We’ve already discussed how to be supportive when your significant other’s PMS symptoms are at a peak. However, in some relationships, ongoing PMS and PMDD symptoms can cause a severe strain on both partners, and can undermine the very foundation of a marriage or relationship. In cases like this, it’s not enough to simply have better coping skills, or to be more supportive.
So, for partners and spouses who want to help their wife or girlfriend get relief from premenstrual misery, here are our suggestions:
First, read our previous post. You don’t want to say in the middle of a premenstrual episode “Our problem is your PMS”—you’re going to need to be more sensitive, and supportive, than that. This is not to say that it’s OK to feel like a punching bag, but it’s also not OK to dismiss the real suffering your partner is experiencing.
Second, the best approach to PMS and PMDD symptoms is a holistic one. This means it has to address diet, physical activity level, stress, hormones, and (especially) nutrition. Of course, nagging about diet and exercise is not going to help matters. But understanding that skipping breakfasts, and that a pizza-beer-junk food diet and sedentary lifestyle are big contributors to the problem is a crucial first step—especially if you take the lead in helping your partner make the transition to a healthier lifestyle. And remember, don’t make this about her losing weight or take up a “blame the victim” mentality. You’ll both be healthier when you both live well, and it will help you and your relationship.
What does that healthier lifestyle entail? Here’s our guidance for a healthier, hormone-balancing diet. A healthy diet is an essential part of natural PMS relief, and it’s so much easier when both of you eat well. Physical activity is another crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, and this can mean anything from walking to joining a gym. The important thing is to spend more time being active, and less time sitting.
Stress is a little bit harder to get a handle on, because it can come from so many areas in life, and solutions can range from simple to very complex. Some people get a handle on their stress by making incredibly simple decisions: to not sweat the small stuff; to address a destructive friendship or work relationship; or even by eating right and being more active. For many others, stress comes from old patterns that need to be addressed with professional help, whether in individual or couples counseling. Many people swear by meditation or yoga as a way to relieve daily stress. Whatever the path you choose, stress relief is an important component of premenstrual symptom relief.
These basics can make a big difference, and sometimes all the difference. More often, though, they’re the foundation that allows specific PMS and PMDD remedies to work. For many women, and many relationships, more is needed to help balance hormones and mood chemistry fluctuations that cause premenstrual symptoms. Many women choose to take medications for their symptoms: hormonal birth control and antidepressants are doctors presribe for severe PMS and PMDD. Many women, though, prefer natural remedies. Herbs and nutrients can work very well for PMS symptoms, especially when they are used in the proper combinations.
PMS and PMDD don’t need to jeopardize relationships, if you and your partner are willing to make some changes to your communication and your approach to health.
PMS Comfort has so much practical information for women on what to do about PMS, PMDD, and premenstrual symptoms in general. We even have an article on whether men get PMS. (Spoiler alert—they don’t. It’s pre-menstrual syndrome. When men get moody and achey, it’s not because of their hormonal cycle: men don’t have one.)
What PMS Comfort has not had, up till now, is any pointers for the men and women who suffer along with their spouses or significant others as a result of PMS symptoms. If your partner, wife, or girlfriend has PMS, or irritability or anxiety or mood swings related to her period, what is the right way to deal with it? How do you and your relationship survive the challenge of PMS? PMS doesn’t need to ruin relationships, but there is a right way and a wrong way for a concerned partner to respond when PMS symptoms start to make things difficult.
Here are our suggestions on what to do, and what not to do, so that you don’t make the PMS situation worse.
First, don’t be dismissive: even if you think certain behaviors or emotions are caused by PMS, saying so can make it sound like you’re minimizing them. This is because whatever your significant other is experiencing at the moment, she’s not feeling “PMS” – she’s feeling anxious, or overwhelmed, or crampy, or sad, or angry, or any number of things. PMS is not a feeling, and it’s best if you try to understand what she’s feeling, and relate to it as a feeling, not as a medical condition.
Second—to clarify #1 above—this means you don’t say “you must be getting your period”, or “is it that time of the month” or “you’re just PMSing.” All of these are dismissive and somewhat belittling.
Third: enough about what not to do. What is the right way to respond? First, try to be understanding, patient, and supportive. While this may seem challenging, and a bit too vague, the important thing is compassion: your partner doesn’t like how she feels, and probably doesn’t like making you go through it with her. But if you respond by lashing out, or blaming, it can make things worse. Try to avoid over-reacting.
Fourth: some women want to be consoled when they’re upset, some want to be left alone. Your partner or wife may want to be consoled one time, and left alone the next. Remember, the storm of hormones, mood chemicals, and emotions and sensations of PMS and PMDD can be confusing and changeable. So, if she asks you to leave her alone, and then gets upset that you weren’t more compassionate, you may feel like you’re being placed in an impossible situation where everything you do is wrong. However, PMS can make emotions change like the wind. It’s not your fault, and it’s not her fault either. The best you can do is try not to make the situation worse, and try to communicate clearly with your partner, and ask her to communicate clearly with you.
Fifth: make “I” statements. In other words, even though your wife or girlfriend may blame you when she’s in the throes of PMS misery, don’t respond by blaming her. Instead, make “I” statements that express how you feel.
Coming in part two: what to do when PMS or PMDD is threatening your relationship.