These 8 tips will help you avoid the unnecessary frustration and regret that PMS (premenstrual syndrome) problems cause in your relationships. It may be easier than you think to keep the peace at home and work, despite the extreme mood swings and hormonal fluctuations that happen in your body every month.
“Every month it’s the same – we turn irrational, become psychotic, pick fights, are impossible to please,” writes Bethenny Frankel in I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After. “It happens like clockwork but somehow it always takes us completely by surprise, like it’s the first time we’ve ever had a period. This is the time of month when you might need chocolate injected into your veins…If you’ve ever thought you seriously needed a divorce or you never want to see your boyfriend’s face again, only to realize a week later that your relationship is actually just fine, you know what I mean. When you have PMS problems, your brain can be thinking, ‘Don’t say it, don’t say it, while you hear yourself saying it anyway.’”
In the article you’ll find a few natural tips for relieving premenstrual syndrome symptoms, such as magnesium to reduce PMS pain. But – more importantly for women whose PMS is ruining their relationships – you’ll learn how to stop PMS from causing unnecessary and destructive problems in your relationship with your boyfriend, husband, friends – and even your coworkers.
8 Ways to Stop Premenstrual Syndrome From Causing Relationship Problems
“Over 85% of women report some kind of symptoms in the week before they get their period,” writes Elizabeth Sullivan in PMS and Relationships on the PsychCentral blog. “It would be strange if they didn’t. Just a cursory look at the way the production of the very powerful hormones estrogen and progesterone unbalance just before menstruation shows us — it’s extreme biological change. And of course the hormonal shifts have been documented to affect mood, stress response, pain sensitivity, and even cause carbohydrate cravings.”
PMS symptoms – and the corresponding relations problems – are not personal failings. Nor is premenstrual syndrome or the menstrual cycle anything to be ashamed of! PMS and our periods are simply physical changes in our bodies and brains that have emotional and practical consequences in our relationships and lives.
The trick is to learn how to cope well with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome – and not let them cause unnecessary and even irrepairable relationship problems at home or work.
I love, love, love the first three tips on this list! They’re from a book by Julie Holland, M.D. called Moody B—tches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy. This book is a must-have resource on women’s health. Don’t let the title throw you off; this book has both practical and scientific tips to help women get healthier, happier, and stronger in all aspects of their lives.
1. Learn why PMS occurs in your body and brain
“[During PMS], this increased sensitivity, especially to criticism, can cause explosive reactivity,” writes Dr Holland in Moody B—tches. “My patients with PMS notice that they get snappy and easily irritated by things they would typically let slide the rest of the month. They become more unpredictable in their responses, and they can let loose with utterances or actions that are not in their repertoire the other three weeks of their cycle.”
The reason we’re more sensitive and emotionally reactive during PMS is because our brain’s frontal lobes are inhibiting the emotional centers. Our emotions require solid doses of serotonin, which they’re not getting before our menstrual cycle starts. Premenstrual syndrome means lower serotonin levels, which means higher sensitivity and reactivity in our relationships, which means relationship problems galore!
2. Be aware of the effects of low serotonin and estrogen levels
Dr Holland encourages us to remember that, yes, it’s low levels of the hormone serotonin that causes emotional reactivity, sensitivity, and PMS symptoms. But you’re not getting upset over NOTHING. You’re just getting upset over things that you deal with differently when your hormones are balanced.
“We are getting upset over real things, it’s just that we usually hide our sadness and anger better,” writes Dr Holland in Moody B—tches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy. “Thanks to high estrogen levels, we are usually more resilient. Breezy, even. We allow for others’ needs better and can remain detached more convincingly. Natural cycles of caring less and more correlate with our menses.”
Your estrogen levels drop before your period, which has a profound effect on the way you view the world, your life, and your relationships. Dr Holland says a good way to think of the estrogen is as the “whatever you want, honey” hormone.
“Estrogen creates a veil of accommodation,” she writes, “designed to encourage grooming and attracting a mate, and then nurturing and nourishing our family members. Estrogen is all about giving to others: keeping our kids happy and our mates satisﬁed. When estrogen levels drop before our periods, that veil is lifted. We are no longer alluring and fertile; we are no longer so invested in the potential daddy sticking around. It’s time to clean house. During the rest of the month you put up with all kinds of bull that you won’t tolerate the week before your period.”
3. Hold on to the benefits of premenstrual syndrome
Yes, PMS can actually be good for you and your life! The insights and effects of premenstrual syndrome can give you insight into your own values and needs. If you’re dealing with the same relationship problems all the time – and you keep blaming it on PMS – maybe you need to re-evaluate something about your boyfriend, husband, or life.
“PMS is a time of psychological inventory, to take stock and make sure you are where you want to be in your life,” writes Dr Holland. “Every cycle is an opportunity for a fresh start, to make your life over the way you want it. Pay attention to that critical eye, to those judgmental thoughts [that come with PMS and ‘cause’ problems in your relationships]. They are probably more valid than you’d like to believe, and I bet they’re actionable, too.
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Dr Holland adds that every month, when your body prepares for a possible pregnancy, your progesterone levels are building and causing a smaller form of nesting. Toward the end of this cycle, you might feel unhappy or dissatisfied with your environment because it’s possibly not right or good for a baby. So, maybe those “relationship problems” caused by PMS are really your instincts telling you that your home or environment isn’t quite right for a baby…yet.
