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Planning Retirement Online


Relationships 72    

                             April 2008

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


IT COULD BE YOU.

 

Am I going through the male menopause? 

 

Dear Maggi

For years my marriage has been a good one, even though it has had its ups and downs like every long relationship. But in the past year or so I’ve been less and less interested in my wife, my family, my job and even sex, which had been something we both always enjoyed.

 

My wife is asking me what’s wrong and I really can’t explain to her.  She thinks I’m having an affair but nothing could be further from my mind.  I have a good job but at my age, 53, I don’t think I’ll be going any further up the ladder.  I’d love to take early retirement but my pension is really not big so I must work as long as I can.

The children are almost adult, one is at university and the other is doing A Levels.  My wife has got herself a new full time job and seems to be enjoying her return to the office.  She has built a good set of friends who meet up out of work and once or twice she’s asked me to go and join them.  They are very nice people but I feel a bit of a fish out of water as they spend most of the time talking about work related things.

She used to say I never included her much in my work social group but now she’s doing it too.  Maybe she's not as interested in me now we are older. Maybe she is getting her own back for all those nights when I came home late.

How can I sort this out?

Steve.

In a recent radio phone-in a caller asked me if her husband was going through the male menopause because he’d just bought himself a set of drums and a dumper truck!

Although you aren’t rushing out to buy the toys you never got to play with earlier, you do seem to be looking back with longing at your younger self and feeling that life is at a low point.

The male menopause is a myth in the literal sense as the word describes the end of monthly periods in women.  And yet there does seem to be an equivalent time of change in a man’s life.  For many men the years between 45 and 55 years of age, roughly, are a time of taking stock, of looking both back and to the future and measuring what has and hasn’t worked in their lives.

It sounds as though this is the life stage you have reached Steve.  Although your job was giving you satisfaction you don’t see yourself moving further up the greasy career pole.  Far from it, you’d prefer to retire early but your pension, sadly a common situation, decrees that you must work on for some years yet. 

You have lost interest in work, sex, the family, in your wife’s new work life and find it hard to socialise with her new pals. I expect she’ll know just how this feels. She is so concerned that in trying to find answers to explain your withdrawal from life as it was before, she’s coming to the wrong conclusions.

Welcome to the mid-life-crisis!  I expect that your wife will be able to understand more than you realise when you talk this all through with her.  You really need to do this, soon.  Once she realises that you are going through a period of adjustment that unsettles so many people and you reassure her that an affair could not be further from you mind, she will be able to help, support and reassure you.  Most women are very sympathetic about this.  It is a very common and normal occurrence. Talk to a mate if you think he might be supportive or find a counsellor who can help you cope with what is happening to make sure it doesn’t become disabling.  All Relate counselors are trained to help with sexual problems and are good at explaining things that puzzle you without causing embarrassment.

It is natural to take a long look at your life in the middle years. Some regrets always surface, but pay attention to the good things you have done and experienced. This process helps to prepare us for a different view of our future.  For some, it is the first time they will have considered their future at all.  But it is the time when we begin to think of things like pensions and finances, children leaving home, the state of our relationships, retirement looming, responsibilities to aging parents or facing their absence.

Put that alongside the physical changes that are happening to a man in his middle years and the journey does begin to resemble that of women. 

  • poor sex drive
  • anxiety
  • difficulty in maintaining an erection
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • change in body shape
  • reduced muscle mass
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • flushing
  • low mood
  • generalised aches and pains

To experience some of these isn’t unusual but it is always wise to have a thorough check-up with your GP as some can be linked with other problems that could be treated and make all the difference to how you move on with renewed enjoyment of life.

Now start talking to ‘Mrs Steve’ and begin enjoying life again.


RESPONSE: A US Veteran Replies

 

I have had an interesting response to my last column (above) that I would like to share with you. My thanks to the writer, it is good to know that the column in Laterlife.com is read so widely, that men are reading them - as I always hope – and that he felt confident enough to share what can be for many men a hidden and difficult condition to talk openly about.

My email was from a US War Veteran. He had been treated for some time for various symptoms including most of those discussed in the article ‘I don’t feel the same any more’. I quote parts of his email with his permission.

Already injured in his lower abdomen by “a stray Vietnam bullet” his damaged supply of testosterone was unable to maintain his normal sexual function and along with this came the rest of his symptoms.

Unsurprisingly he suffered from depression, worsened by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which brought disturbed sleep, flashbacks of his time in Vietnam and of a serious traffic accident he sustained recently. At the Veterans Association his doctor prescribed hormone replacement therapy which has helped regulate not only sexual desire but moods swings, sleep patterns and depression. He likens his moods to the PMT (Pre-menstrual tension) he sees in his daughter.

As time went by it was found that it not only helped me but the depression lifted so much so that I was once more becoming interested in my work and family. My wife noticed it made a vast difference. However, if I miss my dose the moodiness and other symptoms soon resurface.

I hope this helps other veterans, other men and families out there. I think guys need to be aware that it isn’t only women that have cycles. Much to my chagrin we males are equally vulnerable to the mood swings that women go thru in life. I hope that women in our lives will also understand that. Understanding is a two way street and taking the time to be honest with one another about how we feel is important.

What do you think? If you would like to comment on anything you have read here, or if there is a particular issue you would like discussed in this column, I would be delighted to hear from you.



You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.
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