Let's flip this around from the other side.
We've written close to 100,000 words on perimenopause from the woman's point of view.
What about the spouse or partner?
It's nothing short of a bomb going off in the house!
I went from a fairly calm household (even with a 13 and 15 year in full mayhem mode) to days where I'm literally not knowing what the next 24 hours will bring.
Her story is here (share it with her...it's an eye opener) but let me tell you my story and then we'll look at the research to help you understand what's happening and how to support her through it.
The fact is this...the women don't even talk to each other about perimenopause.
The mothers don't really prepare them for it.
On top of this, roughly 25% of women will have a debilitating perimenopause.
We're not talking hot flashes….More like rolling panic attacks. 24/7 anxiety. Bouts of anger interspersed with depression.
Then the doctors step in with the medications!
It took us 6 to 12 months to unwind what they did and we almost didn't make it.
The more we talked to other people, the more we realized that many women were getting hit.
Just no one talks about it until you offer first.
We heard comments like…
- "Yea perimenopause is why I got divorced"
- "My marriage almost didn't survive it"
- "My wife hated me for 2 years"
Goodness. We'll walk through it and also look at tools we found to help her during this time.
The net-net is this…we like to think we are who we are...our personalities are locked in stone.
Not when powerful hormones are on a roller-coaster!
Once you see the detail below, you'll better be able to understand what's happening (maybe more than her but no mansplaining) and we'll focus on tools we found along the way.
Here are the topics:
- What is really happening during your wife's perimenopause
- When does perimenopause happen for your partner
- Perimenopause advise for husbands
- Perimenopause and marriage problems
- Tools to help with your wife's perimenopause
Let's get started.
What is really happening during your wife's perimenopause
Remember how crazy puberty was?
Perimenopause is equally traumatic but in reverse.
Two powerful players are winding down now:
- Estradiol (their main estrogen)
Progesterone's been on the way out now for about a decade and generally speaking, it's a calming agent (supports GABA which the benzos work on).
The real star of this horror show is estradiol.
It's the equivalent to testosterone.
We've all heard of roid rage when men take testosterone to put on muscle.
Here's what many people don't realize.
Estradiol is phasing out during perimenopause but it can actually go through crazy spikes and drops for some women.
There's an explanation of why at our perimenopause versus menopause article but the net effect...is an earthquake across her body.
Estradiol has its hands in almost every pathway in her body.
- Sleep? Check
- Heart? Check
- Nervous system? Check
- Mood? Yes!!!
Let's drill down a bit on that last one.
Estradiol has its hands on the levers of both the creation and removal of serotonin.
Serotonin is our "feel good" neurotransmitter but that's selling it short.
Researchers put it this way:
Serotonin modulates virtually all human behavioral processes.
Too much or too little and it's a mess.
I saw it both with my wife. The doctor's put her on Lexapro (and SSRI - see CBD versus SSRI here).
She had a host of crazy symptoms (flat affect, lost 30 pounds, insomnia, etc) which peaked with suicidal thoughts!
You have to understand she was a rock for 20 years! All of a sudden, she doesn't want to be here anymore.
You have to work with a doctor or naturopath as this process needs supervision.
Back to serotonin...estradiol is either dropping or going through loop-to-loops.
Estradiol directly supports serotonin.
If you check our CBD and perimenopause guide by symptom, you'll see over a dozen different pathways affected and serotonin is a major player in most!
As the husband, we can't really know how this feels.
My wife would say things like…
- "I feel like I died"
- "I don't feel like myself"
- "I hate feeling like this"
She may look totally normal on the outside but inside, she's totally unsettled.
Again, roughly 25% of women have perimenopause that's flipping the apple cart upside down.
Needless to say, you're going to be scrambling to help and not really able to do much.
You may even get frustrated or angry as a response to frustration or anger coming at you.
It's akin to picking on someone with a disability at this point.
You have to be supportive and not try to "fix" things (my goto which never works).
There are some tools we found along the way below but you have to get inside her head and understand that she feels really really really bad right now.
That's hard for men (it was hard for me).
Some practical questions for men with wives/partners in perimenopause.
