When you fall in love as vibrant twenty-somethings the last thing you imagine is that two decades down the line you’ll be sitting together on a psychotherapist’s couch having menopause counselling.

Yet, latest research tells us that this turbulent period in a woman’s life is a relationship saboteur that can be as devastating as infidelity and debt.

Andy, Andy’s husband, and I are together now for 25 years. Andy and I also have a 13 year-old daughter. While we have many conversations, my first menopausal symptoms six years back blindsided me and Andy. Stress was the cause of my angry outbursts. What caused my low moods so often? These were caused by family conflicts. My panic attacks, brain fog and headaches could be attributed to pressure at work. I also believed that my night sweats might have been caused by too many supplements.

As the former beauty director of Good Housekeeping magazine, I wrote about the menopause for years, but it didn’t occur to me that I might be perimenopausal. We would fight over central heating every day, but at night, we were plagued by the night sweats. It isn’t very sexual to sleep on a towel, as I can attest.

Suzanne Duckett and husband of 25 years Andy (pictured) revealed the outcome of a couples menopause therapy session with Jane Haynes

Suzanne Duckett (pictured with Andy, her husband of 25-years) shared the results of their couples therapy session with Jane Haynes.

For many women at this age, their libido has stopped. You feel rejected by your partner. They are getting the wrong kind of sleepless nights, which can lead to more problems for couples in this stage.

It’s no surprise that 65 percent of women think their menopause or perimenopausal symptoms have an impact on their relationships. The menopause can also lead to a loss in intimacy.

As for my own menopausal blinkers — there’s still a secrecy, a denial, a sense of shame about going into the menopause.

Saying it out loud is admitting that you’re old now, washed up and being put to pasture. I don’t want to feel like that at 49. That is why I accepted Jane Haynes’ invitation to join a couple’s menopause therapy session at The Blue Door Practice, London. I persuaded Andy to come along, but I could tell he thought it might benefit the therapist’s bank account more than us.

The woman was a well-spoken, stylish septuagenarian. As Andy and I settled onto the sofa, Jane dived straight in, asking us both about our mothers’ lives, how their childbirth and menopause experiences had been, what they must have gone through and how that affected our take in life on everything from baby making to menopausal mania.

This made me remember my mother, whom I was very neglectful of during her turbulent 40s. Due to medical intervention, she fell into menopause overnight and was then left with three small children. It’s quite shocking to think about.

Her erratic behaviour suddenly made more sense — though Mum, we all still wish you hadn’t thrown the white china ornamental dog off the landing onto the tiled hallway during a particularly memorable rage. Do you remember?

Even Dad was waving his arms frantically from below shouting: ‘Not the dog, Mags!’

Suzanne, who was blinded when her perimenopausal symptoms began six years ago, said Jane helped her to understand that some of her behaviours are based on what her mum went through. Pictured: Suzanne and husband Andy

Suzanne, who was blinded when her perimenopausal symptoms began six years ago, said Jane helped her to understand that some of her behaviours are based on what her mum went through. Andy and Suzanne 

It’s still funny, and we laugh about it. This was heartbreaking, and eventually it led to the end of their marriage.

Jane’s questions, though to the point, made sense. Andy and I hadn’t ever broached these issues together or considered the impact of our beliefs and how we behave in similar situations.

Jane helped me to understand how my mother’s experiences influenced my behavior.

She was medicalised for her various health issues, including the menopause, but with no psychological support, and this has made me who I am — I adopt a far more natural approach to health, and have no problem with seeking psychological support.

Jane reminded Jane of the fact that I am not ill from menopause.

You’re going through an archway to a new beginning 

‘Yes, antidepressants have their place if you feel they’re necessary after a careful assessment with either your GP or a referral to a psychiatrist. It always depends on the unique context,’ she says.

‘I like to think that despite all the science of hormones, contraception, IVF and HRT, there remains an eternal mystery around the feminine.’

‘The truth is that none of us knows when we will first menstruate or get pregnant or go through the menopause. What if there were a letter that would give us an approximate date? How much easier it would be,’ says Jane.

