Menstruation is a natural part of life yet talking about it can prove difficult due to social stigma and gender stereotypes. Two people in a romantic relationship will come to know each other intimately and your period is a topic that is sure to come up sooner or later.
It’s not only sex that’s affected by menstruation; the monthly cycle influences your whole life to some extent. No matter how comfortable you feel in your own skin and how masterful you are at managing it, menstruation is a messy business on multiple levels. Talking about it can be very awkward. We’re here to remind you that it shouldn’t be!
It’s reasonable to expect that most people know how periods work these days and will have the decency not to overreact, even in an awkward situation.
If you are in a sexual relationship, it would be difficult for your partner not to notice when your period comes, but menstruation shows up in many other ways too—when you buy menstrual products, dispose of what you’ve used, or clean your reusables. And yikes! Are those blood stains on the bedsheets?
Your friends might plan a beach date on day two, when your flow is the strongest…and you will probably think twice about whether you want to go. The hormonal fluctuations you experience over the course of a month also affect how you feel and what you want to do.
An attentive partner will notice and accept your moods, have sympathy for your cramps, make space for period products in the bathroom, and let the occasional blood stain slide.
In the past women were often expected to keep everything associated with periods hidden from men. Today this is no longer acceptable.
The information available to us has exploded over the last generation, largely thanks to the internet, but of course personal and cultural factors play a role in how we relate to menstruation.
Many men are still being socialized to avoid anything menstruation-related, and many women are still being taught to be ashamed of their own bodies and what they are naturally designed to do. Although attitudes are changing, menstrual stigma, together with a lack of basic education about periods, is still prevalent in many places around the world.
Do your partner’s attitudes about periods and how you manage yours evoke feelings of shame and distress? If they do, it’s time to re-consider the dynamics of your relationship.
Menstruation is a human biological necessity. Our lives actually depend on it. Whatever your view on children and families, being able to talk openly about reproductive health is fundamental in a healthy relationship.
Even those of us with uteruses might still have a thing or two to discover—we got the full picture about the clitoris only two years before Y2K—but a person who has never had to deal with menstruation can sometimes be wildly misinformed.
Assume the best but investigate. To find out more about what your partner thinks, try asking some questions, for example:
Go for a laid back, non-confrontational tone, and share some of your experiences. If you feel comfortable sharing the embarrassing ones, that’s a good sign. These conversations can be fun, and you will definitely learn something about each other, even if both of you are “period experts”.
If your relationship includes sexual intimacy, sex is probably the number one reason your partner will get to know your cycle. Whether you enjoy period sex or would prefer to refrain, the two of you will have to talk about it at some point. Mentioning that your period has started should be no big deal.
Many women report heightened libido when they are on their period, and orgasms can actually help relieve cramps. Up to 80% of couples report having had period sex at least once in their relationship.
But it can be messy (lay out a towel before you start), and that period blood will not protect you against STDs or give you power over your man or make you curdle milk and kill crops or even keep you from getting pregnant—no matter what you read online. A period is just a period.
Of course, you might not feel like dealing with the mess or having sex while on your period. You never owe anyone an explanation for refusing sex, not even in a long-term relationship, but if period sex is not for you, it’s probably best just to say so.
Using neutral and scientific terms for bodily processes ensures clarity. Many parenting blogs talk about how important it is to make sure kids know all the proper names for things to avoid confusion and embarrassment. “I’m on my period this week,” is clear and direct.
However, if you and your partner are on the same page, your favourite euphemism will be just fine, because Aunt Flo is bound to come riding that shark through the Red Sea again and again…
Choosing a funny expression to signify your period can become an inside joke in your relationship—but only as long as you don’t feel pressured to downplay or avoid the subject.
Stocking up. Is it ok to ask your partner to buy menstrual products for you? Some men still find it embarrassing and even emasculating while others are happy to help and even pleased to have been asked.
If you are shopping together, add your preferred period products to the cart so he knows what to get when you run out. If you live separately, but spend a lot of time in each other’s spaces, would your partner mind if you left some supplies in his bathroom? If you don’t know, find out! His response will be another indicator about the health of your relationship.
Those stains! No one loves blood stains, but accepting they are going to happen now and then just makes life easier. If you share a bed, washing the sheets regularly—and sharing the responsibility for that—is a good idea. Even if you aren’t on your period there are plenty of reasons for putting on fresh bedding, like crumbs, coffee stains, semen…
People can have very different tolerances for mess and filth, but when you are sharing space with someone this is one of those areas of compromise it’s better to work out sooner rather than later.
If your bedsheets, underwear, or anything else gets the occasional period stain, wash it out promptly without making a big deal of it. If your partner is doing the laundry and doesn’t already know that blood stains come out best in cold water, do share your expertise.
Staying on top of your period hygiene in general is a must: not just because of your partner, but most importantly for your own comfort, health and wellbeing.
If your partner doesn’t already have one, suggest adding a small trash can in their bathroom for used period products.
Our final topic, and perhaps the touchiest one, is hormonal changes and the dreaded PMS.
Premenstrual symptoms differ from woman to woman and can also change over time. Don’t hide your symptoms or punish yourself for not being at your best. Communicate how you feel clearly and let your partner know how to help. They might be a terrific support during PMS given half a chance.
If you just need to take a pill and lie down for a while, say so. Healthy relationships are built on trust, openness, gratitude, acceptance, and space to be ourselves.
If you are in it for the long haul, consider sharing your menstrual calendar with your partner so you can both be aware of your period and ovulation days.
People who want a positive lasting relationship make time to communicate clearly and learn to accommodate each other in many ways. Some couples feel comfortable discussing periods and PMS symptoms in detail, shopping for period products together, and sharing data from a period tracking app. Others keep these discussions to a minimum.
A lack of understanding about how menstruation works and what a woman might feel about it can sometimes lead to extreme attitudes of either rude dismissiveness and outdated patriarchal shaming or overcompensation and creepy, intrusive solicitousness. These aren’t the attitudes to put up with. You should feel safe and understood in a relationship, and that includes your time of the month.
Even if your partner is cool with it all, there is a lot of variation in how different women experience their periods. Defuse the fear and confusion bomb by talking about things casually and finding solutions for those small practical period issues that make sense to both of you.
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