The following information comes from the book MALE MENOPAUSE by Jed Diamond. I have reviewed this book because I perceive a real need for awareness of this information. I consider knowledge of this information to be extremely important for everyone who is a man, knows a man, cares about a man, is married to a man, or is involved with a man. For additional information read this excellent book, and/or its sequel SURVIVING MALE MENOPAUSE. Also, check out additional books we carry at Fox Paw.
Linda Allen, owner
Generally men donít discuss their genitals, their stomachs, or their hair. I have yet, however, to find a man who will deny having reached puberty. If they reached puberty, there are changes that their bodies and minds will go through, usually between the ages of 40 and 55. These changes are NOT optional, and they are NOT a choice - they will happen to every man.
Awareness of the changes that occur at the midpoint of a mans life is not understood in this country because it is not discussed, it is not acknowledged as being real, and it is rarely written about. The fact that we donít even have a name for this process speaks a great deal about a country that is in both denial, and one that is obsessed with youth.
In Europe this time of a manís life is called Andropause; in Great Britain it is called Viropause. In both, there continues to be ongoing research, published literature, public awareness, and even medical practices devoted entirely to the understanding and serving of this period of life. In the United States, the midlife time of life is loosely referred to as "Midlife Crisis", or "Male Menopause", and there is still even debate about its validity. It IS valid, it IS real, and it needs to be acknowledged, discussed, and understood. We can begin by referring to it as Midlife Passage.
The Midlife Passage begins with chemical, hormonal, and physical body changes. These changes will affect all aspects of a manís life, and, subsequently, the lives of every woman and child who loves him. It is a physical condition, with psychological, interpersonal, social and spiritual impacts. Again, these changes are not optional, and will happen to every man. It makes sense to know something about them to better understand and be able to handle them when the time comes. Many men suffer acutely and needlessly because they havenít had access to the information they need to understand the symptoms.
Beginning around age 40, for some as early as 20, there are EIGHT major body chemicals that begin to slow in their production. Results of the decrease in production of these chemicals can trigger:
Difficulty reading small print
Less physical endurance
Longer recovery time from illness or injury
Changes in sleep patterns and night sweats
Weight gain around the middle
Graying and/or thinning hair
A more frequent need to urinate
Changes and concerns regarding sexuality, both interest and
Other frequent experiences are:
Episodes of forgetfulness and memory loss
Feeling depressed, withdrawn, or lonely
Mood swings and/or irritability
Being short tempered, cranky, and quicker to anger
There just donít seem to be the "highs" in life anymore
There can also be:
Anxiety about the future
A general discontent with life
A dissatisfaction with accomplishments
Loss of self-confidence and reluctance to try new things
Also impacting their lives about this same time, their children are leaving, parents are dying, job horizons are narrowing, friends are having their first heart attacks, and there becomes an awareness of hopes unrealized, opportunities not grasped, women not bedded, and potentials not fulfilled. Suddenly the future is a confrontation with oneís own mortality.
It would be easy to feel that this Mid-life Passage is the road to oblivion, and the end of sexual power, but for those who have the courage to understand this period of life, it can become the most passionate, powerful, productive, and purposeful time of a manís life.
If men knew as much about their bodies as they do about their cars, theyíd be a lot better off. Just knowledge of the above listed changes that will take place in a mans body, and understanding that these changes are perfectly normal, and will happen to every man, can relieve fear when they do start happening.
Regular physical examinations and communication with a doctor is no longer optional if a man wants to maintain optimum body health as he grows older. Tests are available through doctors that can confirm chemical and hormonal changes. Enhancing production of the diminishing chemicals can be as simple as changes in diet and exercise, herbal supplements, and naturopathy, or there is the option through a doctor to take chemical replacements to keep the body balanced and comfortable. In some cases hormone replacement is available, though this may be associated with a risk of increasing prostate disease.
Some men may opt for "roughing it" through this passage. If this is the decision, itís extremely important for them to understand the changes that will be taking place in both the body and the mind. They will need to be aware of changes as they begin happening, and remember that what they are experiencing is perfectly normal. It needs to be remembered, however, that the bodyís chemical changes CAN trigger some difficult and very serious situations that could require temporary medical intervention. They need to allow this to be okay if itís indicated. Men need to be easy on themselves and those who love them during this transition.
Unfortunately, increasing numbers of men are finding themselves entering into this phase of their lives with no knowledge that it exists, and having no idea of the changes that are beginning to happen to them. The normal changes in chemistry and hormone levels cause their bodies to begin changing in appearance and to feel different. They may find themselves bored with their jobs, dissatisfied with their lives, restless and discontent. They just donít seem to experience the "highs" in life anymore. To others they can become cranky, moody, and sullen, and appear distant and preoccupied. Anything at all can annoy them. As if this isnít enough, a chemically induced clinical depression can be triggered as well, as a result of changing body chemistry. Life can easily become overwhelming, and fear can set in.
Itís easy for a guy to feel like heís starring in a bad TV movie that has no commercials, and never goes off the air. To counteract these feelings, and in an attempt to gain a little control over his now apparent out of control life, a man may go out and buy a red car or have an affair. Doing things like this triggers a Seratonin serge (the bodyís "feel good/satisfaction/fulfillment" chemical that is now in shorter supply), and for a short time he gets to experience a "life high" again. Some men quit their job, go back to school, change careers, or decide to sail around the world. Others decide to leave their wife and children, and move out of the house to be alone to try to "find themselves."
