Q&A: Dealing with conflict and PMSWritten by Dr. Juli Slattery
What's inside this article
Question: My husband and I always get into a fight at a predictable time of the month. I don’t want to use PMS as an excuse for my behaviour, but I wish my husband would be more sensitive. Is that too much to expect?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) legitimately impacts women’s emotional expression and frustration tolerance. But it doesn’t have to lead to a monthly marital dispute.
Since men can’t relate to PMS, they tend to invalidate it. Unless your husband has sisters, PMS may be as mysterious to him as the Bermuda Triangle. To make matters worse, the complaints and severity of PMS vary greatly among women. More than 200 different symptoms are associated with PMS; one woman’s experience can hardly be generalized to another.
Help him understand
The first step in resolving these monthly conflicts is to help your husband understand PMS and how it impacts you specifically. Help him appreciate the importance of validating your unique experience.
Your husband may also be insensitive to your monthly mood swings because he sees it as a catchall excuse. Although you may be short-tempered during PMS, don’t use it as a justification for your behaviour. You are still responsible for the harsh words that cross your lips. If you need to ask for forgiveness, do so.
Take responsibility for it
Having PMS is not your fault, but it is your problem. As such, take responsibility for it. When you get frustrated at your husband because he is not more sensitive, you are communicating that it is his problem. Instead, try a more humble approach: "Honey, we both know that during a few days of the month, I’m more emotional and short-tempered. I don’t like being that way. Would you please help me by . . . ?"
Fortunately, PMS is predictable. You know when you are likely to have a short fuse. Instead of waiting for a conflict to arise, anticipate the problem. Perhaps you and your husband can agree not to discuss certain topics during that couple of days. At the very least, give him a warning: "It’s about that time of the month, so I need just a little space the next few days." He’s likely to accept that much better than citing PMS in the middle of a heated discussion.
Dr. Juli Slattery is clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She is also president of Authentic Intimacy, a non-profit ministry aimed at helping women have better marriages. Dr. Slattery's books include No More Headaches, Pulling Back the Shades, Beyond the Masquerade and 25 Questions You're Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy. She and her husband, Mike, have three sons.
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