Male Menopause: The Hidden Cause of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown

“If menopause is the silent passage,” says author Gail Sheehy, “Male menopause is the unspeakable passage. It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.” When I started doing research on what I came to call “male menopause” in 1995, I had never heard of Gail Sheehy. I just knew I was having difficulty with erections, my libido was way down, I was more irritable and had less energy, and my marriage was in danger of going under.

I also knew that I wasn’t the only one who was having problems. When I told people I was doing research on men between the ages of 35 and 65 and the changes they were going through, I began to get e-mails from people describing what they were experiencing.

“I know I’ve been struggling with all facets of my life lately,” said 34-year-old Rob. “Everything from not enjoying the things I have always enjoyed, to losing my latest girlfriend over unknown reasons of which erectile dysfunction at some level was a factor. I have had problems with just everyday living, confusion, and lack of direction in my life. I happened to come across an article you wrote. Wow! What an enlightenment. Just knowing what is happening is a major relief and reduction in a very high level of anxiety. What do I know now?”

I also heard from women who were describing how these changes were impacting the man in their lives.

“I have just discovered your website, and was referred to it by a friend who knows the man I live with. He is 48-years-old and has been getting more and more frustrated, irritable, angry, and depressed over the last year. He’s had all kinds of tests. One doctor thought he might have ADD and he’s taking medications for that, thinking it might help. It hasn’t. After reading about the symptoms of male menopause, I’m convinced that this is his problem. But I’m having trouble getting him to get checked out for that. Can you help?”

[Read more…]

Male-Type Depression: The Second Hidden Cause of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown

I have a particular interest in preventing mid-life marriage meltdown, a problem that is becoming I increasingly prevalent today. My first marriage came to an end when I was 33 years old. We had two children and had thought our marriage would last forever.  I healed the wounds of love and loss and eventually fell in love again. My second marriage lasted less than three years.

As a psychotherapist and marriage and family counselor, I felt guilty and ashamed that I was counseling others on what should work to insure a happy marriage and joyful life, but I couldn’t seem to make it work in my own life. Before trying again, I vowed to learn the secrets of real, lasting love. I read everything I could find from the experts. I went into therapy myself to learn how my past wounds from childhood created a faulty love map and caused so many of us to lose our way.

I’m happy to say I found what I was looking for. I met and married Carlin and she and I have been joyfully married now for 37 years. But we are the exceptions. Not only do 50% of first marriages end in divorce, but 66% of second marriages don’t make it, and 73% of third marriages fail.

I’m offering two free webinars on the 3 Hidden Causes of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 5:30 PM Pacific time. I’ll cover the same information on April 27th at 5:30 pm in order to accommodate different time zones. Please sign up for the one that works best for you.

Thursday, April 20th at 5:30 pm PT: Register here.
Thursday, April 27th at 9:00 am PT: Register here.

Mid-life can be the best time to be married. We are not so caught up with children and work. It’s a time we can really enjoy each other and be true partners as we age. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” These words by the poet Robert Browning capture what a lot of us long for as we move into mid-life and beyond. However, as a marriage and family counselor I see too many relationships fall apart, just when the couple could be enjoying their lives the most. I see too many people that want to start again, but they are afraid of what they might face. [Read more…]

Irritable Male Syndrome: The First Hidden Cause of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Charles Dickens could have been describing mid-life marriage instead of the times leading up to the French Revolution in his epic 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Whether we are in our first marriage when we approach our 40s, 50s, and 60s (We are living longer and longer so mid-life extends through three decades), or whether we have been married previously, mid-life is a turbulent time and marriage can be difficult.

I suspect there may be two kinds of people in the world—Those who watch Dr. Phil and those who don’t. My wife is one who does and I’m one who doesn’t. That’s not unusual. 82% of those who watch Dr. Phil are women and only 18% are men. More than half the viewers are between the ages of 35 and 64.

For more than 40 years, I’ve been helping mid-life men and women prevent mid-life marriage meltdown. When I began writing this article I looked up “Mid-life Marriage Meltdown” on Google and found this interesting 1-minute promo to a Dr. Phil episode.

The show speaks to a number of issues I deal with daily in my practice as a therapist and marriage and family counselor:

  • Increased relationship stress and disconnection.
  • One person saying or feeling, “I love you but I’m not in love with you anymore.
  • Betrayals that cause the marriage to enter melt-down mode.
  • Regret and a desire to repair the marriage and heal the wounds.

What is rarely discussed are the underlying causes of these problems. Surprisingly, I’ve found that often the hidden causes are related to unresolved men’s issues including the following: [Read more…]

Why Is My Husband So Mean to Me?

For more than 40 years I have been helping men and the women who love them. In recent years, more and more women are contacting me who are concerned about their husband’s anger and how its impacting their lives. Here’s how one woman described her confusion and concern:

“For about a year now, I have gradually felt my husband of twenty-two years pulling away from me and our family. He has become more sullen, angry, and mean. The thing that bothers me the most is how unaffectionate he has become. My husband used to be the most positive, upbeat, funny person I knew. Now it’s like living with an angry brick. I want my husband back. Can you help us?”

I developed a quiz for men and for women who were asking why the man in their lives had suddenly become more irritable and angry. It was eventually filled out by more than 60,000 men and women. When the results were in, I thought of writing a book titled The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. This seemed to capture the way a man could change from being loving and supportive to being angry and mean.

In reminded me of the novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, written in 1886, titled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The novella’s impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the very phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” coming to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next.

Another woman described her husband’s changes in similar terms. “My husband’s personality suddenly changed from my funny, loving Dr. Jekyll into an angry, resentful, and controlling Mr. Hyde. He grew increasingly angry with me and seemed to withdraw from our marriage. I just can’t be happy staying at home, especially when I’m slapped in the face with a bunch of criticism and anger. What is going on here?”

But though the transformation from “Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean” was clear, there was still a mystery about what causes the change. My first clue about the root cause of this shift came from a Scottish biologist in Edinburgh, Dr. Gerald Lincoln, who was studying the impact of hormonal changes on animal mood and behavior. He found when testosterone levels dropped the animals became irritable, ill-tempered, and edgy. These were some of the same symptoms I was seeing in my own work. [Read more…]

Testosterone: 10 Surprising Things Every Woman and Man Needs to Know

In her book, Eve’s Rib:  The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine Marianne J. Legato M.D says, “Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.” To begin with there are 10 trillion cells in the human body and every one of them is sex specific. The poet, Robert Bly, glimpsed this scientific truth when he wrote that boys need to be in the company of older men “in order to hear the sound that male cells sing.”

Until recently scientists believed that our genomes were 99.9% identical from one person to the next. “It turns out that this assertion is correct,” says David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),  “as long as the two individuals being compared are both men.  It’s also correct if the two individuals being compared are both women.”  New research from Dr. Page’s lab shows that the genetic difference between a man and a woman are 15 times greater than the genetic difference between two men or between two women.

One of the most significant differences is in our levels of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is often called the “male” hormone. However, both men and women produce this hormone.  Did you know?

  1. Men have 20 to 40 times more testosterone (T) than do women.

This is one reason why our sex drives are so different. Men don’t think about sex all the time as some people believe, but we do think about sex, generally, more than women.

  1. Testosterone is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women.

When our sex drive begins to diminish as we age, the problem may be low T in men and women. Many women, and men, don’t realize that testosterone is important in keeping a woman’s sexual desire up.

  1. Testosterone can be converted to estrogen, but not the other way around.

[Read more…]

The Woman’s Guide to Men: 6 Things Men Want Women to Know About Sex, Love, and Talking

For nearly 50 years I have been helping women understand the men in their lives and to have relationships that are more joyous and intimate. I’ve been in a men’s group that has been together for 38 years and my wife, Carlin, believe that our 37-year marriage owes a lot to the fact that I’ve been in a men’s group. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what men need and what we wish women knew about us.

I recently wrote, “The Man’s Guide to Women: 5 Things Women Want Men to Know About Fear, Sex, and Love.” Here are six things that men want women to know.

  1. Men do think about sex more often than women, but that’s not all we think about.

There’s a popular myth that men think about sex nearly constantly. This isn’t true. It goes along with another myth that men all men want is sex and that “sex” is synonymous with intercourse. In my article, “The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex,” I said that men want a Save Harbor. Sex isn’t just for making children and giving and receiving pleasure. It’s also for being fully seen, cared for, and nurtured.

Edward O. Laumann, PhD. is a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of a major survey of sexual practices, “The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.” He says, “The majority of adult men under 60 think about sex at least once a day. Only about one-quarter of women say they think about it that frequently. As men and women age, each fantasize less, but men still fantasize about twice as often.”

Sex is the reason all of us are here and sex is a source of great pleasure. But sex is more than just sex. For men, sex is our safe harbor, a place we can be taken in, loved, and cherished.

  1. There are important differences between males and females.

[Read more…]

The Man’s Guide to Women: 5 Things Women Want Men to Know About Fear, Sex, and Love

For more than 40 years, I’ve been helping men better understand women so they can have more sex and love and fewer fights and tensions. It’s said that we teach what we want to learn and I’ll admit I’m still learning about the wonderful creatures we call women and how to have passionate, peaceful, and joyful relationships with them.

Like many men with absent fathers, I grew up knowing more about women than I did about men. I remember playing in the kitchen while my mother and some of the neighbor ladies talked about their concerns about the men in their lives. They all expressed some degree of disappointment. Some were disappointed that there wasn’t enough closeness in the relationship. Others complained that the men weren’t as successful as they had hoped.

My father was one of the men who wasn’t emotionally close and also had trouble keeping a job. He was a playwright and actor. He and my mother moved to California from New York where he hoped to break into the newly emerging television industry. But jobs were hard to come by and he became more irritable, agitated, and angry. He would also become more withdrawn and depressed.

I’m sure some of the reasons that I became a therapist, specializing in helping men and the women who love them, was to better understand what women want and how men could be better husbands. I also wanted to know what men wanted and how women could become better partners. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years about what women want. [Read more…]

What Men Want More Than Sex But Are Terrified to Admit

My recent article, “The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex” has garnered more than 400,000 readers on the Good Men Project and my own site, MenAlive.com. Given the responses I received, it is a topic that resonates deeply with men and women. Since I only write about things that I’m interested in, I’ll say truthfully that I’ve been obsessed with sex since I was very young boy. I still remember our sex play with the little girl next door when I was 7 or 8 years old. It is innocent and exciting until we got caught and her parents wouldn’t let us play together.

So, sex always had a double edge of allure and danger. I suspect this duel aspect of desire and danger goes back to our ancient heritage where getting caught with your pants down could lead to getting eaten by the tiger that was stalking you. For women, getting pregnant could mean death for themselves, since many women died in childbirth.

But there are modern dangers as well. I still remember my first orgasm. I had found my mother’s vibrator (she called it her electric massager) when I was 10 or 11 years old and found that vibrating it around my genitals was not only stimulating, but highly arousing. My little penis was hard as a rock and my heart raced with excitement, when suddenly I had a massive release of energy and liquid flooded my hand and the vibrator.

My penis went from rock hard and large to wet, soft, and shrunken. I was terrified. I knew what had happened. I had been warned about the boy whose radio fell into the bathtub and he was electrocuted (it never occurred to me to wonder why anyone would have a radio plugged in above their bathtub). I was sure that’s what had happened to me. I had electrocuted my penis and had killed it.

I didn’t believe in God, but I prayed that if the almighty restored my penis to life, I would never vibrate it again. Well, God was good and my penis came back to life. But it took me years to overcome my fear of vibrators, despite my wife’s assurances that she would assume any risks if I joined her with her sex play. [Read more…]

Inside My Men’s Group: The Hidden Truths I’ve Learned Over the Last 38 Years

I knew I needed a men’s group in the worst way. I had just returned to the San Francisco Bay area after a cross-country trip with my wife. We had hoped to save our marriage, but the trip nearly killed us, or rather it nearly killed me. My wife was a violent woman who slept with a gun under her pillow to “protect herself from men.” We had been married for two years and I suspected that I was in another abusive relationship and if I didn’t get out soon, I might never leave alive.