At this point, a man is putting himself at risk of losing everyone he loves, everything that has any meaning to him, and everything heís worked toward his entire life. This scenario is being played out now in epidemic proportions, as the huge number of baby boomers turn 50. THESE are the men that need to be reached. These men need to be assured that what they are feeling and experiencing is normal, and allow themselves to not only live through, but thrive through, this transition without making decisions they may later regret.
With awareness of the experiences of the midlife passage, and proper oversight by a physician knowledgeable about the physical, chemical, psychological, and spiritual changes that happen in a manís body, this transition can be experienced comfortably. This time is an opportunity for one of the most fulfilling and enriching periods of a manís life, that can be experienced comfortably and purposefully with support from family, friends, and loved ones.
People are realizing that they no longer have to accept that from middle age on their health, mind, appearance, and quality of life must deteriorate. The midlife passage can prepare both men and women for a life where love and intimacy are linked with sexuality in ways that were not possible in the earlier years when sexuality was driven by the desire to reproduce and raise children. Sexual union can become a slow, lingering, peaceful sex, celebrated with someone they love.
At the turn of the Century our average life expectancy was 50 years. Now itís nearly double that. Continuing scientific discoveries allow us to live longer, healthier and more sexually fulfilling lives than ever before. However, without a strong purpose for the second half of life men can feel unnecessary and useless.
The first half of our lives we meet everyone elseís needs and expectations of us - our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends, our spouse, and our children. In the middle of life we have the opportunity to reevaluate who we are, where we are, and what weíre doing. Is our current life situation nurturing our soul and enriching our spirit? What brings us joy? Are we where we want to be, doing what we want to be doing? Are we fulfilling our passion?
Itís at this time of life that a lot of changes are often made Ė a change of career, or going back to school for a degree in what we REALLY want to be doing. Many people experience an increasing social awareness, and feel a need to be giving back to humanity, to be doing something "worthwhile," to have their life stand for something.
The decision to parent is a lifetime choice. Financial support may be required until a child reaches 18 or 21, but emotional support and parenting should go on the entire lifetime. Everyone needs parents, or adult mentors, for support, encouragement, and advice - adult children especially. As children begin adult lives and having children of their own, their lives quickly become encumbered with the survival and financial demands of employment and maintaining a household.
At this point the role of grandparent becomes very critical in our society. Adult children need continued parenting and emotional support through the demands of this stressful period of life. Grandparents, having arrived at a less demanding time, have more time to spend with grandchildren. They finally have time to do the really important things, like holding, just being there, a trip to the zoo, baking cookies, reading stories together, mending a fence, going on a picnic, a trip to the beach -Ėmaybe even vacation together. These are the things that take time - time that parents struggle to find because of the impact of the demands of survival. Adult children continue to need to be parented, to be loved, supported, nurtured and cared for, and grandchildren need the time, attention, knowledge and wisdom they can only receive from their grandparents.
Increasingly, however, this is not the case. Many men entering into their midlife years, abandon their wives and children, frequently marry a much younger woman, and often move away. Many decide to parent again, and now have children the ages of their grandchildren. With the focus now on their new life, and perhaps the distance between them, their older children are no longer being parented, and their grandchildren miss the nurturing of a grandparent. We become a society without adult male mentors.
Fathers are missing, grandfathers are missing, and young people have no adult male mentors to learn from, and to help lead them into their first adulthood. As young boys look around, they see paunchy, gray haired, 50 year old men that are chasing skirts, and wonder, rightfully, "is this all there is?í These young peopleís regard for life, quality of life, and maturing, is sabotaged.
Without male mentors, these young men are left to try to initiate themselves into adulthood, to try to prove themselves men. They can easily become hooked on behaviors that donít work, which result in addictions, carelessness, rage, and violence. Young men search for their self-worth, which can only come to them when they are honored, recognized, and appreciated by an older male. They need the presence of adult men in their lives who can honor their emerging manhood.
Without proper adult role models, young men donít have a chance of emerging into healthy adult men. Without active involvement of adult men in our society, children will continue to feel lost, and feel increasingly ashamed to be part of the human race. Without mentors in our society we end up with confusion, rudeness, and violence in our young people. They feel there is no hope for the future, and they have no desire to grow older. Guns, violence and killing become their way to speak out and solve problems. More and more they are choosing to kill and to die. Sound familiar?
Many midlife men are looking for the fathering they never received as children and young people. In the act of nurturing and mentoring young men, midlife men can become the fathers they have been seeking their entire life, and can move closer to becoming the men they always wanted to be.
There are also a lot of middle aged men who are unfulfilled emotionally and spiritually, and start asking the same question as the young men - "Is this all there is?" This is especially the case for those whose life is beginning to feel a lot like a rerun, when all they did was bring their personal unrest into another environment. Theyíve been there before, and the changes they made didnít really change anything. Itís "inner" work that needs to be done, not "outer." Itís themselves they need to feel good about. Itís about pride, fulfillment and inner peace, a feeling of being on the path, of mindfulness and satisfaction.
Each of us is a special being, and each must find the place where we belong. Each passage we move through has the ability to free us to be more fully alive, more fully ourselves, to know our purpose, to fulfill our dreams, and to discover our place in the community of all spirits.