation that it's hormonal, and you can't force him to change. If you were to see your doctor and get a diagnosis, maybe he would take it seriously.

I went through menopause early and it wasn't fun but if I found myself losing control of my emotions and hitting anyone in anger, it would scare the hell out of me and I'd see my doctor. This is not to say his behavior is acceptable. It's not. But you can only control what actions you take. Confirm your suspicions first by seeing your doctor and then move on from there.
posted by contrariwise at 5:37 AM on June 10, 2010

Striking people in anger is rarely a good way to reaffirm your sanity to them; if you want to hear less "insane," you may wish to adopt strategies to avoid hitting people, since people who are hit tend to remember that. If you feel you cannot stop yourself from hitting that person at a given time, do not be in the same room with them then.

These suggestions work surprisingly well for all genders and sizes of people.
posted by adipocere at 6:38 AM on June 10, 2010

Not menopausal, but watched my mom and dad go through this a few years ago. Their marriage did not survive. My mom went from being a caring, loving person to being someone that I absolutely would have called a psycho. Their marriage fell apart because my dad thought she was insane and was tired of her abusive behavior and she just couldn't control it.

Now, from an outsider's perspective-I wondered about that because she did fine all day long at work, it was only at home that she screamed, yelled, threw things, generally acted like a two year old having a tantrum-which made us kids feel that she was trying harder to control it in front of strangers. But I have not experienced it yet myself, so...

What helped my mom-a hysterectomy. She needed it for other reasons but once she got it, went on a hormone supplement (and I know there is debate about how healthy that is but we are focusing on the psychological not the physiological) it was like a light switch had been flipped. She was back to normal and she has not had an episode since. In hindsight, I think she wishes she'd gotten medical help sooner so that this hadn't cost her

Your husband's behavior is not right. But you have to understand that to him, you were his sweet nice wife and now, it's like you've lost your mind. I'm female, been pregnant, had PPD, so I know a little of what you're going through and how out of control you can feel. But you're an adult, losing control is not an option. And a therapist can help you learn to step back. I appreciate that therapy has not helped in the past, but really-what have you got to lose by trying it? It seems to me that I'd try anything to save my marriage and my sanity.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:43 AM on June 10, 2010

I realize that NO HITTING OF ANY KIND is okay, but he deliberately pushes the button, then is able to call me the villain when I hit him after he's pushed the button and released my temper

Your husband is acting like a jerk and making excuses for his jerkiness because you're acting a certain way. You're physically abusing him and making excuses for that because he's acting a certain way.

Seriously you need to take a break when this stuff comes up. At the absolute minimum, go for a walk. I understand that you can't control your moodswings, but you can control your actions. For whatever reason, he is unable or unwilling to emotionally support you and give you what you need. That is truly unfortunate.

Instead of constantly fighting with that reality and telling yourself he SHOULD do x, y, and z, you need to 1) get away from him so he can't push your buttons and 2) get the emotional support you need from someone else, perhaps a family member or preferably a counselor 3) see a doctor about the hormonal stuff.

Like I said, your husband is being an asshole, but he's not the one asking the question, so we can only address your actions. YOU NEED TO TAKE A WALK WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE HITTING. You're better than that.
posted by desjardins at 7:04 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Apparently your symptoms are hitting a hot button with him. That is why he is reacting as he is. Maybe he had a manipulative relationship with a significant woman in his life that used emotions to deflect responsibility. He can not help his reaction any more than you can help how you feel without some work being done. So yes he is being a jerk but it is knee jerk reaction to what you are involking in him.

Having said that you absolutely need a supportive partner during this time and he is being abusive. I know of no other way than to seek outside professional help because his issues are hidden to him and yours are probably hormonaly driven and not completely under your control.
posted by shaarog at 7:34 AM on June 10, 2010

I realize that NO HITTING OF ANY KIND is okay, but he deliberately pushes the button, then is able to call me the villain when I hit him after he's pushed the button and released my temper

You do understand that this is pretty much exactly the reasoning of every spousal abuser out there?
posted by Justinian at 7:42 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You guys are being mutually abusive and bottom line, you're hurting each other too much. You need to see a gynecologist immediately or possibly get some HRT or antidepressant help. You seem to be really out of control with your emotions, bottomline, and you're hurting him and yourself and obviously your relationship. So go to a doctor doctor doctor pronto.
posted by anniecat at 7:45 AM on June 10, 2010

He also does not honour the "time out" request from me, if I feel my temper rising and want to just calm down for 5-10 mins before reconvening.

