Mid-Life Hormonal Changes and Relationships

Not an “Ordinary” Life Challenge

As with any life-long endeavor, marriage has its ups and downs, one might even characterize them as the occasional but common challenges -financial, family, children, illness, etc- to be confronted and worked through. Then there is the not so common –at least not perceived as common – challenge which may not be as “obvious” and “predictable”. This type of challenge is different because it arises from within, often catching individuals off-guard and appearing beyond control: mid-life hormonal changes that are becoming increasingly common in BOTH sexes due in large part because modern medicine and health standards allow not just for a longer life span but increasingly better quality life at increasingly advanced ages.

The effects of the mid-life hormonal changes are not only about the physical manifestations of hormonal imbalance such as hot flashes and night sweats seen in women or decreased sexual vigor and function seen in both men and women. The fact is that physical symptoms are often loud enough and clear enough to be recognized\diagnosed and addressed\treated. Hormonal changes are also about their sometimes profound effects on mood, cognition and perception and the potential impact of such manifestations on relationships. For this reason it is important for every couple to achieve an understanding of how each partner is being or can be affected by mid-life hormonal changes that are beyond his or her control and the options available for tackling their impact properly and efficiently with the aim of restoring balance to life and relationship. Ultimately, each relationship as each individual must be able to continue the progress forward to the phases of partnership life yet has in store.

The Relationship Must be Recognized as an Entity

Our interpersonal relationships can be quite vulnerable to the side-effects of the physical and mental health state of the individuals involved in them. It is for this reason that I have come to the conclusion that dedicating a section to the topic of relationships is important. When hormones are not in balance in either gender/partner, relationships too can experience imbalance.

In my practice I help women during the hormonal transition of pre-menopause to menopause. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that aside from the physical symptoms (such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, etc), there are also psychological/behavioral symptoms (such as depressed mood, anxiety, feeling agitated and/or overwhelmed, apathy and lack of motivation) which affect not only the individual woman’s quality of life but also her partner’s quality of life and ultimately the relationship that exists between them. I have often heard utterances such as “I thought I am not in love with my husband any more” or “I could no longer see any reason for continuing with this relationship” or “I was so close to filing for divorce” from women who, with the benefit of hindsight after having successfully addressed their own hormonal imbalance, are able to see the profoundly negative effect their condition had on their relationship. From this perspective, I cannot help but wonder how many relationships have fallen apart simply due to what appears to be “falling out of love”, when in fact it was hormonal imbalance that was dictating feelings and perceptions.

Addressing the Male Half

I was compelled to incorporate male hormone replacement therapy into my practice upon recognizing the fact that in some case while HRT is capable of achieving great positive strides in my female patients, the accompanying melioration of emotion and perception are not always sufficient for restoring the relationship to its true potential because of the hormonal imbalance yet to be addressed in the other half of the relationship. In more than a few cases, effective treatment of the male hormonal imbalance, following a proper and thorough assessment to ascertain such imbalance is indeed a factor, has proven quite effective. While I am not in favor of a blanket “Holistic Couples” approach for every female patient dealing with mid-life hormonal changes, I do strongly believe that mitigating circumstance of every life situation should be taken into account and whenever deemed necessary, the couple should be encouraged to participate as a unit.

For a better understanding of what each side maybe experiencing as well as a starting point for constructive change, I highly recommend that you view our further reading on hormonal changes in women, as well as our content on signs and symptoms of ADAM; Androgen Deficiency in Aging Men.

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