Do you find yourself walking on egg shells around your girlfriend, trying not to “set her off,” only to meet her wrath later when the storm has seemingly passed and you innocuously ask, “What was up with you today?” If the woman you are with, who seems like a wonderful angel about 80% of the time, suddenly turns on you for no reason; if the woman you admire for her inner strength suddenly starts crying at lame commercials she would normally scorn; if, fairly regularly, the rules you both abide by happily for 3 weeks every month suddenly change without notice, there is a good chance that you and your girlfriend have PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
For years, PMS wasn’t recognized as a condition with physical causes. Considered a “psychosomatic” condition (i.e., it’s all in your head, you crazy wench) until fairly recently in medical history, we all wasted about 2000 years of women being upset and irrational, making their own and the people’s lives around them hell, simply because they weren’t taken seriously. This is not a rant—it is leading up to a point about how to deal with PMS. But first, a little more info.
What It Is
PMS is a syndrome, a group of symptoms whose origin is not completely clear. What is known is that when a lady says she’s hormonal, and it is about a week or two before her period, her estrogen hormone levels are probably through the roof and she has a progesterone deficiency. Both of these hormones are crucial in the whole baby-making process. And for this, we may all pay dearly, every month.
If your lady suffers from PMS, she could be crabby for several reasons: she’s bloaty and feels fat; anything that is normally sexually aroused (her breasts, her vagina, her clit) could be tender or throbbing painfully; she could have insomnia and resulting fatigue; she could have cramps in her abdomen, or shooting through her back; she could have a headache; or she could have no physical symptoms, just the irrational mood swings. Say, those are a good time, aren’t they?
How This Affects You
You: “Hey babe, can you grab me a beer while you’re up?”
Her (normal response): “Of course, baby. Hey, do you want to watch some porn? I bought some new lingerie to show you…” (God, she’s great!).
Her (under the evil spell of PMS): Pause. Moves into your line of sight. Affixes you with a look of pure hatred. “What am I your bleeping slave? You just wait around hoping I’ll get up, you lazy bleep. Do you want me to go to the bleeping bathroom for you too? bleeeeeeeep!” Continues mumbling obscenities under her breath. You thank your stars that you didn’t get the beer in the back on the skull.
Her(under an even more terrifying version of the spell): Sound of quiet weeping.
You: hesitating—what if it was something you did? “Honey?” Go to the kitchen to find her trying to pretend she wasn’t crying over a card from her best friend from a year ago she found on top of the fridge. You stand there awkwardly, unsure whether to hug her or back away slowly, knowing deep down that whatever you choose will be the wrong decision.
Sound familiar? The usual response of most logically minded men is to tell their normally wonderful significant other that they are being mean for no reason. Those among you who are especially gifted will drop the “i” word, unleashing something similar to what a crying, screaming hound of hell might resemble. No words set off a woman in the throes of PMS like these four little ones: “Honey, you’re being irrational.”
They may seem like a statement of fact to you, but to a woman whose hormones are in the driver’s seat, you have just uttered the unspeakable. Whether that is met with a torrent of tears or a dervish of fisticuffs is really up to the hormones. To her, it will all be completely justifiable. Let me attempt to explain this phenomenon.
Many women suffer symptoms of PMS for years before they actually realize it. This may seem odd, since one (or two, for the very unfortunate) week for every month of their lives, they appear to live on a different rational plane than the rest of the month. It could be because they have just started experiencing symptoms (they can begin and end at any time in one’s life), or it could be because they are in denial. But why deny such an obvious bout of Mr. Hyde-ism?
When a woman deals with something in a relationship, whether it’s reacting to a situation or a repeatedly annoying trait of yours, she will likely have been thinking about it and considering how to approach it, perhaps bringing in her cronies to consult on the matter. When a woman suffering from PMS is confronted with a situation that riles her up, even momentarily, she just reacts, lashing out emotionally. For those of us who pride ourselves on self-control and self-knowledge, this is as confusing and frustrating for us as it is for the person we are lashing out at. On top of that, we are embarrassed. Crying uncontrollably at stupid things is a woman’s equivalent of popping a sweatpant boner in junior high and having to walk up to the board to do an equation. While completely out of our control, we know that it is going to undermine anything we do after that when the hormones have passed and we are sane again.
How To Manage
The worst thing you can do when we are in a fit of hormonal rage and or despair is to ask in that slightly condescending tone if we are going to have our period soon. This reinforces our opinion that, once branded with the PMS label, everything we say the rest of the sane days of the month can be discarded. Your best bet is to know when she’s getting her period and look for signs yourself. When you suspect she is PMSing, just back down if you can. This not to say that you have to be a doormat, but it is in your best interests to pick your battles and give your little lioness some space.
If the two of you have not discussed PMS, but you suspect that she has some symptoms, the time to bring that up is not when she is being irrational, but when she is sane again. Do not do this in a manner that suggests you are going to use this information to prove you were right and she was wrong in some incident. The best way to approach this is to let her admit the symptoms to you. When she is experiencing some of the physical symptoms—cramps, headaches, whatnot—take the opportunity to ask what all of her symptoms are. If she knows she is moody, she will probably admit it to you now, when she feels safe and you are being concerned and nurturing. She will never give it up if she thinks for a second you are going to use the information to discredit her in any way.
Once the PMS is out in the open, set up strategies to deal with conflict when she is PMSing. Ask her for suggestions about a good way to approach her. A good idea is to have a fight jar. Set it up so that it isn’t just in the context of her PMS. If the two of you are ever in a conflict that you cannot resolve, write it on a piece of paper, stick it in the fight jar, and give it a day or two so you can both come back to it rationally.
There is some treatment for those women who deal with PMS on a grand scale.
Hormone treatment is one, although screwing with her hormones is a very bad idea. While the birth control pill will regulate her hormones, it will give her a significantly increased chance of getting cancer. Some doctors also prescribe antidepressants. This, too, is a last-ditch answer.
There are several herbs and supplements that can significantly reduce symptoms, both physical and emotional. Among them are evening primrose oil, Vitamin B complex (especially B6), calcium (symptoms can mimic calcium deficiency), St John’s wort (a natural anti-depressant), magnesium (for bloating) and chaste tree berry (also called vitex). She can consult her physician or a naturopath for the proper use of supplements.
When your lady is PMSing, the sooner you realize that you cannot approach her in a the same manner that you would the rest of the month, the better. Do not try to get her friends to back you up on the irrationality charge. We tend to stick together on this one. Plus, we don’t want her wrath turned our way. Women don’t want to be mean an crazy a quarter of our lives. Rather than blame us for something we cannot control, try understanding and letting us run the miserable course the best we can. Because we will kill you in your sleep if we have to. And a female judge just might let us off.