PMS and Men

Recently, I read a post about how to handle PMS from Wacky Vanilla.  It really opened my eyes to how little I actually know about women; not that I had overwhelming confidence in this area anyways.  Thinking back on my history with PMS, I remember hearing about a woman’s menstrual cycle for the first time in my 6th or 7th grade health class.

It’s Menstrual, Stupid!

By the way, as a side note, I just looked up how to spell menstrual.  Apparently, it’s not spelled “menstral.”  But it really should be because that’s how the word actually sounds.  Go ahead and say it.  MEN-STRAL!  I don’t hear any “U” sound in there.  Do you?  Of course, it is a distinct possibility that I’m just saying the word improperly.  After all, I know next to nothing!  But whether I’m right or wrong is beside the point.   This is all about making my life, a man’s life, easier.  It’s all about me!  It’s all about us, men!  See?!

If I remember correctly, the eleven-year-old me was squirming in that health class when the topic of menstrual cycle was discussed.  But please don’t take that personally.  Everything in that class made me squirm.  Blood, veins, organs!  It all made my skin crawl.  And not just the sex stuff.  All of it.  Probably why I’m not a real doctor.  I can barely hear someone talk about their selfless act to donate blood. I start fidgeting in my seat, searching for mind drifting thoughts until they are done selfishly telling me about their horror story of empathy and compassion.

Let Me Educate You about PMS

Ok.  So, what do I know about a woman’s menstrual cycle?  Hmmm.  Or rather, what do I know without any degree of certainty and confidence?  Well.  I know that an egg drops at some point. It goes from somewhere to somewhere else.  To the cervix?  Ouch.  That’s probably wrong.  The Uterus?  Cringe!  Am I even close to being right?  

At some point, a woman bleeds for a few days from her vagina.  And while I’m not the most observant fellow, I have picked up on the distinct possibility that this experience isn’t entirely fun.  I believe the menstrual thing is happening over the entire month, but I’m not sure.  I just know that there are blood and other dischargy things for a few days.  At some point in all of this, a woman can get pregnant.  And you absolutely don’t want that to happen, unless, of course, you really want that to happen. Thank you 6th-grade Health!

Ok.  I’m overplaying my ignorance ever so slightly.  My wife and I have been trying to get pregnant for the past year; so, I have learned about ovulation and that it happens before the pads are needed.  Honestly, I had no idea until last year.  Really, this paragraph is only a feeble attempt to impress you with my menstrual cycle knowledge.  I can also tell you about sperm; how long they live and motility rates. In other words, I have been learning stuff lately, but blah, blah, blah.  This isn’t really about me or men; despite earlier claims. 

This post is about the deafening silence that has been a featured part of every relationship I’ve had with women.

PMS and Emotions

While I’m certainly not qualified to speak about a girl’s initial experience with PMS, as the first part of this post should clearly reveal; however, I will venture to suggest that it’s accompanied with a variety of difficult emotions that range from embarrassment to fear and shame.  Writing that last sentence and using words like embarrassment, fear, and shame awakens my empathy and compassion radar immediately.  How about you? 

While I understand the fragile nature of the topic, we shouldn’t allow sensitivity to automatically create a reductionist environment that separates and isolates people; either individually or as a gender.  I know many girls have conscientious mothers who are enormously helpful with this transition.  And I suppose that many girls wouldn’t want to discuss this with their fathers.  Understandable.

Messages sent to Women

Never the less, another message has been sent to girls that PMS is a topic best left between women; that it’s an uncomfortable topic for men.  In addition, girls probably hear the snickers in all those health classes; reinforcing the notion that the experience is worthy of at least embarrassment and should be kept private. 

The messaging is clear and sent from an early age: a woman’s menstrual cycle is something she probably shouldn’t discuss with men.   However, to put it lightly, it’s kind of a big deal.  After all, it’s a prominent part of a woman’s everyday life; impacting her in a myriad of ways; some of which can be serious.  Anything that impacts a person’s everyday life shouldn’t be off the table for discussion.

PMS and Relationships

Understandably, women carry this cautious attitude into adult life; when perhaps the private nature of PMS isn’t as helpful.  In developing a serious relationship with a man, she might need or want to discuss the potentially intense reactions she is having during her menstrual cycle.  Perhaps she attempts to discuss her experience with her boyfriend or husband but is met with varying degrees of recoil; further silencing any increased inclination she may have to share in the moment or in the future.

I understand that women find a way to deal with their menstrual cycles without talking about it with men.  But it bothers me that this something that they must attempt; that they are expected to expend energy to learn this emotional coping skill; to handle whatever challenges they experience without sharing it with their male partners.  How many women feel like their PMS circumstances are something they need to at least partially hide from men?  I’m guessing that the answer is close to most.        

Message to Men

Guys!  We need to be more open about this experience and stop being, for lack of a better word, silly.   For a woman to suffer in silence isn’t fair.  It should be an open part of our relationships with women.  We need to transcend our silly “cringe” reactions when our girlfriends or wives attempt to discuss PMS with us.  We are men; not jerks.  Well, we don’t have to be all the time.