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My wife is going through menopause and has almost become a different person, much more emotional and difficult to predict. What can I do to help?

Like pregnancy and childbirth, menopause is one of those conditions that is unique to women, leaving men feeling out of control and more than a little helpless.

Menopause is the time when a woman’s childbearing years come to an end. During this time, her hormone levels fluctuate, resulting in severe mood swings and other uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes and weight gain.

This stage of life is very difficult for women, and can also be challenging for husbands who are often on the receiving end of these symptoms. But there are things you can do as a husband to help your wife cope with menopause.

Realize that it won’t last forever. The most severe symptoms of menopause usually only last about a year or two, though the entire transition can last for as long as eight years. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, so keep that in mind on days when your patience wears thin or when you start to feel too helpless.

Remind her how much you love her. During menopause women tend to feel less feminine as their estrogen level decreases and as they cope with symptoms like hot flashes and weight gain. Go out of your way to make your wife feel loved and beautiful. Compliment her on how she looks, plan date nights and take time for little displays of affection.

Accept the mood swings. Whether it’s crabbiness from lack of sleep due to hot flashes or a hormone-driven mood swing, expect your partner to be somewhat less than pleasant during menopause. These changes in temperament can happen in an instant and with no cause, so the key is to be flexible, to give space when you can and try not to take things personally.

Be patient in the bedroom. During menopause, sex can be uncomfortable and even painful for women, so expect your wife not to be too interested in bedroom activities. Your best bet is to be patient and not press the issue if she is not in the mood.

—Dr. Gary Brickner, RWJ Center for Women’s Health

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to