When does perimenopause happen for your partner and other key questions for husbands
The real crux of perimenopause will generally run 2-3 years and averages around age 47-50.
There are Reddit boards for ladies where it starts much earlier!
Early 40's and even late 30's!
The symptoms will start before their period goes away or becomes irregular.
This can be panic responses out of nowhere. Bursts of anger or depression. Anxiety. Allergic reactions are an early warning sign (cosmetics, suddenly can't eat foods, etc).
When my wife told me she had a mini panic attack in 2017 at a PTO meeting, I didn't think anything of it.
In hindsight, it was a huge signal. Man, if I could turn back time knowing what I know now.
Look...at around age 45, she should be getting hormone panels run but that's probably not happening.
The doctors are a bit clueless on perimenopause...even her OBGyn!
This whole thing is about hormones! Period (which is also the same hormones, by the way).
If you notice changes in mood that don't make sense, start to broach it (gently) with her.
She'll be impressed that you know about perimenopause, to begin with. Check out the perimenopause versus menopause guide or even the full review of estradiol.
Technically, perimenopause is done after 12 months without a period (barring birth control or other hormonal interventions). That's just a preliminary...it can be few years beyond.
That roller coast ride of estradiol should calm down after that although there's a general decline we have to look at.
Right now, let's survive the transition.
So...what can we do?
Perimenopause advise for husbands
I literally had no idea what was going on.
I didn't know what estradiol and progesterone even were (maybe vaguely).
All of a sudden, I'm losing my wife...my best friend!
We scrambled. I learned everything I could and here we are.
We were forced to really get into the weeds of it because the doctors (multiple GP's, heart doctors, psychiatrists, etc) were so clueless!
Read her story here...it's a total shit show.
Half of the trauma we faced was due to medications the doctors prescribed or their incorrect information on hormone replacement therapy. (my estrogen journey)
Do no harm my ass.
Benzos. SSRI's. Heart meds. BP meds. Synthetic hormones.
Started with the benzos...
Just check out CBD versus anti-anxiety meds review to really understand what's going on there.
The first piece of advice as a husband is to understand what perimenopause is.
The above section helps and the perimenopause versus menopause review really drives it home.
Next, you need to understand that the anger, sadness, or other emotions coming at you are not personal.
It's not really about you (unless you're doing something wrong of course).
This is chemistry and it may feel like your wife on perimenopause really hates you but picture yourself when you're at your most irritable state. I mean your worst day!
Maybe you've said some things you would like to take back?
That's where she is! Almost all the time.
I've seen my wife go from angry to crying. Serotonin's a beast! Check out Tryptophan (serotonin's raw material) and stress to understand just how weird it is.
Too high or too low and all bets are off. She's fluctuating between both with perimenopause if she's one of the lucky ones.
Even the "easier" perimenopause's are no joy.
- 25% of women have debilitating perimenopause transitions
- 50% of women have severe symptoms
- 80% of women have symptoms
You're going to have thicken your skin and not lash back out or get frustrated.
Hey...at least your "feel good" neurotransmitter isn't dumping out.
We can be a little more saintly to get through this.
The tools below will help.
Let's look at one of the biggest issues during this period of time.
Perimenopause and marriage problems
My wife and I now laugh at this.
We'll see articles on some age being tied to the worst period in a person's life. The most likely time for feeling down. The age tied to most marriage problems.
We'll ask each other to guess the age.
The answer is always…."47".
Funny thing is that it's usually spot on.
My wife (the founder of this company) is very open about her journey. The more women talk to each other, the better.
Because they DON'T now.
One woman we know from school came back with this response, "Yea...perimenopause was the cause of my divorce".
Another one said, "He slept on the couch for a year back then".
It's rough on a marriage if you don't know the chemistry shift above.
As a husband, you just think "Why is she being such a #$#$*"?
It's shocking really because no one has warned you.
All of a sudden, she's a different person and a much nastier or fragile version of the woman you've known for years.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that men often dump their menopausal wives, government statistics show that after age 50, 65 percent of divorces are initiated by women.
That article goes into an interesting piece about oxytocin.
Oxytocin is made from estradiol and it's our nurturing hormone. Hugging releases oxytocin.
