The impact of the menopause on relationships
As our understanding about the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of the menopause and the impact on women during this time grows, the connection between the menopause and the break down of relationships becomes clearer.
The number of UK women in the peri-menopausal or menopausal stages at any given time is estimated to be well over 3 million, a significant proportion of the population. Yet, it’s accepted that support for the multitude of physical symptoms and the considerable mental impact, and a true understanding of the menopause, is still woefully lacking.
In a Stowe study on the impact of the menopause on marriage and relationships 76% of women felt their partner didn’t have the knowledge or resources to support them through the menopause properly.
Furthermore, 68% of divorces involving women at this time of life were initiated by wives.
Menopause and divorce
Menopause is frequently cited as a reason for marriages breaking down. Rachel Roberts, Yorkshire Regional Director of Stowe Family Law, explained “We are noticing a significant increase in women in their 40s and 50s filing for divorce, citing issues caused by perimenopause as one of the reasons for their marital breakdown.”
Our study findings supported this view, with 65% of women stating that their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms affected their marriage/relationship.
Loss of physical intimacy
A reduced sex drive is a common symptom of the perimenopause or menopause. The women we spoke to listed loss of physical intimacy as the area of their relationship most impacted by the menopause. 50% of women worried that a lack of sex would lead to your relationship ending.
Top 5 areas of a relationship most affected by the menopause:
We lost physical intimacy
They didn’t understand what I was going through
We stopped communicating
Grew apart or fell out of love
The menopause leads to a huge amount of change, both physically and emotionally, and managing the impact on mental well-being can be difficult. Common signs include anxiety, depression, problems with memory and concentration, reduced confidence, and low mood. As the symptoms can last for some time and often begin well before the cause is identified, the impact on relationships can be gradual, and difficult to define.
Ours study showed that 77% of women felt that per perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms affected their mental health.
Perimenopause and menopause can be an incredibly over-whelming time. While society has moved on from the over-simplifying term ‘The Change’ and recognised that symptoms go way beyond hot flushes, a greater understanding and improved support is still needed.
47% of women felt that if NHS support during the menopause was better it could have prevented their relationship from ending.
When asked what they thought could help them and their partner most during the menopause, our study found that greater awareness, more understanding, and better support, were vital.
Top 3 ways to help couples deal with the menopause:
Greater awareness of the symptoms
Better understanding from your partner
Better support from GPs
The impact on relationships
Perimenopause and the menopause can be a particularly challenging time for couples and both partners can feel confused and concerned as they navigate the respective changes. Inevitably, it can highlight existing struggles, further damaging the connection between couples.
Based on our study, it’s clear that a better understanding of the menopause and how it impacts women’s lives, and open communication between partners, can significantly help couples.
The Break Up Club – Dealing with divorce during peri/menopause Webinar More
4 Types Of Toxic Relationship & Their Warning Signs
Toxic relationships are difficult to define. As no two relationships are the same, there’s no one set of symptoms that clearly define an unhealthy relationship. However, the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one is often how it makes you feel. Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
The negative impact of a toxic relationship is significant, affecting both physical and mental health. While healthy relationships have a foundation of trust, independence and respect for each other, unhealthy relationships often lead to feelings of low self-worth, a lack of agency, as well as feeling helpless, fearful, anxious, and often paranoid.
The term ‘toxic’ doesn’t only refer to romantic relationships. It can apply to any kind of connection you make with another. An unhealthy relationship with a friend, a family member, or a co-worker, can be equally damaging to your well-being, but the most common signs that these relationships are toxic may vary.
The signs that a relationship is toxic can accumulate over time and often the boundaries are blurred making it difficult for some to identify. However, if you’re drained by your relationship and your partnership isn’t equal, you might be in a toxic relationship. Signs that your relationship may be toxic:
Toxic relationship: Friend
They cross your boundaries
If you have a toxic relationship with a friend, they might constantly do things that upset you or make you feel uncomfortable. Whenever you try to bring them up and set a firm boundary, they might become defensive or make you feel bad for wanting space. If they apologise, the apology rarely sounds sincere.
They never listen to your problems
While they might frequently come to you for advice, they don’t devote equal attention to listening to your problems. Whenever you need them, they appear busy, and every conversation tends to be about them.
They can’t be happy for you
Instead of celebrating your victories, they see you as competition. Your every achievement reminds them of their own shortcomings and means they feel they’re being left behind.
Instead of offering you mental support, they frequently judge your choices and make you feel bad for making them.
You feel drained
If the friendship feels suffocating and one-sided, chances are it really is. When your friend isn’t there for you when you need them, you end up feeling lonely and unsupported.
