HOW TO: Talk to your Partner about Mental Health & Your Period
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During this time, we’re doing our part to raise awareness about mental health issues in menstruating women. Visit our blog for articles on mental health, mindfulness, and more.
If you experience mood changes just before your period, you’re not alone. More than 85% of menstruating women get mental symptoms—like irritability, anxiety, and trouble focusing—each month.
Often, this calls for several days of extra self-care and powering through the daily grind the best you can. But if you’re dating someone, a week (or so) of mental symptoms could also affect your relationship. These changes, after all, can directly influence your interactions, conversations, and intimacy.
That’s why it’s worth talking to your partner about mental health during your period. Not only will this help them develop empathy for what you’re going through, but you’ll be able to get emotional support too. In turn, you can cultivate a healthy mind, heart, *and* relationship.
<< READ MORE: YOU'RE NOT CRAZY: HOW YOUR EMOTIONS CHANGE THROUGHOUT YOUR CYCLE>>
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry; we’ve got your back. Read on to learn how to talk to your partner about Aunt Flo—and the mental changes that come with her.
Talk when you’re not experiencing symptoms.
For starters, be mindful of when you bring it up. Consider talking about the topic when you aren’t experiencing PMS. Choose a moment when you feel mentally and emotionally stable. While you’re at it, pick a time when they’re feeling calm as well.
When you talk about your PMS symptoms outside of PMS, you can get clear on what you want to say. It’s kind of like stepping outside of a room in order to see it better. With this approach, you’ll be able to talk about the subject in a concise and transparent way—without all the heated emotions.
This tip might seem counterintuitive—but hear us out. Empathy, like most aspects of a relationship, is a two-way street. So, to help your partner empathize with your PMS symptoms, it’s important to empathize with them too.
Let’s say your partner is unsupportive when you’re irritable or crying at that car insurance commercial. Ask yourself why. Is it because they’re heartless and insensitive? Or is it because they don’t menstruate… and can’t relate enough to *be* sensitive? In this case, remind yourself how they haven’t experienced PMS, let alone in-depth discussions about it. Then put yourself in their shoes.
Needless to say, PMS can seem confusing if you’ve never had it. Acknowledging this during your chat will help your partner feel more open and receptive to what you’re saying. This ensures that the discussion is less of an attack, and more of a stepping stone in your relationship.
Explain your hormonal changes.
Share a quick primer on what happens on a chemical level. Mention how estrogen and progesterone, two hormones, increase to prepare for pregnancy in the second half of your menstrual cycle (called the luteal phase). But if the egg hasn’t been fertilized, both hormones dramatically drop, causing a wide range of chemical changes that can affect you both mentally and physically (i.e. physical and mental symptoms).
Kindly remind your partner that these are real, biological shifts that you cannot control; it is Mother Nature doing her thing. At the same time, mention that you know these changes aren’t an excuse to lash out or pick fights. By expressing awareness of what’s going on in your body and mind, your significant other can gain awareness too.
Share how you want to be supported.
Ask your partner to support you in the ways you need it most. This could be anything from giving you extra space or going easy on the sarcasm. It might even be as simple as hugging you just a few seconds longer. Although these actions won’t make PMS go away, they can give you a sense of much-needed comfort and ease.
Admittedly, it can feel awkward to ask for what you need. But it’s also one of the best ways to get emotional and mental support when you’re feeling off kilter. If you’re unsure how to approach this, try saying “I’d appreciate if you…” or “It would mean a lot if you…” to show gratitude toward what they *could* do, rather than criticism for what they *haven’t* done.
Keep them updated.
Unless your partner tracks your monthly hormonal changes, they won’t know when you’re about to experience PMS. So, give them a head’s up whenever you feel the first mental symptoms coming on. You can say something like, “Hey, I’m feeling on edge today, so I’d really like some alone time,” or “I feel kind of insecure right now, so please don’t joke about that embarrassing thing I did three weeks ago.”
This simple act of updating your partner can go a long way. It gives them the information they need to provide support and love, however that might look like for you.
PRO TIP: Download our beautifully designed period tracker and hang it in your bathroom. That way your significant other can sneak a peak and know where you're at without you telling him/her.
When you’re feeling off or not quite like yourself, it can be difficult to interact with other people—including the ones you love. But with practice and patience, these tips can help you find emotional and mental support when you need it the most.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Learn more about Kirsten at k-nunez.com