4. Think twice before giving in to your impulses
When your first reaction is hot-headed rage or an uncontrollable crying jag at the sight of the dirty breakfast dishes on the table instead of in the dishwasher, take a deep breath. Don’t allow your PMS symptoms to be the boss of you.
“Of course this is difficult,” writes Frankel in I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After. “All you want is sugar, alcohol, fried food, and for everybody to just shut up and understand that you are right about everything. You can’t give in to any of these impulses (at least not too much) or you will just make the whole situation worse.”
Since sugar, alcohol, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise will make PMS symptoms worse, take care of your body and mind before your period. Pamper your body in healthy ways, such as by getting a massage and taking time to go slow when you need to go slow. Listen to your body, and give her what she needs. Get as much sleep as you can, and do your best to flow through the mood swings that accompany premenstrual syndrome.
5. Use your calendar to stop PMS from causing relationship problems
Do you find yourself getting caught by surprise every month? I do. I’ll have a day filled with unusual irritability, moodiness, emotional outbursts, and even some weepiness…and it won’t be until the day’s end that I realize I have PMS.
I don’t know why I forget how PMS affects me and my relationships, but every month it’s a big surprise! It shouldn’t be.
If you’re surprised by PMS symptoms – and relationship problems – every month, mark your calendar. Put a big red smiley face on the day your period is due, and highlight the five days before with a yellow marker. This will be your reminder that you’ll be dealing with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome that week. If you’re aware that it’s PMS time, you’ll be less likely to accidentally or deliberately cause relationship problems with your boyfriend or husband.
You might also want to learn how to solve relationship problems without breaking up.
6. Remember that men get moody and emotional, too
In I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After, Xavier Amador (president of the LEAP Institute) reminds us that women aren’t the only ones who allow their emotions to get the better of us.
“Although men don’t get PMS, we can be moody, and definitely have emotions – whether we sit on them or abrasively read you the riot act,” he says. “Welcome to being a human being. Both sexes are in the wild ride of handling our neurochemistry and emotions together. I am not saying all things are equal. I am saying let’s not forget to see our commonality, our sameness. If we must use the word ‘crazy,’ [when referring to the relationship problems that PMS causes] then let’s be honest with ourselves: Neither sex has the market on crazy.”
Premenstrual syndrome has very real and serious effects on our mood, body, health, and interactions with people at home and work. Some women are better off simply taking some “me time” away from their boyfriends and husbands at this time of the month. This doesn’t mean going into quarantine or moving out of the house for a week! Just give yourself space and air so you avoid causing relationship problems that you’ll later regret.
7. Learn the art of a “PMS apology”
“Unfair as it may seem, you have to cop to PMS,” writes Frankel in I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After. “Just say, Look, I have PMS. I’m sad, and I’m sorry. Can we start over?’”
Just say you’re sorry. You might even add what you’re sorry for (eg, overreacting, saying hurtful things, deliberately stirring up problems in your relationship that you know deep down aren’t really an issue, etc) – and explain the effects of premenstrual syndrome on your body.
Frankel has another great tip for preventing PMS from causing relationship problems: Hold off on major relationship decisions and discussions until your period comes and goes – and you feel normal again. Avoid making decisions about your relationship or life when you’re dealing with premenstrual symptoms or period pain. It’s too easy to forget that your moods, hormones, and emotions are exaggerated! You risk saying or doing something that not only causes relationship problems, but that you regret for the rest of your life.
8. Tune in to the relationship problems “caused” by PMS
Is it possible that the problems you’re having in your relationship are actual problems? Maybe you’re ignoring or putting up with issues that are actually more serious than you want to admit. Maybe you’re ignoring the warning signs of a bad relationship most of the time – but before your period, you’re actually responding authentically to problems.
“Women’s empathic skills can be a great source of useful information and strength, and there is some evidence that they are highest during our premenstrual days,” writes Dr Holland in Moody B—tches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy. “PMS is a great time to tune in to intuition. Because of lower serotonin levels, we are more ‘raw’ and less emotionally blanketed before we menstruate. It is a time to rest and reflect and to honor deep feelings.”
Your premenstrual days are a great opportunity to listen to your body and to honor your true feelings about your boyfriend or husband – not just to practice avoiding relationship problems. Trust your PMS intuition! Use what you learn about your authentic thoughts and feelings during PMS throughout the rest of the month. Don’t keep ignoring the problems in your relationship – and don’t blame it on your heightened sensitivity during PMs.
“Perhaps you should be putting up with less all month long,” writes Dr Holland. “The dissatisfaction that comes on a monthly schedule is a gift to you, a chance to make some much-needed changes in how you’re living your life and how much you’re giving, bending, and stretching to meet everyone else’s expectations. What I stress with my patients is this: the thoughts and feelings that come up during this phase of your cycle are real; they are genuine. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated, that you’re taking on more than your partner, or that things are out of balance, chances are it’s all true.”
If you need resources and help coping with PMS symptoms, let me know in the comments section below. I’ve done a lot of research and written several articles on the causes of period problems – and quick fixes.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.