‘Yes, of course, I have suggested to women that they get help beyond therapy whenever they feel they have lost control of their bodies or feel ashamed by the frequency of hot flushes or sleeplessness,’

Jane (pictured) said there is still such an association with old age and mortality surrounding the menopause because as recently as the early 1900s women would die shortly after the menopause

Jane (pictured) said there is still such an association with old age and mortality surrounding the menopause because as recently as the early 1900s women would die shortly after the menopause

Jane says. ‘But it is important to make a distinction between the normal and temporary anxiety that occurs with the drop in oestrogen — and clinical anxiety.’

‘There’s nothing like an early menopause to induce shame and depression — after all, up until as recently as the early 1900s, women would die shortly after the menopause,’ Jane says.

‘Which is why there is still such an association with old age and mortality surrounding the menopause. The “is this it?” moment as I call it — though this life stage can be liberating for all involved if we allow it to be.

‘It’s not nicknamed “the change” for nothing.

‘I have found it quite common for menopausal women to say: “I’ve always wanted a breast reduction and now I’m jolly well going to have one,”’ says Jane.

‘Likewise, others decide to have all their teeth veneered. It’s a moment to be indulgent and not to write the body off as past repair,’ she says.

What husbands should know 

1. Don’t suffer thrashing around in bed and restless sleep, splash out on a fab comfy day bed in your bedroom or elsewhere that she (or you) can slip in to and read, so that you can still be together but apart on those tricky nights.

2. Pull your weight and don’t leave her to buy every birthday card and make all arrangements, especially if she finds her memory is too taxed.

3. Keep your patience and be kind. It’s not personal to you, but very personal to her. You should give your mother a lot of attention when you come home.

4. Don’t joke about the ‘man-o-pause’. We have belly-fat, hair loss and get increasingly grouchy — this is simple insecurity versus women’s hormonal overhaul.

5. As a shorthand phrase or buzzword, you can use it to describe the effect menopause has. We use ‘it’s just the hormones talking’ to defuse any anger caused by misunderstanding.

6.Also, make sure to keep her central heating set to the right temperature or you will pay the price!

It struck a chord. As a result, most women who come into Onolla, a health and beauty shop in Barnes, South West London are excited to pay a lot for top-quality organic skin and body care products as well as menstrual supplements.

My thoughts were shared that men don’t recognize the menopause is a time for women to focus on their own needs. I really feel it’s my turn to put myself first.

Andy’s work running a sports event company doesn’t take priority over mine — it can’t always be me doing school runs over going to meetings; or me taking 100 per cent responsibility for what’s called the emotional labour — sorting cards and presents for loved-ones, cooking, and so on.

Although the menopause is often referred to as a close of a chapter and an end to periods, it’s really more about a fresh start.

‘This is not just a fair’s fair thing — we are equal in this marriage — it’s more of an admission that I need a new project for my happiness, for my mind, for my confidence. I don’t think a lot of men get that.

‘See yourself going through an archway into a new and exciting phase of life and dare to allow yourself one new passion whatever it is — a pet, a new project, a new course, travelling alone,’ says Jane.

‘The endorphins provoked by this will help turn some of the hot flushes into the excitement of new pleasures. A new ability to be selfish without being unkind.’

Jane talked also about how other couples were dealing with their relationship. This was reassuring for me, and for Andy it’s a recognition that some of my irrational behaviour and forgetfulness was beyond my control.

I later come up with a phrase to tell Andy whenever I find myself losing control: ‘I think that was the hormones talking earlier!’ It’s not an excuse — it’s a reason.

On the following weekend, Andy — who is not a great timekeeper — gets back from a cycle ride with the boys much later than I’d thought he would. I felt his poor communication resulted in me missing a chance to do something for myself, so I berated him for being ‘selfish’ and stonewalled him while we prepared lunch.

But, when we sat down to eat, after he sheepishly asked ‘Would you like some more veg?’ I acknowledge it was ‘the hormones talking earlier’ and we slip back into being convivial, albeit muted.