The flyer posted on the bulletin board in Mill Valley said, “A Day With Well-Known Men’s Activist Dr. Herb Goldberg.” I had recently read Goldberg’s book, The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege and resonated with the words from the introduction. “The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically, and physically.”

I met for the day with twenty other guys who ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-50s. We had our own reasons for being there, but each of us was looking for the understanding and support most of us had never gotten from men. In one of the exercises we did in the workshop, we were asked to reflect on ways we had been wounded by other men in our lives.

I recalled my father who had become increasingly irritable, manic, and depressed with he was in his 40s. He took an overdose of sleeping pills and was sent to Camarillo State Mental Hospital north of Los Angeles. I was five years old at the time. I somehow felt responsible for his leaving and grew up wondering if I would become mentally ill.

Following the one-day workshop with Herb Goldberg, one of the organizers asked if anyone was interested in a regular men’s group. The following Wednesday, ten of us met at Tom’s house on Thalia street in Mill Valley. We agreed to meet weekly and the group soon narrowed to seven guys. We’re still going strong after 38 years. Over that time two guys dropped out and two were added. The “new guys” have now been in the group 25 years. One man died a few years ago and we are still grieving his passing.

We continue to provide love and support and to challenge ourselves to go deeper. If you want to get a feeling for what goes on in a men’s group I highly recommend the recent film by my friend Joseph Culp called “Welcome to the Men’s Group.” It’s a feature length production that isn’t about our group, but captures the kinds of things our group has dealt with over the years.

Here are a few of my own highlights of the group: [Read more…]

Helping Men and the Families Who Love Them: Is Text Therapy the Next Best Thing?

On November 21, 1969 I welcomed my son, Jemal, into the world. I vowed I would be a different kind of father than my father could be for me and I would do my best to create a world that was supportive of men, women, and children. That was birth of MenAlive. But the roots of my desire to help men go back to 1948 following my father’s overdose of sleeping pills.

As a child of five, I wanted to understand what happened to my father, why his manic anger and his agitated depression, led to his being committed to Camarillo State Hospital north of Los Angeles. I wanted to understand why he was unable to make a living doing the work he loved and how his beliefs about manhood caused debilitating shame when he couldn’t find a job and my mother was forced to go out to work. And underneath it all, I wondered what would happen to me. Would I follow in my father’s footsteps and end up in the “nut house?”

For most of my 47 years as a therapist, I’ve seen people face-to-face in my office for regular psychotherapy lasting 50 minutes. However, when my book, Surviving Male Menopause, was published in 2000 and became an international best-seller, I began getting emails from people from all over the world asking if I could work with them. At first, I offered my standard answer, “Well, sure, if you want to fly out to California.”

Some did fly out, but most wanted to know if I could do counseling by phone. It never occurred to me that I could counsel people without seeing them. How would I be able to assess their feelings and develop closeness and rapport? But their need seemed so great and so few people were dealing with the issues I addressed—Male menopause, male type depression, irritable male syndrome, preventing mid-life divorce, and male anger issues—I agreed to talk with them by phone.

I soon found that talking by phone had some distinct advantages. It allowed many to work with me who were too far away. Many people, particularly men, liked the ease of talking by phone rather than coming into an office. They also liked the safety they felt talking by phone, without the intensity of eye-to-eye contact. Most of my clients now talk to me by phone and I’ve found I’ve gotten good at hearing the nuances of voice to tune into feelings. I still see people in my office, but “phone therapy” has become a large part of my practice.

Over the years, I’ve helped more than 25,000 men and their families. I still remember talking to a client in 2002 who told me, “Our sessions have been so helpful, I wish I could carry you with me and talk to you when needed.” We both laughed. “Yeah, you just need a little Jed Diamond that you could carry in your pocket.” [Read more…]