[Q&A – Relationships] How do I deal with her PMS?

The Q: “How do I deal with my fiancée’s PMS?” -Donald*

The A: PMS, more mouth-fully known as premenstrual syndrome, is the set of symptoms most women experience during the days before we get our periods.

They can be physical (headache, fatigue, bloating). They can be emotional (anxiety, depression, anger). They can be behavioral (eating a lot, not eating a lot, insomnia). They also can be alarming for our boyfriends, our fiancés, or our husbands. That Donald asked how to respond to PMS is indicative of the existence of his capacity to serve (and interest in serving) his fiancée in a way that meets her needs. (To which I say “Bravo!”)

How guys respond to women’s PMS probably should vary, but here are my first few suggestions:

Be available. Men exist who, upon discovering a woman is PMS-ing, check out emotionally or physically until her period passes. This is cool if she requests that space, but it is not cool to assume she wants or needs it. Women exist who, while PMS-ing, really would just enjoy watching a movie with you, for instance, which is easy and harmless and impossible for you to know if you are “busy” every time she is PMS-ing.

Actively listen. To brush off a woman’s anxiety, depression, or anger because you know she’s PMS-ing is probably a bad idea. She is not angry because she’s PMS-ing. She is more angry because she’s PMS-ing. She – in most circumstances, in my opinion and experience – would be angry about what she’s angry about anyway. So when she expresses what she feels, listen and listen actively**, so she knows you actually hear her. And when a woman is angry (or anxious or depressed), it doesn’t necessarily mean she has PMS. PMS is not a prerequisite for the existence or expression of emotion.

Ask her what she expects. (And ask her nicely.) Neither men nor women can read minds, and we are both being silly and/or unreasonable when we a) wait to receive what we really need or want without ever expressing what we really need or want or b) assume we know what somebody else needs or wants when he or she has never said and we have never asked.

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*Real guy, fake name.

**Click here for active listening tips.

Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, click here. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

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