Toxic Relationship: Family
They compare you to other people
No matter what you do, your family member is never satisfied. Somehow, you are never good enough while other people can do no wrong. If you have siblings, you’re often being compared even if you’re completely different people.
They’re always right
They always think they know better and treat you like you’re incapable of making your own decisions.
They dismiss your feelings
Rather than being empathetic, they’ll often simply tell you that other people have it worse or that you should be grateful for what you have. You aren’t allowed to feel unhappy and express any negative emotions.
They pick on you
They frequently make personal or critical comments about you. They might give you backhanded compliments, for example, “You look so pretty with makeup on, you should wear it more often” or “Are you sure you want to eat that?”.
Toxic Relationship: Coworker
They act superior
A toxic co-worker might act like their role is more important than yours. Even though you might have the same duties, they feel superior and enjoy telling you what to do. Nothing is ever their fault, and they think they’re always right.
They might frequently talk behind people’s backs, enjoy spreading doubt and deliberately turn colleagues against each other.
They can’t work as a part of a team
They struggle to cooperate because they want to look better than everyone else.
They complain a lot
More than venting about the odd bad day at work, toxic co-workers are never satisfied. They will regularly talk about how much they hate their job and feel every piece of constructive feedback is a personal attack. It becomes draining and can quickly causes discontent to spread.
Toxic Relationship: Romantic Partner
They have issues they aren’t willing to work on
The key to a healthy relationship is mutual respect and growth. If your partner isn’t willing to work on themselves, they aren’t able to fully commit to the relationship. For example, your partner might have anger issues and throw things when you’re having an argument. They might not be abusive towards you but make you feel uneasy and unsupported.
They can’t, or won’t, communicate
Instead of talking things through openly and honestly, a toxic partner might disguise their feelings by giving you the silent treatment, lying, or becoming passive-aggressive. These manipulative tactics allow toxic partners to express their resentment or disappointment, while denying your opportunity to respond or express your feelings. This can leave you feeling misunderstood and isolated.
Toxic partners often assert control over others using a range of behaviours including humiliation, intimidation, threats, and violence. They may isolate you from your friends and family, seek to control your finances, and monitor your time and whereabouts. This pattern of behaviour is often subtle and gradual, becoming apparent all of a sudden.
The effort isn’t equal
Your partner is emotionally detached and disinterested, unwilling to invest any effort or time into your relationship. They are always the priority. You’re always the one initiating plans, and the one who always texts or calls first. You feel you have to work hard just to sustain your partner’s attention, but your efforts never pay off.
If you have recognise any of these behaviours or you have concerns about a relationship, it’s a good idea to seek help by speak to an experienced professional.
If you need help and support understanding a toxic relationship you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
Family Law Advice
If you are in an toxic relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers.
Other Helpful Contacts
National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123 More
How to better connect with other people
After over a year of profound social changes that have significantly reduced the opportunity for meaningful interaction, it’s not difficult to see why some of us have forgotten the art of connecting with other people.
Here, Psychologist Luisa Williams gives us top tips to increase connection and explains the multifaceted benefits of sharing better bonds with other people.
We are all social creatures that crave interaction. But what we truly need is connection – a genuine bond with someone that goes beyond spending time with them and enjoying their company.
When we connect with someone, we feel a sense of belonging that improves our well-being. Positive relationships with people don’t only make us less lonely but also increase life longevity and build our resilience. Connection helps us feel supported and more resistant to life adversities.
But, if it has so many benefits, why do we find connection with others so difficult?
An inability to connect might stem from low self-esteem. When we think lowly of ourselves, we’re afraid of being vulnerable enough to share personal struggles with others. A fear of vulnerability might be linked to trust issues. If you were hurt in the past, it’s natural you don’t believe in other people’s intentions.
In some people’s cases, it’s a matter of a different worldview. If you experience mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety, trauma history or personality disorders, you might feel isolated and struggle to relate to other people and their perspectives.
But no matter what’s holding you back, you can learn how to better connect with others, and begin to enjoy the benefits of connectivity. Check out the tips below:
Connect with a smile
Smiling is one of the tricks that make others see you in a positive light. It conveys positive emotions and boosts your mood. When you smile at someone, they’re more likely to respond with a smile as well, which strengthens the bond and positive associations. Essentially, smile is a social tool. It lets others know you want to engage with them and that you’re someone they can trust.
Practise social skills
We all need social interaction, whether we’re lonely or not. However, problems arise when we turn to other people to receive validation or distract ourselves from negative emotions. Sometimes, we end up seeing our relationships as a transaction. In the end, we fail to commit and make an effort. If you want to build a true connection with others, you have to start seeing them as someone you can grow with.