Just look at this:
In humans, endogenous oxytocin and vasopressin levels covary with perceptions of relationship quality, marital behaviors, and physiological stress responses.
And it's the main source, estradiol is dropping.
In menopause, it's rock bottom. Keep in mind that mother nature didn't really design us to last beyond age 50 since the average life span just 100 years ago was 46 (male) and 48 (female) in the US.
This whole perimenopause/menopause thing is a modern dilemma.
So...the social bonding chemical key to marriage satisfaction is disappearing.
Okay...we need to do the dishes.
This really speaks to what's driving all of this.
Let's look at tools to help your wife feel better and maybe save your marriage from perimenopause.
Tools to help with your wife's perimenopause
Look...we have lots of tools below but in the end, it's about estradiol and progesterone.
They're just too powerful and needed to try a workaround.
There was a huge report back in 2002 that scared women and doctors silly about hormones.
It turns out that it was bogus at best (see estradiol review).
Bioidentical is key as the synthetics actually carry some risk and don't work as well.
Even NIH studies show this difference.
Work with a naturopath or doctor to dial in these two players.
A Dutch test (or equivalent since it's expensive) is essential to see how your wife's body actually metabolizes hormones and at what level.
There are topical creams but those will likely not get enough into the system.
The effects have been night and day and we could have avoided so much pain had we had the hormones earlier in the process.
In the end, we settled on Estrace (oral bioidentical estradiol) and Prometrium (oral bioidentical progesterone). We looked at oral safety here.
In addition to hormones, here are key players we found along the way:
- Siberian Rhubarb (Review here, Buy here) Research is showing powerful effects on the "housekeeping" estrogen pathways such as sleep, mood, and hot flashes. Not the growth side which can really only be had by estradiol directly.
- Pregnenolone - (Review here, Buy here) Supports all steroidal hormones including progesterone and allopregnanolone (the basis for the new blockbuster postpartum depression med)
CBD Isolate - of course, we've studied this extensively and there are two important facets.
CBD supports serotonin and GABA when low. This is the very issue at play since estrogen drives serotonin and progesterone drives GABA!
First, it's something we can do RIGHT NOW while the hormones are building up.
It's why we started IndigoNaturals to begin with..CBD isolate was a huge liferaft.
One note...full spectrum CBD had lots of issues (we tried 3-4 of the biggest brands).
If progesterone is down, histamine response will go up. There can be lots of allergic reactions to full spectrum CBD and even THC.
You have no idea how many supplements, vials, capsules, etc that I have bought.
She was suffering so I would go to Pharmica and scour the shelves.
We've tried it all!! Most didn't work and some even made her feel bad.
You name it:
- Valerian root
There are literally 50-70 bottles of unused supplements in our pantry (I want to take a picture of all of them as a shrine of sorts).
CBD had an immediate effect (which is why I'm writing any of this to begin with).
The full list of benefits for CBD and perimenopause symptoms can be found here but anxiety, panic response, sleep, and pain are front and center.
My wife takes 150 mg in the morning and 150 mg at night as 300 mg was the peak level for neurogenesis (brain repair/replenishment).
The meds really took a toll on her system and she had to unwind all of that.
The second aspect of CBD is more fascinating.
There's a window during with HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is protective.
If women wait too late, that window closes.
CBD may be able to re-open the window (see Can CBD re-open HRT window for older women).
This speaks to a fascinating role for the endocannabinoid system (where CBD operates) in the steroidal hormone pathway.
Her doctor will probably prescribe benzos or SSRIs. That's their go-to.
Most doctors won't even bring up the hormone issue.
"Oh...your levels are fine for menopause".
As for the benzos and SSRIs, do the research.
Check out CBD and perimenopause medications here.
Half of righting the ship was undoing the effects of those two classes of medications.
Unfortunately, the de facto course of treatment.
That and alcohol (see why alcohol is so popular during perimenopause. It's an eye-opener.
Alcohol boosts serotonin and GABA but then creates tolerance.
No matter how bad things are, it can get much better.
Reach out with any questions via the chat bot bottom/right.
We'll send over any research or feedback we have.
A lifeline to the husbands with a wife in perimenopause.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.