You are doing exactly the right thing. Your husband is the problem, for not respecting your requests. But he may need to hear it from a third party, because probably you are pushing his buttons, too. He may need to hear from your doctor that you really, truly are having hormonal symptoms, and that he needs to honor your time out requests. Alternately, you may just need to leave the house when something starts and you feel yourself getting out of control. Go to a coffee shop or something.

Also, you might try some Black Cohosh supplements, or Wild Mexican Yam cream. Personally, I only have success with the Wild Mexican Yam, but other people swear by Black Cohosh.

Another thing that sometimes works well to keep fights from getting out of control - agree to have the fight entirely via email. That way, you can type out all your anger, save it as a draft, and then go away for ten minutes and think about it. Then go back and look at it and revise it before you hit send.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:54 AM on June 10, 2010

Oops, forgot to add, you definitely should see a doctor. I don't want to imply that your behaviour is normal and that he should just be expected to put up with it, either.

And FWIW, I feel your pain. Keep telling yourself "This too shall pass." I seem to be finally through with the mood swings, and I'm now calmer than I've ever been in my life. My own mother tells me she hardly knows me now! So it WILL get better!
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:16 AM on June 10, 2010

What was your relationship like prior to this period? Was he always dismissive towards you? Were you always apt to fly off the handle? Because while his behavior is reprehensible, so is yours. He is insulting you and you are hitting him. You need to see a doctor to investigate your hormone levels and mood swings. In the interim, when you feel the need to argue, just leave the room. If he follows you, leave the house. You need to break the arguments --> insults --> hitting cycle you two have going on.
posted by crankylex at 8:22 AM on June 10, 2010

If my partner (who is smaller than me) hit me... I'd leave.

Your husband is instead being cruel. How short would he have to be before you called it abuse? 6'1''? 5'8"?

You two both need counseling. YOU need to get yourself to a doctor, even full-blown-chest-on-fire menopause is not cause for hitting.

and most importantly you two need to not be in the same place. Hotel, friends, family anything. You and your husband are abusing each other.
This is exactly what abuse looks like.
posted by French Fry at 8:27 AM on June 10, 2010

If I were in a relationship with someone I couldn't keep myself from hitting, I would leave that relationship. It doesn't matter whether his behavior exacerbates or even causes the situation. You can't control his behavior; you can only control your own behavior. Right now, you're not controlling your own behavior, and you are committing a crime. Take as a given that he is going to keep doing what he's doing, because you can't change him. If all else remains the same, the only way you can keep yourself from committing a crime is to leave your husband. You may eventually be able to reconcile if and when medical treatment helps to improve your life and/or your husband decides to change the way he relates to you. But for now, this is not a healthy relationship, and you should leave it.
posted by decathecting at 8:38 AM on June 10, 2010

You are doing exactly the right thing. Your husband is the problem, for not respecting your requests.

That phrasing is edging a little close to stating he deserves to be abused.

OP, if not counseling do you have a priest/minister/rabbi/etc that you and your husband could talk to? It seems like things escalate really quickly and neither of you will defuse the situation. I understand he's not doing the things you want and is provoking you in turn. But I have a hard time even imagining where him offering a shoulder to cry on fits in to this rapid escalation or why if he won't give you a time out you cannot leave until you both cool down.

Also, I think supercapitalist's story is worth paying attention to. Do you work outside of the home? If so, are you able to control your behavior around your coworkers? Or other people in general? If so, that may suggest that on some level you choose not to control yourself with your husband.
posted by 6550 at 8:50 AM on June 10, 2010

That phrasing is edging a little close to stating he deserves to be abused.

FWIW, I think MexicanYenta was saying the OP was doing the right thing by insisting on a time out when she felt angry. I think we all agree on that.

That her partner does not comply with that request exacerbates the abusive situation. This does not mean that it is his own fault for being hit, of course. But it's certainly not helping!
posted by Omnomnom at 9:10 AM on June 10, 2010

Yes, as Omnomnom said, I was referring to her requesting a time out. I had left out anything about her hitting him being wrong, because I figured that it had been addressed by others and went without saying, but then I went back and added another comment saying that I didn't mean to imply that her behaviour was normal. But yeah, doesn't matter who is hitting who, it's always wrong. My point was that she was attempting to stop the situation by requesting a time out, but he wasn't cooperating with that. That's why I suggested she leave the house.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:33 AM on June 10, 2010

Since you have some great advice above, I'm just going to offer something practical. My symptoms were alleviated by exercise. You need to do something every day that is so physical that you sweat. Don't know why, but this helped me so much. Try intense exercise every day for two weeks.
posted by raisingsand at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2010

Hi, my wife has been experiencing those symptoms and I can tell you from the husband's perspective that it is not easy. This doesn't excuse your husband's behavior (nor yours), but I can understand how the dynamic you describe arises. What helped us was my wife recognizing it was hormonal driven, but that she was still responsible for *trying* to control the worst of the behavior. While I was responsible to recognize the behavior's cause before I reacted negatively (which was often my instinctual response to being verbally attacked). Of course, in the beginning, retraining our instincts didn't always work, but what helped in those cases were the apologies and acknowledgments of the inappropriate behaviors with the pledge to try and do better next time. Months and months of this and things are much better. The moods still arise, but we now have a set of techniques that we use to defuse the situation before it gets out of hand.

