At midlife, men go through physical and psychological changes that can make them – and their families – grumpy, to say the least. To find out how to turn a male partner's aging into a positive experience (really!), FamilyGoesStrong talked with Lisa Friedman Bloch and Kathy Kirtland Silverman, co-authors of "Manopause: Your Guide to Surviving His Changing Life." Excerpts:
So what is manopause?
Lisa:"it's not in the Webster's dictionary. Not yet! But it's in the urban dictionary. ["A time when a man's chemical balance becomes shifted and he has a breakdown and/or becomes an asshole. Symptoms include – irritability, mood swings, thoughts of suicide, depression, over sensitivity, paranoia, and feelings of helplessness. When Mike turned 50, his menopause kicked in and he bought a Corvette and then drove it off a cliff."]
Is manopause a modern phenomenon?
Lisa:A hundred years ago, life expectancy for men was 40-ish. Today it's 80-ish. What is a man to feel? He surely can't throw the football as well. But that doesn't mean that he can't be thriving and having new adventures. We say the second half of the basketball game of life should be more exciting than the first! Our goal is to not only educate but also to almost be a game changer. We want the world to understand this is not something to hide. It has many positive aspects that we should focus on. Manopause can be a wonderful time in life for relationships.
Do all guys go through menopause to some extent?
Lisa:Every man goes through it. Manopause is really the decline of testosterone, beginning at the age of 30, on average. Every man experiences it. It's that clocked with the cultural pressure to be a man – to be heroic, to be invulnerable. It comes at a time when men are feeling a little less strong, a little more vulnerable. And that's the challenge. Our goal is to help them redefine strength and find out who they are.
Kathy:Understanding is one of our goals as well. Certainly in our lives, it has helped us to understand where a man's actions or words are coming from. It helps you take things less personally.
How did you come up with this book idea?
Lisa:Kathy and I have been writers for over 20 years. [Among their joint projects: penning "Gucci: A House Divided," for director Martin Scorsese.] We would have regular lunches with women. The conversations way back were about sippy cups and becoming soccer moms. [Now it's] what's going on with our guys? Everyone was complaining. Kathy and I said, 'This seems to be the topic everybody talks about."
Kathy:There weren't any references for the layperson on this stage of life for men. [We thought], "It's time to start researching how to make this passage in your life better, instead of feeling frustrated and irritated and having conflict in your life."
So how can women help their midlife men?
Lisa:If a man is not really feeling himself, you first have to look at what he's doing. Is he overeating, is he overindulging in drinking, is he not exercising, is he exercising too much? Second of all, understand that we women communicate female, and they hear and act male. And there's a discrepancy there, particularly at a time they want to hide. They don't want to focus on when they're not feeling like themselves. They kind of want to push it aside. They'd like to maintain this feeling that they're strong, and they're powerful, and they're invulnerable. Are we helping them understand their emotion? When you become more educated, you can help your man through it.
A man can't control the stock market or the world economy. Focus on the positives and what he can control. Always praise him on the positive.
Kathy:Men are trained from the time they're very small to stifle their emotions. They can't really define what emotions they're feeling, so we have some tips in there that help a man to learn to express himself. One of the strategies we give you is if you're watching a movie or TV show together, talk about the emotions the characters were feeling.
Lisa:If he can feel empathy, it can help your relationship. If he can't understand how he's feeling, how can he understand how you're feeling? Our goal is to help him become emotionally aware, emotionally intelligent.
What about testosterone replacement therapy?
Kathy: There is some debate in the medical community about whether it is truly 100 percent safe or not because there aren't a lot of long-term studies. We discuss what seems to be the benefits of it — and some of the cautions doctors give.
So what's best about aging?
Lisa:When testosterone begins to decline, they become more emotional. The more that's encouraged, the healthier and happier they'll be.
Kathy:[We want to] help both men and women reframe their definition of what manhood is. Right now it's based a lot on external qualities. [But] a lot of the strength can be internal strength.
Lisa:These guys are sexy. They're better listeners. They're more sensual partners. They're a little more mellow. The guy at 17 wouldn't be caught dead walking through an art gallery. No time, no patience, no interest. We talk at length in the book about true intimacy.
For more about Kathy and Lisa and their book, see themanopauseman.com.
For more stories about the midlife male and your family, read: