Original Post Monday, March 28, 2022 Midset Health. Written by Christina Sexton Medically reviewed by Dr Anthony Tang BClinSc MHSc (Osteopathy)
If you’re aged in your 40s or 50s and feeling angry at your husband, chances are your menopause symptoms have something to do with it. We’re not talking about the little passing moments where you just had a bad day or your husband did that thing he always does that drives you crazy and you lost it a bit (or a lot)—it happens.
But if you’re experiencing menopause symptoms and feeling a deep inner rage to the point of exploding at your partner on the regular, there’s probably more to it. Support and answers are available via talk therapy, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and a host of other options that could dial down your anger and lessen your mood swings.
And for husbands on the receiving end of an angry wife, learn more about how a little empathy goes a long way.
Why you’re angry at your husband
We’re all aware of the taboos surrounding menopause. It’s a topic many women shy away from discussing in great detail with their husbands, often out of a (misguided) sense of shame.
He might have noticed (and empathized over) your more noticeable menopause symptoms. But the ones flying under the radar, which are possibly causing you the most grief, could be passing him by. So, he may be a little bewildered at your sudden rages (we know—this probably only enrages you more).
Directing anger towards your husband could be a sign of your resistance to menopause in general. You know it’s a natural part of life, but it’s also a sign you’re starting a new chapter.
If you’re just entering perimenopause, you might be feeling deep trepidation about what’s to come. You’ve heard the rumors about hot flashes being a nightmare, as well as vaginal dryness, brain fade, thinning hair, and a host of other frustrating symptoms.
Menopause discrimination in the workplace is unfortunately a very real experience for many women. For other women, the onset of menopause is deeply intertwined with fertility, which could be causing tension with your partner. Even if you weren’t planning on a baby at this stage, your body telling you you don’t have a choice can bring a plethora of emotions to the surface and put an uncomfortable spotlight on your relationship.
And then there’s the weight gain that many women experience during menopause, often with the extra pounds settling right on your midsection where you don’t want it. A new body, one that is still unfamiliar to you, could be adding to the anger (or straight-up rage) you’re feeling towards your husband
How menopause impacts your mood
Menopause is a physical and mental journey that can have a significant impact on your mood, as well as your marriage.
Fluctuating levels of estrogen during your transition to menopause may be contributing to your new volatility. This is because estrogen helps regulate the feel-good hormone serotonin, as well as other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which can all affect your mood.
Vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, heart palpitations night sweats) have also been closely linked to declining estradiol (an estrogen hormone), as well as psychological factors like insomnia and anxiety.
These symptoms combined could disrupt your life in a myriad of ways—including your relationships and the way you’re communicating with your partner right now.
The Australasian Menopause Society says mood disturbances in menopause tend towards increased anger and irritability and less towards sadness. They describe it as an ‘on-off’ phenomenon, with your rage lasting for a few minutes or even hours before it spontaneously resolves, somewhat similar to pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
If your mood swings are getting too much for both you and your husband, research has shown that hypnotherapy may improve your mood and reduce stress. As hypnotherapy can also help with other menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, your anger might dial down overall and help re-set your relationship.
Mental health and marriage
Your mental health, along with your marriage, may be challenged during menopause.
Perimenopause, which can last for up to 10 years for some women, is when mental illness is particularly prevalent, with researchers referring to perimenopause as “a window of vulnerability” for depression.
The risk of serious depression increases significantly during this time. And as the severity of your mood can fluctuate wildly, diagnosing what’s happening becomes more complex.
Along with the rage directed at your husband, other potential symptoms you may experience from perimenopause that could be impacting your marriage include:
decreased interest in sex
The good news, however, is researchers have found that most women with perimenopausal depression, in particular, respond to treatment interventions.
Chat to your doctor about whether your changing mood is connected to depression and if antidepressants can help your situation. If you’re experiencing depressive symptoms (possibly disguised as rage at your husband), treatment usually begins with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors are often a second-line drug option if these aren't effective. However, scientists caution that both can have agitating, adverse effects. And they may exacerbate your symptoms, particularly if you have perimenopausal insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. Agomelatine is another antidepressant option that has a positive sedative impact and fewer side effects for perimenopausal depression. But meet with your doctor to discuss what’s right for you.
In no mood for sex
Menopause symptoms and sex aren’t a match made in heaven for many women. If you’re dealing with problematic symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes, no wonder getting sweaty by choice is the furthest thing from your mind—and why there might be some extra tension between you and your husband. Research shows that around 50% of women report low sexual desire during menopause.
This is largely due to the hormone changes you’re experiencing—as your estrogen drops, so does your libido. Another common menopause symptom is vaginal dryness. Similar to your lower sex drive, this is usually caused by depleted estrogen levels, which helps maintain your vagina’s elasticity and lubrication.
Additionally, your testosterone levels go down as you age, which could impact your interest in sex right now too. So, if your husband is making a move, sex could feel so unthinkable to you that it quickly turns to anger—and your latest argument. Not-for-profit health organization Jean Hailes says fear of sex with your husband could be adding to the stress and anger you’re directing his way.
