It’s what men go through in lieu of menopause.
The term was popularized by Lisa Bloch and Kathy Silverman, writers and best friends who noticed that the men in their lives—and the lives of their friends—were changing.
Midlife wasn’t bringing them greater intimacy and happiness.
Instead, it was hitting their marriages and relationships with a sledgehammer.
We all know the legend of the midlife crisis. Men buy sports cars, get mistresses, and go around in bad sports coats and comb overs, trying to reclaim their youth.
But are midlife crises genuine … or is the idea just a convenient excuse for bad behavior?
Block and Silverman believe they’re genuine. Men go through measurable, significant hormonal changes in midlife, they claim, on a par with female menopause.
The reason so many marriages fall apart at the same time is because biology has really bad timing.
For the average couple, Mom is going through menopause at the same time Dad is going through manopause, while Jack and Jill are horrible teenagers. Everyone is touchy, grumpy, and at the whim of a hormonal cocktail that sends their rational brain scrambling for cover.
Unlike Mom, Dad’s hormones didn’t start doing the polka overnight. Instead, his testosterone levels have been gradually declining over decades. It’s only now that he’s beginning to notice the effects.
His hair is beginning to thin. His paunch is becoming more noticeable. He’s losing muscle mass, and his sex drive isn’t what it used to be. Even though his wife knows he’s just as gorgeous as ever, her opinion isn’t as important as the multitude of messages telling him that being a man requires virility, strength, and endurance.
His worth as a man is tied to his testosterone levels. And as those levels fall, he feels himself fail.
It doesn’t help that challenges at work keep mounting up. He’s beginning to experience problems sleeping, low energy, forgetful moments, and glimmers of depression. He’s losing it, and he can’t figure out why.
There’s no way he’ll go to his doctor, not when his symptoms are so amorphous. Getting his testosterone levels tested might prove he has a problem, and he doesn’t want to have a problem. He wants everything to go back to how it was.
So he does everything he can to challenge the evidence in front of his nose.
He’s not getting older; in his mind, he’s just getting soft. He starts training for a triathlon, buying new clothes, and spending more time going out in the evening. He withdraws emotionally, and there’s nothing his partner can do to draw him out.
He doesn’t want to admit he’s grown to depend on a woman or rely on the comforts of home. He’s on a mission to prove to himself that he’s still got what it takes to be the man he once was: tough, independent, and ready for adventure at the drop of a hat.
No, this isn’t the man you fell in love with.
This is a man who’s scared to death that he won’t be the man you fell in love with ever again.
So what can you do?
He won’t see his doctor. He won’t admit he has a problem. No one can talk to him, not even his pastor or parents. He won’t get within an inch of a therapist. And you have to live with him and his attitude, day in and day out.
Here are three suggestions.
1. Encourage him to open up.
The manopausal man can spend a lot of time on the internet, googling his symptoms and imbibing bad advice.
There are plenty of websites out there that will encourage him to reclaim his masculinity by keeping his wife in her place and reclaiming his authority as dictator of his own personal fiefdom. All it takes is him trying one of those ideas on for size to send shock waves through your relationship.
Conclusion: Trying to navigate manopause on his own is a recipe for disaster. He needs to know that what he’s going through is normal, and help is available. He can look into testosterone replacement therapy with his doctor or try some lifestyle changes.
Understandably, he may feel that you couldn’t possibly understand what he’s going through. You may need to reach out to other male figures in his life for assistance. An older man whom he respects might be just who he needs to coach him through this stage of his life.
2. Keep your boundaries firm.
When he’s feeling terrible, his first instinct can be to lash out at you and make you feel terrible, too.
What better way to remind himself of the control he has over you than by, say, accusing you of flirting with other men? The manopausal man might say horrible things: that the clothes you’re wearing make you look like mutton dressed as lamb, or that you should go find another man if you’re so unhappy with him.
Even though you can be understanding—he must feel pretty terrible inside to say those things to you—you don’t have to stand for it.
Let him know that what he said was not okay. You can tell him you’re available to talk if he wants to open up about how he’s feeling, but it’s not okay to take his feelings out on you. If necessary, leave the room. You don’t have to be his emotional punching bag.
Regardless of what either of you is going through, mutual respect is the bedrock of good relationships. If he refuses to respect you, then you may need to take action.
3. Get him out of his head.
The real issue with manopause is not declining testosterone levels. It’s the amount of time he spends in his head, brooding.
Get him outdoors. Get him active. Schedule outings at least once a week. Go for a picnic or a drive in the country. Ride bikes through the park or hike a new trail. Invite friends and family along so it’s a social event. Surround him with evidence he’s loved, appreciated, and part of something bigger than himself.
Just as with teenagers, the worst thing a manopausal man can do is hole himself up in his room (or man cave) and stare at a screen. Fresh air, exercise, and fun can effect miraculous cures.
The manopausal man isn’t the easiest to live with. You may feel that you’ve lost the man you loved for good. But he’s still in there.
Be patient, reach out to other women going through the same thing, and lean on your own sources of support. Do what you have to do to stay sane and healthy.
And whatever you do, try not to laugh at the comb over. Leave that to the 21-year-old waitress he tries to chat up.