Memory lapses are a lesser-known - but, nonetheless, common - menopause symptom. Women are often inclined to internalize and dismiss menopausal “brain fogs” as unimportant simply because the symptom is not a physically visible one, but the effects of memory loss (e.g., struggling to absorb, process, and recall information, having difficulty concentrating, and absentmindedness) are likely to put strain on the relationship with your partner. Internalizing your struggles is only going to make this worse; the key to a healthy, honest relationship is communication, so it's important to discuss your brain fogs with your partner.
Choose Your Moment
You're unlikely to have an open, calm conversation if you try to explain your memory lapses in the middle of an argument with your partner about an absentminded mistake. Choose an intimate, relaxed moment where you both have ample time to talk about what you're going through calmly. Try to have specific examples of memory lapses in mind prior to the chat to demonstrate your points.
Include your partner in the discussion by beginning with sentences like “You may have noticed I've been struggling to concentrate recently,” which make it obvious that you are aware of the repercussions your symptoms have on your partner as well as yourself.
The fact that memory lapses don't exhibit physical symptoms can make them feel less real to some women, but the fact is brain fogs are biological menopause symptoms, caused primarily by hormonal activity.
Estrogen is a hormone that affects the cognitive functions as well as reproductive ones. When a woman is in her forties and early fifties, estrogen production declines as the body prepares for menopause. This causes a hormonal imbalance that can impact short-term memory, making concentration, adaptation to changes in routine, and processing, storing, and consciously retrieving information difficult. Other menopause symptoms, such as fatigue and depression, can also worsen brain fogs. Explain this to your partner - using this article if it helps - to help them make sense of your experience and understand it.
There are a number of natural remedies for memory lapses, but some of these can be shared with your partner to make them less of a chore and bring you closer as a couple. These include:
Learning a new skill
Keeping your mind agile is the best way to stimulate and improve the cognitive functions. Try learning a musical instrument or a foreign language.
Word puzzles and mental arithmetic stimulate the mind and have been found to improve short-term memory.
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise enhances mental function and improves memory over time.
Board games and card games
These stimulate the mind and strengthen concentration skills.
Asking your partner to share in your experience of these activities will also give you regular, precious time together, which - given the pressures of daily life - is not always easy.
The thought of explaining memory lapses to your partner might seem daunting, but if you are armed with specific examples, information about menopausal brain fogs, and ideas of ways to combat it, there's nothing to be afraid of. It's likely your partner will have already recognized something amiss and be pleased you are being open and honest about it. Combating your memory loss with your partner by your side will help you to view brain-stimulating activities as fun “couple time”, rather than a chore.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2010). Coping with Memory Loss. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm107783.htm
- Greendale, G.A. , Derby, C.A. & Maki, P.M. (2012). Perimenopause and Cognition. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America, 38(3), 519-535. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.007
- Henderson, V.W. (2008). Cognitive Changes after Menopause: Influence of Estrogen. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 51(3), 618-626. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10
- Uchida, S. & Kawashima, R. (2008). Reading and solving mental arithmetic problems improves cognitive functions of normal aged people: a randomized controlled study. Age, 30(1), 21-29 doi: 10.1007/s11357-007-9044-x