Fearing sexual intimacy could be setting up a negative pain cycle: you fear sex, avoid sex, get frustrated, then the sex hurts more. Their advice is to treat the physical symptoms first, such as looking into HRT or lubricants and moisturizers to help with vaginal dryness.
Treating the physical problems could help lower your anxiety and stress and better your overall mood. In turn, this may improve your relationship with your husband, or at least take the edge off your arguments.
If the anger you feel towards your husband is growing more fierce by the day, it could be a result of a hormonal imbalance that HRT may help manage. Even if you and your partner are at your wit’s end with each other, we know HRT still gives many women pause.
The HRT backlash first kicked off over 30 years ago. Researchers from a comprehensive long-term study thought HRT increased women’s risk for health concerns like heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer.
Here’s where things got confusing:
The scientists had been trying to determine if HRT could prevent women aged 50 to 79 from various illnesses. What they weren’t studying were the benefits of HRT as a short-term treatment for menopause symptoms for women in their 40s and 50s. But it was too late, and many women ended their HRT. Game over.
But, stick with us.
Since this time, the data has been reanalyzed, and it was revealed the original HRT research led to exaggerated risks for women (and a lot of unnecessary suffering).
According to the British Menopause Society, HRT provides more benefits than risks when treating symptoms (like a mood imbalance) for women under 60 years of age or within 10 years of menopause.
This off-kilter feeling (or seething anger or depression, depending on your individual experience) could be what’s causing the extra conflict with your partner, and talking with your doctor about whether HRT is suitable for you could be a good first step.
Even if an unnatural anger towards your husband is your only symptom or the one causing you the most concern—don’t dismiss what’s going on.
The anger you feel towards your husband could signify something bigger, and HRT could potentially help you course-correct your relationship by improving your mood imbalance.
From supplements to therapy, there’s a range of options that can help get your relationship back on track and potentially lessen the anger you’re feeling towards your husband.
St John’s wort is a natural supplement derived from a wild flowering plant that might get your mood (and relationship) back on track. It can be taken as a pill or brewed as a tea.
St John’s wort has been known to have a positive effect on menopausal mood swings, as well as helping with your anxiety. However, if you think you have severe rather than mild depression, this might not be the option for you.
Yoga is more than just a way to get a good stretch, and several studies have shown that yoga is effective for reducing menopausal symptoms.
Researchers found that the stretching and relaxation techniques in yoga can help elevate and stabilize your mood and improve your quality of life during menopause, which might help with the anger you’re feeling.
Whether you go to a class or carve out some time to practice yoga in your living room, it could also become an ideal go-to when you need a time-out from your husband if things are getting particularly heated. A more vigorous power yoga session could help release some of that anger.
Talking things out with a professional might help you determine if there’s more going on. It can also give you the tools to manage your menopause-induced anger a little better.
Whatever your motivation, either seeking out a psychotherapist on your own or with your husband could be an essential intervention.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has also been proven to help with anxiety and mood swings. It can also help build your resilience and change thinking patterns about you and your partner.
The husband survival toolkit
For husbands and partners unsure about who this new person sleeping (or trying to sleep) next to you is, a bit of acknowledgment and understanding can go a long way.
For starters, physical menopause symptoms can be incredibly debilitating. Your wife might be sweating through the day with hot flashes—if you’ve seen her experience these, you know they’re no joke. And when they happen at an unfortunate time, it can give rise to feelings of deep shame and embarrassment, as well as discomfort.
Scientists have shown that menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood disorders can go hand in hand. So, know that she’s probably trying to manage a lot right now, and the anger she’s (unfortunately) directing your way is because of a whole range of reasons and frustrations that are out of her control.
Insomnia and interrupted sleep are common menopause symptoms. She may also be stealing the duvet one minute with chills and throwing it back onto you if night sweats kick in.
This could explain why your wife is a bit on edge (or in full-blown rage mode) before the alarm has even gone off. Issues like bladder incontinence are experienced by 50% of postmenopausal women—sometimes all it takes is a tiny sneeze and she’s running to the bathroom. And she’s more prone to bladder infections now too. This might be something she’s uncomfortable sharing with a partner.
So, these types of symptoms could be impacting every aspect of her life—her work, her relationships with friends, and her marriage. She can’t just shrug it off.
We know husbands are likely to bear the brunt of the mood swings and anger, but patience and empathy could make a huge difference.
The Wrap Up
If you’ve been directing angry outbursts towards your husband lately, menopause could be to blame for this new rage. Fluctuating estrogen levels in menopause can make a huge impact on your overall mood, and potentially exacerbate your other symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety. And when you feel the rage rising, often your husband becomes an easy target.
However, support, tools, and answers are available, such as HRT, antidepressants, and talk therapy. And for husbands feeling unsure about how to best support their partners, know that a little empathy goes a long way.
Support for your relationship is available. Both you and your partner can navigate this together with professional help. Please register to get started. Our online Mens Group will be starting March 2023; make sure to get signed up.