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Relationships - May 2014

Talking it through

 

Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

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



Working through the Menopause

Marital clashes come in all shapes and sizes and one I have recently become aware of did not look as if it was a conflict initially, but a concern for someone's well-being.
Jackie struggles with menopausal symptoms while she tried hard to maintain her taxing teaching career. Nick is adamant that it is time for her to retire as he sees how exhausting teaching is. Jackie loves her job became a dedicated high school teacher after her children started school and she'd assisted Nick in his accountancy exams. She is a senior maths tutor and intends to work on to her full retirement age.

There is no question that Jackie's health is taking a battering due to the hot flushes, sleeplessness and resulting tiredness she experiences. Nick's attitude is that if she is exhausted and is not coping with her work she should retire. Jackie has tried explaining to him that she copes with her workload but needs much more rest and recovery time at home. That way, she feels, all is manageable for a while until her symptoms reduce and she 'comes out the other side' of menopause.

Nick has recently taken early retirement himself, from the Civil Service, and it is another aspect to consider in their difficulties. He'd been looking forward to leaving a career he had become bored by. He is fortunate that early retirement was open to him. He assumed Jackie would retire too and they could spend retired life travelling, gardening, trail-walking and spending time with grandchildren when they arrived.

What Nick did not consider is that Jackie loves her job. She is a successful and highly esteemed colleague and tutor. Other than her menopausal symptoms she tends to be fairly robust and had plenty of energy for work and home. Now she is saying there is no energy for home if she is to function well at work, and Nick objects to this prioritising. He feels work should now be less important. They fail to agree and argue more and more.

It became one of those problems which could rumble on and grow into serious resentment on either...or both...sides if it were not sorted quickly.
It was time to get a few bald statements from each to see how their thoughts were running.

Jackie wrote what she thinks Nick is saying:

You are too tired to care about doing anything at home
I retired to spend more time with you and you're refusing to do the same
You expect me to keep everything going at home while you insist on working even though you are ill
I feel put-upon and that you are avoiding me.

Nick wrote what he thinks Jackie is saying:

I'm too tired to argue
I have no energy by the time I get home
You are at home all day so you can do the housework and cooking
I'd rather work than be with you.

Once things have been written down and swapped they became more angry with one another, but then were asked to write a positive and helpful version - what they would like the other to be thinking.

Jackie wrote Nick's positive thoughts as:

I can see you are too tired to do anything when you get home
I've retired already so I can take over running the home for a while with a bit of guidance from you, the way you supported the kids when they were little and me when I was studying for my exams
I can see how much your job means to you, much more than mine did to me
I agree you aren't ill just going through the menopause and I wish it wasn't happening
I can hold the fort for a while but let's see if you can ease off a little at work and get you some help from our doctor
I know you love me and need extra support from me for a while.

Nick wrote his positives from Jackie as:

I know you see how tired I am when I get home and really love the way you care about me, support me, and take care of everything at home
Although I enjoy my work I really look forward to coming home at night knowing you will be there
I do look forward to retirement with you too, and will see if there is a chance to offload some of my teaching, or perhaps go part-time for the last few working years
Menopause is not an illness and won't last forever, but sometimes it does make me feel utterly washed out, so I'll see the doctor next week to see if there is anything she can do to help me.

This exercise was such a game-changer for Nick and Jackie. Both could see that there was love, and caring, a willingness for compromise on both sides and that things don't really have to be dramatic for them to feel they are working their way through this difficult time together. Each agreed that the positive thoughts were a really good way of clarifying their options. Nick could see that helping at home was no big deal, in fact Jackie supported him too, 30yrs ago. He accepted that her continuing to work wasn't a rejection of him, she loved her job in a way he had never felt about his. Jackie saw that Nick was really worried about her becoming ill if she pushed herself too hard and so planned to find ways of making work easier while she went through the menopause. Aware that sometimes symptoms can be tricky she would start to plan possible part-time work if it became necessary.

Menopause is unavoidable. All women are affected by it in varying degrees, and so too, in a way, are the men around those women. Men at work need to be aware of the kinds of difficulties menopausal symptoms pose for women. |The symptoms do not mean a woman is losing her ability to be a good worker, in fact, once she is through the worst she will become even more able and effective than before. It merely means she

Once things have been written down and swapped they became more angry with one another, but then were asked to write a positive and helpful version - what they would like the other to be thinking.

Jackie wrote Nick's positive thoughts as:

I can see you are too tired to do anything when you get home
I've retired already so I can take over running the home for a while with a bit of guidance from you, the way you supported the kids when they were little and me when I was studying for my exams
I can see how much your job means to you, much more than mine did to me
I agree you aren't ill just going through the menopause and I wish it wasn't happening
I can hold the fort for a while but let's see if you can ease off a little at work and get you some help from our doctor
I know you love me and need extra support from me for a while.

Nick wrote his positives from Jackie as:

I know you see how tired I am when I get home and really love the way you care about me, support me, and take care of everything at home
Although I enjoy my work I really look forward to coming home at night knowing you will be there
I do look forward to retirement with you too, and will see if there is a chance to offload some of my teaching, or perhaps go part-time for the last few working years
Menopause is not an illness and won't last forever, but sometimes it does make me feel utterly washed out, so I'll see the doctor next week to see if there is anything she can do to help me.

This exercise was such a game-changer for Nick and Jackie. Both could see that there was love, and caring, a willingness for compromise on both sides and that things don't really have to be dramatic for them to feel they are working their way through this difficult time together. Each agreed that the positive thoughts were a really good way of clarifying their options. Nick could see that helping at home was no big deal, in fact Jackie supported him too, 30yrs ago. He accepted that her continuing to work wasn't a rejection of him, she loved her job in a way he had never felt about his. Jackie saw that Nick was really worried about her becoming ill if she pushed herself too hard and so planned to find ways of making work easier while she went through the menopause. Aware that sometimes symptoms can be tricky she would start to plan possible part-time work if it became necessary.

Menopause is unavoidable. All women are affected by it in varying degrees, and so too, in a way, are the men around those women. Men at work need to be aware of the kinds of difficulties menopausal symptoms pose for women. |The symptoms do not mean a woman is losing her ability to be a good worker, in fact, once she is through the worst she will become even more able and effective than before. It merely means she will need patience and understanding for a while, as does everyone with a genuine health problem. The more understanding colleagues and bosses can be the easier the stresses will be to deal with.
There are many excellent books and articles online on understanding menopause. There are many effective remedies, medications and ways of coping with the unpleasant side of this life transition. I will not deal with them here, but urge women to learn about their situation, men to learn more of how to help and understand, and work colleagues and management to be aware of how to support.



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


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