What It's Like to Go Through Menopause as a Couple

What It's Like to Go Through Menopause as a Couple

5
 minutes
Jun 22, 2022
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At Evernow, we’re committed to creating more opportunity for discourse around menopause and other aspects of women’s health after 40. For Pride Month, we had the great fortune of talking with longtime partners Deb Kilpatrick, PhD, (Co-Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chair of Evidation Health) and Kacey Fitzpatrick (award-winning architecture and sustainability expert) who have been going through menopause in parallel for the past several years. We spoke with them about what the experience of sharing this life stage has taught them, what they hope to see in future conversations about menopause, and more.

Deb Kilpatrick and Kacey Fitzpatrick

What has it been like (pros and cons) going through menopause as a couple? 

So many pros, so many cons! The pros mostly stem from the fact that one of us was a few years ahead of the other one in terms of going through menopause, so there were many lessons learned with a heaping dose of empathy (and maybe an occasional "I told you so"). The cons can be summed up pretty simply as: 2X the hot flashes, 2X the sleep disruption...and, again, since one of us was a few years ahead of the other one, it can sometimes seem like your household is in menopause for, like, ever.

How do you think bringing more inclusivity to the conversation around menopause could help to shift broader paradigms around midlife?

Regardless of sexual orientation, many women have a shared experience in that some of the biggest milestones of adulthood—from sending your kids to college to caring for aging parents to thinking about your own retirement—are happening at the same time as you are dealing with menopause. It's a lot of change. You find yourself constantly readjusting to a new normal that is quite different for every woman, pointing to the importance of inclusivity in how we talk about, appreciate, and navigate menopause. So, for the discourse around menopause to be truly inclusive it has to start by recognizing just how very different each woman's experience of it really is, alongside an appreciation of the broader context of change women are navigating through at this stage of their lives.

So many of our members say they wish they’d had more open lines of communication about menopause from their parents, older relatives, and even friends. How has sharing this experience (or aspects of it) affected your perception and understanding of it? 

Actually, our female friends do talk about menopause quite a bit, because everybody is dealing with it, and everyone is trying to figure out what someone else has figured out that they haven’t. But never did I imagine that sleep would be the thing we’d spend so much time talking about and trying to solve—how to get to sleep, how to stay asleep, all of it (the only other topic that has come close was how to get your high school senior a spot anywhere in CA to take the ACT/SAT in the middle of a pandemic). Everyone talks about hot flashes, but the sleep disruption thing is also very real, folks.

What’s a product or life hack that’s saving your sanity? 

Deb: I am a big fan of magnesium to help with sleep quality (e.g., products like Calm). And Kacey and I both exercise daily—which I firmly believe really helps with managing all sort of menopausal symptoms. It's not an easy hack, per se, but it works.

Kacey: Daily meditation has been my main life hack for the last decade. But our SleepNumber bed with temperature controls has been a lifesaver for several years now at our house. Honestly, I don't know how either one of us would be making it through menopause without it!

What do you wish someone had told you about menopause?

Despite having been physically active our whole lives, as a college athlete (Kacey) and a bioengineer (Deb), neither of us honestly had any idea that menopause would bring so many negative changes to joint strength and function. Both of us have really had to evolve how we exercise and how we recover—and even so, we’ve both dealt with more injuries in the last several years than we would ever have guessed.

If you could name one book, show, or podcast that’s speaking to where you’re at, what would it be?

Deb: I am a bike-commute podcast-listener, so I listen to a wide variety...but the three that are talking to me right now are: Oprahdemics , the Ongoing History of New Music, and, of course, the podcast godmother Terry Gross' FreshAir. Terry Gross could read restaurant menus, and I’d subscribe.

Kacey: OK, well, if Deb gets 3, so do I. I really love Krista Tippett’s On Being, and Design Matters with Debbie Millman is a must-listen for anyone in the design field. And then there is The Tim Ferriss Show, which is reliably interesting on any given day.

Do you have any new role models for this decade?

She's hardly a *new* role model, but we all owe Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg an ongoing debt for her lifetime of contribution to gender equality. In terms of new role models for the 2020s, we’d vote for the legions of nurses, doctors, and COVID-researchers during the pandemic as well as the scientists and engineers studying climate change. They've all had to just...keep...going in the face of incredible challenges to their work, and in so many cases, their own physical and mental health. May we all have that kind of resilience.