We live inside our own mind and body and look out from the inside. It may be that the only time a man looks at his own outside or studies his mirror image is early in the morning when he shaves. Yet, what of his partner who sees him as he is? What of their relationship, which may be significantly altered by his aging? Perhaps the man returns home in the evening and to his wife he looks tired and slightly puffy; he needs a shave, and although the gray in his hair lends distinction, she sees him and knows him as the age that he is, which is fine, because she is aware of her aging appearance as well. He, in contrast, may perceive his wife’s appearance only in relation to her age and how she looks. He may never relate it to his own aging self. When he does, it shocks the daylights out of him!
Some people seem to think that appearance is the main attraction for men, whereas women seek sensitivity and intellectual depth. Often, in some mature relationships, the wife sees her husband as powerful and bright. When the husband sees his aging wife, however, he may see in her changed appearance a reflection of his own altered image and see the enemy—old age—approaching. This perception is not the wife’s fault; it is merely a fact of life. Sometimes a man leaves his wife, and the only explanation he can give her is, “When I’m with you I feel old.” It’s a tragic response to years of loyalty and commitment, yet the need to run surges forth from deep within the man. It is comprised of unexpressed fears and emotions that have been buried so deep within him for so long that even he cannot tap their source. In an odd way, and without knowing why, his answer may be close to the whole truth.
What else about his partner reminds him of change that is scary? Apart from her somewhat changed external appearance, there are behavioral changes that occur in direct relation to her body’s biochemical changes that may also influence his perception. The thinning of her vaginal lining and painful intercourse may begin to intrude upon their sexual relationship. Changing bed linen or clothing in the middle of the night becomes the result of sweaty hot flashes instead of steamy sex. Add the fact that the man may be having an increasing problem with obtaining and maintaining an erection. Imagine the hesitation he feels at even trying to have intercourse with his wife when he realizes that she is enduring discomfort. They both know that sex should be enjoyable, not physically or emotionally painful. So he may just stop trying to relate sexually to her, and she may not object.
Meanwhile during the male’s daily activities at work or at play, if he is exuding the charisma of money or power, he may attract younger women. They make him feel good by subconsciously enabling him to project a longer and healthier future for himself. With problems at home that he doesn’t understand or relate to, he enters into a relationship that he did not initially chase or choose.
It is fair, then, to say that one part of the male’s awareness of the problems in his life is triggered by a woman’s menopause. This is not to lay responsibility on a woman for a man’s crisis, but it is to say that a woman’s changes in midlife are noticed by a man, and he cannot help but begin to examine the changes that are occurring in his own life at this time.
Sadly, much of the marital disillusionment, discord, and dissolution that occur when otherwise good marriages become shaky, around the time of menopause, are fully preventable. The problems must be recognized for what they are. You can work through the problems once you understand them, rather than abandoning the relationship or continuing the infidelity. The solution to the problems lies in open, honest communication.