The holidays are a crucible for relationship meltdowns. Loved ones with differing expectations, familial patterns, and needs get together to create a “Hallmark moment.” Even in the best of circumstances, this can be a set up for dysfunction and stress. At midlife, it can be even tougher. I wrote about this in the newly revised edition of The Wisdom of Menopause, which will be available in January 2012.
“It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause. Usually this is attributed to the crazy-making effects of the hormonal shifts occurring in a woman’s body at this time of transition. What is rarely acknowledged or understood is that as these hormone-driven changes affect the brain, they give a woman a sharper eye for inequity and injustice, and a voice that insists on speaking up about them. In other words, they uncover hidden wisdom—and the courage to voice it. As the vision-obscuring veil created by the hormones of reproduction begins to lift, a woman’s youthful fire and spirit are often rekindled, together with long-sublimated desires and creative drives. Midlife fuels those drives with a volcanic energy that demands an outlet.
“If it does not find an outlet—if the woman remains silent for the sake of keeping the peace at home or work, or if she holds herself back from pursuing her creative urges and desires—the result is equivalent to plugging the vent on a pressure cooker: Something has to give. Very often what gives is the woman’s health, and the result will be one or more of the “big three” diseases of postmenopausal women: heart disease, depression, and breast cancer. On the other hand, for those of us who choose to honor the body’s wisdom and to express what lies within us, it’s a good idea to get ready for some boat rocking, which may put long-established relationships in upheaval. Marriage is not immune to this effect.”
And neither are your relationships with other family members.
Your family and friends are bound to respond differently to you as you grow and change. When it comes to these dynamics, change makes people uncomfortable—how will your newly adopted lifestyle affect them? Even changing your hairstyle is enough to stir the pot, sometimes.
So what can you do? Here are some ideas:
- See it for the Petri dish it is. Expect resistance!
- Remind yourself that it’s OK not to be the good girl who sees to everyone’s needs except her own. This goes for any pattern you’re trying to break.
- As you end or update some relationships, you may feel a little sad. That’s OK. Grieve and let go. By doing so, you’ll be protecting your health for years to come.
- Laugh. Bringing humor into a situation almost always eases tension.
- Distance yourself—even if it means skipping the traditional family get together—so you don’t become emotional or stressed by others’ behavior.
I would love to hear about how you’ve established new boundaries as you have grown through the years. Please leave a comment below! Note: Comments are not posted immediately, but often show up in 24 hours or less.