Please note that the research project referred to in this article has now CLOSED. Thank you to everyone who volunteered to be involved in Zoe’s research. There’s a message from her at the end of the post.
PMS is hard enough to understand and deal with if it affects you month after month, but what about your partner? Men can really struggle to understand the role hormones play in mood and energy levels – after all, they don’t experience that sort of monthly upheaval and they often have a tough time adjusting to your ups and downs.
PMS time is also often a flashpoint for friction and when arguments erupt which means that they may hate PMS time as much as you do!
Research into Couples and PMS
Surprisingly – and a little depressingly, given that PMS is so common – there is very little research about, and support for, heterosexual couples going through PMS together. This is the reason Zoe Starnawski, a trainee counselling psychologist from London is undertaking a study about PMS and how it affects couples as part of her Professional Doctorate of Counselling Psychology at the School of Social Sciences, City University, London:
“PMS is personal to me and I want to shed some light on it. Plus it’s a very under-researched area – especially where PMS as an issue in a relationship is concerned. I want to look at the experience of PMS for men as well as women.
“A main aim of the research is to better understand the experiences of couples who experience PMS, how they relate to each other, give and seek support, and how they manage PMS symptoms within their relationship”.
Zoe has undertaken in-depth interviews with couples, having found couples on mumsnet and via The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) and of course, PMS Warrior.
Zoe is a skilled counsellor and is experienced in dealing with the issues that might come up in the interviews:
“Couples I’ve interviewed so far have found the process very therapeutic. Obviously it’s a very personal subject and things can get quite emotional. For example, feelings of guilt about how PMS is impacting on their relationship have been expressed”.
And what about the men?
“Things come out in the interviews for the first time. Often the men want to be supportive, but until the interview, they say they simply didn’t know what PMS felt like for their partner. It’s really useful for the woman to find out his perspective too”.
The interviews will also contribute to Zoe’s research which she plans to have published in an academic journal. That will be a great way to adding to the body of knowledge about what PMS actually feels like – for men, for women, and for couples.
In the meantime, some useful resources on helping men to understand and support their partners with PMS include my short Tips for Men and a recent blogpost from Cat Stone’s PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) blog (PMDD is a severe form of PMS) with her ideas about how to signal to your loved ones that you are having a difficult time and asking them for support and understanding.
And not forgetting lesbian couples – women in same-sex relationships can experience a double dose of PMS to make life hard, and next time I will post some tips I wrote earlier in the year for DIVA magazine.
Thanks for reading!
Zoe Starnawski, the researcher mentioned in the article below, has contacted me with an update:
“I had an overwhelming response from your blog from couples (both men and women) interested in participating in my research. I have now reached my aim of interviewing 8 couples and so for the purpose of the research I don’t need to conduct any more interviews. I’m really thankful to those who contacted me and who participated in the interviews. It goes to show how many women and couples are affected by PMS & PMDD and how important it is to try to work out how to best help those suffering in their lives and relationships. I am still analysing the interviews and hopefully will have some interesting results to share within the next year”.
I look forward to featuring the results of Zoe’s research in due course. It’s great that there are people out there raising the profile of PMS and helping to find solutions to PMS which involve men too.