The first step is to become a great listener. Good listening skills let others know you care about what they have to say and that you’re interested in them as a person. Make sure you’re actively listening – make eye contact, respond with nonverbal cues and wait for a pause to ask questions about what is being said.
If you struggle with concentration, visualise what the other person is saying. Make a mental note of what they like and dislike. It will help you get to know their boundaries and further strengthen the bond. If you know what’s important to someone, you’re less likely to jeopardize your relationship. Don’t forget to engage in small talk. It will allow you to showcase your personality and encourage building on the relationship.
Get to know them
Be present and forget about distractions. When you want to get to know someone, you have to make an effort and focus all your attention on them. Make sure you don’t look at your phone or worry about all the things you have to do when you get home.
Develop interests. One of the most important steps is sharing mutual interests. Your likes and dislikes might be already obvious to you but if your life revolves around school or work, you might struggle to think of things you’re passionate about. Of course, most people enjoy watching TV or playing games but the key to building a relationship with someone is finding something you can both grow doing. You can start by trying out new hobbies. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and consider signing up for a new class.
Lastly, learn to recognise when they feel uncomfortable or upset. Pay attention to their body language and changes in demeanour. Notice if they’re exceptionally quiet or struggle to keep eye contact.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
Vulnerability. It’s defined as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’. Most of us take risks frequently: we order food from a new restaurant, we cross the road when the light is red, and arrive late for work. But when it comes to people, we tend to play it safe. We hide our feelings and distance ourselves.
Vulnerability is the price of connection. Connection is about stepping out of your comfort zone and being open with another person as much as they’re open with us. If someone shares their personal struggles with you, don’t be afraid to respond with the same.
However, make sure you connect with yourself first. Try to sit with your thoughts and feelings. Write them down and try to link emotions to what’s going on in your life. This will help you spot a pattern and better meet your needs. For example, if your job is stressing you out and you don’t have time to rest because you work overtime, you might think of adjustments to complete your tasks faster.
Be authentic and let people get to know the real you. If you find it difficult to open up and feel comfortable around someone you don’t know well, remind yourself that everyone has flaws. Write down your strengths and make sure you read them regularly. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A genuine friendship is based on trust and helping each other get through difficult times.
If you’d like to hear more from Luisa on a range of other topics, visit My Family Psychologist. More
Why am I so angry?
Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder of My Family Psychologist, joins us to share insights on anger responses and how to recognise when recurring anger may be caused by more persistent underlying problems.
Why am I so angry?
Life is full of twists and turns. Its challenges sometimes force us to change direction or adjust to a new reality which includes dealing with difficult emotions. If we don’t get the job we want, we might feel disappointed. If our relationship ends, we might experience pain and sadness.
Anger is an emotion some of us experience frequently. It can be triggered by being disrespected or treated unfairly. It might be triggered by unexpected situations that interrupt our goals. Or, it can be a response to stress. Imagine you’re late for work and stuck in traffic. This would make anyone at least slightly annoyed at a given moment. When anger is a response to an unpleasant situation, it likely comes and goes quite quickly without causing further issues.
While anger might seem like a straightforward emotion that’s an interpretation of whatever is going on in your life, it often implies there’s something else hidden underneath the surface. If you find yourself dealing with anger on a daily basis, your anger is likely a part of a bigger problem.
Unhealthy responses to anger
While anger is often a natural response, it can easily escalate and turn into an emotional outburst or even aggression. When our anger is triggered by the words or actions of other people, we might struggle to feel understood and take out our frustration on others to avoid being hurt more. Unhealthy anger can take on many forms:
Have you ever given someone a silent treatment because they made you angry instead of trying to talk things through? Have you ever pretended everything was fine when you were upset about something your loved one did? Passive aggression is a strategy that helps us avoid confrontation but only adds to the problem. While we might choose not to fully engage with anger to avoid being vulnerable, suppressed anger doesn’t go away and can turn abusive. When you act in a passive-aggressive way, you place your needs and pride above other people’s feelings. Your refusal to communicate increases frustration on both sides and makes you feel even more hostile.
Just like passive aggression, open aggression is a harmful way of expressing anger but it’s directly aimed at other people. It’s a way of confronting someone while disregarding their feelings. Examples include shouting, throwing things, sarcasm or violence. Releasing anger might feel powerful. It might make you feel in control while serving as protection that shields you from further getting hurt. But in reality, it puts a barrier between you and your loved one and hurts both of you.
