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.