Also, a lesson learned on the time-out thing. There were times when my wife would want me to leave, but I wouldn't because I was so worked up about an unfair attack out of the blue and I wanted acknowledgment of how it was inappropriate and unfair to me. The feeling was justified, but my actions were not. That was one of the sea changes on my side, the realization that my feelings were justified, but acting out on those feelings was not, and that I had to find a different way of reacting to those feelings. That was very hard to do and took a while since my personality is that a problem should be acknowledged and solved immediately. I'm still not perfect, but at least I've reached the point where I can recognize when I should walk away solely to avoid escalating the conflict, and that it's ok for resolution to be worked out at some indefinite time in the future when things are more stable. It also helped my wife to calm down when she saw that rather than attacking back at her, I'd bite my tongue, gently and calmly tell her that I'm not able to discuss this anymore and remove myself from the situation until I wasn't feeling emotional about it (much more difficult to do than it sounds). My main tl;dr point being that some people desire engagement to work things out, others desire disengagement, and that its important to recognize which partner prefers which option.
Good luck.
posted by forforf at 10:18 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You've gotten enough advice about the red flags in your marriage (hitting, belittling, etc), so I'll skip that part. On to perimenopause and treatments...first of all, do check with your doctor to make sure you're actually beginning menopause (they can do a simple blood test to confirm). I started having what I thought were symptoms of perimenopause a year ago, but I've had two blood tests (six months apart) since then that both said "no, uh-uh, not yet." But I'd never had hot flashes before (I'm still getting them - always at night when I'm trying to sleep) and for the first time in my life my period was late for a few cycles. I cannot take hormones because I have Lupus, and before I saw my doctor Mr. Adams asked our pharmacist if there was any sort of over-the-counter treatment for perimenopausal symptoms that did not contain hormones. Pharmacist recommended Remifemin, which contains black cohosh. I tried it for about a week, and it did relieve the hot flashes. However, I noticed that it also made the joints in my hands very stiff and painful (a Lupus symptom), so I stopped taking it. When I mentioned Remifemin to my doctor, she said that black cohosh simulates estrogen which is why my hands hurt. (She also told me to stop taking it.) But you might want to give it a try if you have no other conditions that would be aggravated by estrogen.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:52 AM on June 10, 2010

Dr. Christiane Northrup, espcially this book is a good resource for your physical questions, & can help identify things you want to talk to your doctor about.

Regarding the relationship, I'm in the camp with the folks who say that none of that sounds okay. Do you really need to be in this marriage? Maybe menopause would go smoother if you were single with a loving pet to give you huggles, instead of shackled to this jerk who helps drive you crazy while accusing you of being crazy in the first place. Sure, it would be nice to have reciprocity for the care and nurturing you've extended to him, but some people are a one way street, or just clueless.

Good luck!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:21 PM on June 10, 2010

Nthing going to an MD. I know someone else who was out-of-control like you feel. Her first MD chalked it up to stress, menopause and another health issue she has but a simple blood test (for calcium levels or something) showed she had perithyroidism. They took out the gland that was causing the problem (not the thyroid- a satellite to it) and within 3 days she was normal again.

Worth checking, anyway. It sucks that you have to be your own advocate in the health care system when you feel least able to do it, but it doesn't sound like your husband would be much help in that role. Do you have another friend who could help?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:51 AM on June 11, 2010

When he comes up with the BS of not using hormones as an "excuse", just ask him if he can remember what it was like when puberty hit him. I think he'll realize that yes, hormones really can compel behavior, and he knows from his own experience. Of course that assumes he'll actually communicate.

On his side, it's not unlikely he's hurt and frightened. This thing that is happening to you is something that is happening to both of you. Some men cover those kinds of feelings by acting like assholes.
posted by Goofyy at 11:06 AM on June 11, 2010

You need new communication modalities. Tools. Try Non-violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by Muirwylde at 11:50 PM on June 11, 2010

« Older Australia Travel TV...but different   |   Help me buy the right industrial sewing machine Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.