Turning anger inwards
Anger is often intense and might be triggered by the way we feel towards ourselves. When someone lets us down, we might blame ourselves for trusting them and having high expectations or believing we were good enough. If anger is mixed with the feeling of guilt and shame it might be used as a form of punishment. For example, you might self-inflict an injury to deal with overwhelming emotions.
If you tend to deal with anger using the strategies above, you may struggle with self-control and expressing emotions in a healthy way. Anger aimed at yourself decreases your self-esteem. Anger aimed at other people shows disregard for their feelings and needs. It might make communication difficult. It might escalate and lead to undesired behaviours. It doesn’t only strain relationships with other people but can cause a range of health issues such as headaches, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety and digestion problems. Additionally, when we feel angry our body releases cortisol (the stress hormone) that increases our heart rate and blood pressure, triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes inflammation and stress.
Anger and mental disorders
Anger can be connected to many other emotions like guilt, shame, anxiety, stress, feeling overwhelmed and irritability. It might be also related to underlying mental health issues some of which are described below.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
IED is marked by explosive outbursts that occur suddenly and often not in proportion to the situation. These might include verbal aggression, shouting, getting into fights, threatening, or assaulting others or property damage. The episodes are often marked by increased energy, racing thoughts, tingling, tremors, palpitations, or chest tightness. The cause of IED is unknown but the risk factors can be a history of abuse or having another mental disorder that is characterized by disruptive behaviours.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour. People with ADHD experience emotional dysregulation which makes it difficult for them to manage emotions and keep their intensity appropriate to the situation. The main risk factors for developing ADHD can be genetics, low level of activity in the brain parts responsible for attention and activity or prenatal exposure to alcohol or nicotine.
Personality disorders such as BPD
Borderline Personality Disorder is another disorder associated with emotional dysregulation. Individuals with BPD struggle to manage intense emotions which often seem an inappropriate response to a situation. Explosive anger experienced by someone with BPD is one of the diagnostic criteria and might be accompanied by shouting, aggression and even self-harm. The main cause of the disorder is a history of trauma or exposure to distress as a child.
Conduct Disorder is a pattern of antisocial behaviours in children that might involve property destruction, theft, deceptiveness, animal cruelty and aggression towards people. Children and teenagers with conduct disorder misbehave frequently and find it difficult to manage emotions. The possible causes include defects or injuries to certain brain areas linked to regulating emotions and behaviours, genetics, and a dysfunctional family environment.
If you feel like your anger is impossible to manage and takes over your life, we recommend seeking professional help.
Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat. More
5 tips for Father’s Day without the kids
Father’s Day without the kids can be challenging when you’re separated or going through a divorce, particularly if you aren’t seeing your children on the day.
Perhaps you don’t see your children as much as you would like at the best of times, or maybe communication between you and their mother has broken down, and you are in the middle of a court process that will ultimately decide how your children divide their time.
Or maybe it just isn’t your scheduled time with the children, and you haven’t been able to negotiate a swap.
If this is you, then the media hype surrounding Father’s Day might seem overwhelming, and it can be easy to lose yourself in feeling low or angry, concentrating on what you have lost and the “what if” questions that might be swirling around your mind.
I am here to reassure you that you do have a choice. You can make a conscious decision to do something differently, to choose how you react, to reframe your thinking – and your choices will have a significant impact on how you feel.
Focus on what you CAN do
Instead of focusing on what you can’t do or no longer have, shift your focus onto what you CAN do. While it’s true that Father’s Day this year might be different, and not the same as before, you can change your approach and focus.
Ask yourself how you could make it better for you. Can you Facetime with them, wherever they are? Could you arrange a special trip out with them for the next time you see them? Could you write them each a card? Brainstorm a list of choices and decide to do one of them.
On the day itself, shift your focus and do something that YOU enjoy and that you know helps you to feel good. Arrange to see a friend, go for a long run or cycle – whatever it is that feeds your soul.
Focus on the time you DO have
If your children aren’t with you this Father’s Day, focus on the time you DO have with them, rather than dwelling on this one day that you don’t. Choose a different day to celebrate with them. Do something special with them next time you see them – it may be easier to book on a different date, and you may have more choice.
If you haven’t already, I suggest you create a list together of things you would all love to do, places you would like to go, people, you would like to see. Keep it on your fridge and cross them off as and when you do them. Save these new memories by taking photos and putting them up on a memories board.
Your children will take their cue from you. If you are angry and resentful, they are likely to feel conflicted and stressed. When you are upbeat and talk about what you can do next time you’re together, they will take your lead.
