Hopefully, if you've ever been in a relationship with a woman, you've learned somewhere along the line not to blame her bad moods on PMS. Not just because it will likely enrage her, but because you're probably wrong; women do get angry and express feelings and often have a reason for it other than the fact that we're shedding our uterine lining.
But if you're still clinging to the notion of dismissible monthly mood swings, this should set you straight: The Atlantic reports that a study in the journal Gender Research has found that PMS may be a hugely exaggerated phenomenon.
Researchers analyzed existing data on how the menstrual cycle affects women's moods, and the authors came to the following conclusion:
Of 47 English language studies identified, 18 (38.3%) found no association of mood with any [menstrual cycle] phase; 18 found an association of negative mood in the premenstrual phase combined with another [menstrual cycle] phase; and only 7 (14.9%) found an association of negative mood and the premenstrual phase…
Taken together, these studies failed to provide clear evidence in support of the existence of a specific premenstrual negative mood syndrome in the general population. This puzzlingly widespread belief needs challenging, as it perpetuates negative concepts linking female reproduction with negative emotionality.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Sarah Romans, wasn't shy about telling Atlantic reporter James Hamblin that her interest in the topic of PMS is based in large part on her personal philosophy:
“…the whole PMS notion serves to keep women non-irritable, sweet, and compliant the rest of the time. There is a range of paradoxes — world-turned-upside-down events — like festivals, Mardi Gras, where people are socially prescribed to behave out of role…I think PMS is a bit like that. 'We'll let you be cranky and bad-tempered now, but just for one or two days. The rest of the time you've got to be like a true woman.'”
We tend to agree with her, and will add that perpetuating the idea that women are only allowed to have feelings once a month is probably not good for anybody trying to have an intimate, grown-up relationship.
In our experience, it's actually true that the old monthly visitor can cause a certain amount of irritability and even physical pain. But the crux of any good partnership is finding a way to take your significant other's feelings seriously and deal with them, not treat them like a monster hiding under the bed that will hopefully go away as soon as morning comes.
Instead, women's anger and sadness has become the butt of sitcom jokes, easily brushed aside and ignored with a never-funny punchline about “that time of the month.” And the more acceptable it is to make a joke out of your partner's emotions, the more likely we are to drift apart and deal with our pain on our own, start to feel lonely even though we're with someone, and become angry and resentful.
Not only that, but let's be honest – the Ray Romanos of the world, the long-debated sitcom dads who aren't capable of having a grown-up conversation about going to the grocery store, much less a menstrual cycle, aren't doing much by way of encouraging men to see their female partners as living, breathing equals who might experience feelings that can't, for the moment, be contained.
Now, none of this is to say that humor can't be found amidst pain, or that fights can't have levity to them. It's not even to say that a tasteful period joke here and there isn't in order. But in general, when it comes to having grown-up interactions even when a woman is surfing the crimson tide, placing all the blame on Mother Nature probably only makes things worse.