The importance of this session is evident in the changes we make to our behavior towards one another. The session showed how valuable knowledge can be, for not only us, but also for our partners. As Andy and I listened and talked through what we knew of both our mothers’ very personal life experiences, it brought in a layer of empathy we hadn’t acknowledged.

Andy (pictured, with Suzanne) said in retrospect there may have been small signs that Suzanne was perimenopausal

Andy (pictured, with Suzanne) said in retrospect there may have been small signs that Suzanne was perimenopausal

Menopause can cause a dramatic change in your life, including the end of marriages. It is important not to make the menopause a victim. But ultimately, Jane says, married couples should remember that ‘there are many ways of falling in love without it requiring a new partner’.

Suzanne’s husband Andy, 47, says:

At first I put Suzanne’s subtly changing behaviour down to the demands of her new business. In retrospect, there may have been small signs, such as a flipping out if the heating was too high, but she’s a feisty, creative person who is regularly on deadline, so I am familiar with Suzanne’s brief emotional outbursts that we usually laugh about later (much later).

The first sign of something deeper was night sweats. When the penny dropped, Suzanne didn’t shy away from discussing being perimenopausal with me.

I’d like to think I’m a supportive husband, but I mostly put my head in the sand, and waited for things to return to normal.

Rod Stewart (76), a three-times-married rock musician, has recently suggested menopause lessons. He said ‘men have got to get on with it, understand and come out the other end’, and ‘get ready for saucepans being thrown’.

Most of the men I know who have split from their partners left their marriage because they had met someone else — often younger — but according to family law firm Stowe, 68 per cent of divorces involving women at this time of life are actually initiated by wives.

So, chaps, if you want to remain together and content — and let’s be honest, you’re unlikely to find a fulfilling younger model — I suggest instead going beyond Rod’s advice and proactively finding out more about the menopause.

Andy admits that you could write what he knew about the menopause on the back of a postage stamp before viewing counselling as an opportunity to educate himself. Pictured: Suzanne and Andy with counsellor Jane

Andy admitted that it was possible to write the information he had about the menopause using a postage stamp. Before deciding on counselling, he saw counseling as an opportunity to further his education. Pictured with Jane: Suzanne, Andy and Andy. 

Suzanne suggested that couples could get specialist counseling to assist them through this difficult stage of their lives. I decided to take part because I knew I didn’t have anything to lose.

I’ll admit I’m not a massive fan of counselling, but in this instance I saw it as a chance to educate myself, improve my understanding of Suzanne’s changes, plus be on the front foot with what my daughter will face in the future.

On a stamp you could put my knowledge about menopause. I was aware it meant the end of periods, based on women’s egg reserves being finished and reproductive capability subsiding, and that this change in hormones resulted in changing behaviour. It was all the same old cliches about mood swings, hot flushes, and less intimacy.

I was hoping for some strategies on how to prioritise date nights around Suzanne’s changing attitudes and a show of my willingness to put her needs first.

Jane asked me whether I have any childhood memories of a mother who was a menopausal. I didn’t. Although it might have been called “Liberal, Open Family”

I was also asked to describe my birth to understand the impact on my mother — it was routine, I was a good weight and there were zero complications. But when recalling my older sister’s birth — three months premature and an emergency C-section — it gave me a renewed empathy for what my mum must have gone through, and the significant impact it would have had on her hormones, anxiety around birth and subsequent parenting style.

Jane was a great listener and I learned that many women experience a variety of menopause symptoms. These include weight gain, brain fog, loss of bone density, and tender breasts.

These women often have to take care of the needs and wants of their children at home, which is sometimes a difficult situation for them. This is an enormous responsibility, especially if we blokes still expect the same mix of roles that when we first married.

It has also been a double plus in that I have more empathy and understanding for my daughter’s hormonal journey.

While £250 seemed punchy for counselling, on reflection even four sessions would be less than a decent holiday — and is infinitely less expensive than divorce. 

  • Relational psychotherapist Jane Haynes is co-founder of The Blue Door Practice (intheconsultingroom.com).