Tell the story differently
Every time you talk about Father’s Day, notice the words you use, and how they make you feel. The words you use, and the story you tell can have a big effect on your feelings. Every time you talk about how terrible you feel, how sad or angry you are, you associate into those feelings all over again.
Instead, try talking about what you are going to do instead, and notice how that feels different. Notice also how people start to respond differently to you – instead of feeling sorry for you, they may start to tell you how impressed they are, how proud they are of the way you are dealing with this.
Choose to stay off social media
Whatever you do, don’t indulge in a little of what I can “torture by social media” – don’t go onto your Facebook or Instagram feed to see what all your Dad friends are doing, the fun they’re having. Take a day, or better still the whole weekend, off your social media accounts.
If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same outcome – so if it isn’t working, do something else!
It is your choices that will make the difference. When you perhaps feel that everything else is out of your control, your choices and decisions are 100% within your power to make.
When you choose to shift your focus, tell your story differently, and protect yourself from social media, you are making active choices to do something differently – and you will get a different outcome.
Article by Claire Black from Claire Black Divorce Coaching
Claire is one of the UK’s first accredited specialist Divorce Coaches, a former lawyer, and Advanced NLP Practitioner. You can get in touch with Claire at www.claireblackcoaching.com or call 07722 007528
Get in touch
If you would like any advice on a family law issue, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here.
If you are struggling to deal with Father’s Day with the kids after a divorce or separation, the following websites have some useful tools and advice.
Families need Fathers
Hear other father’s experiences
Men’s Advice Line
This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. More
Attachment trauma: Why can’t I have real love?
Louisa Hope, from Therapy Knutsford, joins us to share insight into attachment trauma and how it can manifest in our relationships, as part of our Stowe Guests series.
As children it is our birth right to feel safe, protected, loved and nurtured, all of which support the development of secure and loving attachments. However, if these needs are not met, we can experience trauma which can have long-lasting effects on our emotional well being and the ability to build healthy relationships.
What is attachment trauma?
Attachment trauma can occur in childhood if a caregiver repeatedly gives confusing boundaries, withholds support, is neglectful or abusive. This kind of trauma can be very debilitating, diminishing our self-worth and affecting how we relate to love and connections later in life. Childhood wounding can run deep and even though as adults we may be able to rationalise our childhood experiences, we can hold onto beliefs on a deep core level that we adopted as a young child; “I’m not enough”, “I can’t have real love”, and “I’m not worthy”.
Attachment trauma impacts our attachment style as adults. Instead of creating secure attachments we can become insecure when in love, needing reassurance, close proximity and constant validation. This anxious attachment style may in turn cause anxiety to increase the deeper we fall in love, with the potential to create a state of hypervigilance.
Alternatively, those who have experienced attachment trauma can develop an avoidant attachment style where they pull away from a partner when the relationship becomes too intimate or loving.
The early subconscious beliefs we carry within can remind us to keep our distance or cling on tight, and we require our partners to cater for these needs from historical wounding. Oftentimes we develop push-pull relationships where we use protest behaviour to get our needs met, causing the connection to become needy or distant, toxic and painful.
Trauma often goes hand in hand with poor boundary setting. We first learn how to create safe boundaries from our parents, but if these boundaries were violated or interchangeable, we may not know how to say no when something does not feel right, and we become ‘People Pleasers’.
As a result of this, we often learn to over-compensate for a lack of love and validation which can affect our own ability to create safe and loving connection. This overly accommodating behaviour is alluring to the narcissist, and other types of abusers. We often find a deep need to fill the void of love and validation created by trauma, leading us into relationships that will perpetuate old familiar patterns, reaffirming our already brittle view of relationships.
The benefits of healing
Healing attachment trauma is a phenomenally powerful way of restoring our ability to give and receive love safely, and experience authentic lasting connections.
When we heal childhood trauma we can also heal the associated attachment wounding, empowering us to move away from anxious or avoidant styles, and rebalancing towards a more secure form of attachment. This has huge benefits, such as:
Increasing the joy we can experience in relationships
Improving our physiology as the expectation of more trauma subsides
Allowing our nervous systems to return to their parasympathetic state.
These benefits in turn have huge impact on our health as we are no longer on alert when in love and can relax into the arms of our loved ones and really feel deep, meaningful, secure love.
We know so much more about the way the subconscious mind works and how to harness its power to heal and reverse old limiting beliefs.
With support, those who have experienced attachment trauma can heal. Recognising your attachment style and it’s causes will help you build your relationships, set clear boundaries and improve your life.
Get in touch
Contact Louisa Hope at Therapy Knutsford for a free, confidential discovery call on 07510 714447 or visit therapyknutsford.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All sessions include follow-up support. More