How do I tell my boyfriend I have POI?

 

Question: I’m in my 20s and have just started seeing someone new. Do you have any advice on how and when to tell him that I’m going through premature menopause without scaring him off?

Dani Singer answers: First of all, I’d call it premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) as this is medically more accurate and although it can have the disadvantage that not so many people know what it means, on the plus side it is not associated with all the unhelpful, largely negative stereotypes surrounding menopause.

Secondly, disclosing reproductive health status is such a sensitive area that how and when is a dilemma, and like with so many dilemmas, there are no perfect or prescriptive answers. No one wants to do it too soon for the reasons you describe or to leave it too late which can get in the way of getting closer – you because you are afraid he might leave; he, from his side, because he may sense but cannot understand why there seems to be a barrier. Ultimately, the how and when depend on your personal comfort zone.

There is usually a point in any relationship when it moves towards a life partnership. For example when people start to talk about seeing more of each other, meeting each other’s families, moving in together and so on – this might be a good opportunity to let him know as this will become something that you will face together. It is probably advisable not to expect the ideal response immediately. After all, you have had some time, certainly longer than he has, to absorb your diagnosis and your initial reaction may not have been perfect either.

How to tell him? Well, I’d suggest starting with as straightforward an explanation as you can, how it is affecting you so far and what it means to you. Each woman is different in this respect. Generally, it is helpful to let him know that you understand that this may be difficult information to process, that you would like him to listen to you (rather than trying to fix it), prioritise what you are finding most difficult and then invite him to ask questions, either now or at a later time. This is a topic both of you will probably need to revisit.

It is probably a truism, but it nearly always helps to show appreciation for understanding and loving kindnesses from whatever source, whether it be a (future) partner or friend; if what you would like is acceptance and support, do communicate this as he may want to do so but not quite know how.