If you experience PMS and you have a long-term partner, it’s likely that they know about it. Pre-period symptoms like bloating, fatigue, tender breasts, and mood swings are tough to suffer through in silence. But just because your S.O. knows about it doesn’t mean they understand it. In fact, new research published in PLOS One suggests that your partner not having the whole picture about how PMS affects you could actually make it feel worse—and we mean physically. (BTW, severe PMS symptoms could put you at risk for this serious health issue.)
In the study, 83 women who had severe PMS were divided into three groups: One group went to individual counseling tailored to PMS symptoms, another group had similar counseling but with their partner, and the last group was placed on a counseling “wait list.” Women from all three groups saw improvements in partner’s awareness of PMS, reduction in intimate relationship difficulties, increased self-care, and an overall improved relationship with their partner after participating in the study. Actually, it seems that just being part of the research at all gave these relationships a small boost. But the biggest improvements *by far* were seen by the women who participated in couples therapy.
So what’s behind the big difference? “Partners are often the focus of women’s premenstrual anger and irritation,” explains Jane Ussher, Ph.D., lead author of the study. Men can also make matters worse by not offering support or by provoking women during those premenstrual days, she adds. In fact, relationship issues can serve as a trigger for PMS. “Many men say that they don’t understand PMS and don’t know what to do. Couples therapy can help men to understand and take PMS seriously and engage men in the coping process,” says Ussher. She also points out that couples therapy improves the overall communication between partners, which can help ease any issues that might spark tension in the first place. (Side note: Find out why the secret to longevity could be in your relationship status.)
But not to worry if you’re not in a relationship or don’t want to go the couples therapy route. Talking with a counselor by yourself can have an impact, too. “Individual therapy helps a woman understand premenstrual distress, look for trigger points, develop coping skills, and reduce self-blame,” notes Ussher. “Most women feel better about themselves as a result.” And if individual therapy isn’t an option, the study authors actually created a self-help pack that you can use on your own or with your partner to develop coping skills and help explain what you’re going through. While you’re at it, try some of these yoga poses to relieve PMS and menstrual cramps.