The female body is so much more than an object of desire. And yet, some of the most fundamental aspects of our bodies are still deemed taboo, even within our most intimate relationships. Our periods are often secreted away, and all signs of the internal struggle are suppressed. We need to change this.
If your partner doesn’t know anything about your period, you need to sit down for a chat ASAP. Women’s hormones vary during the month, particularly when PMS-ing. If you keep track of your cycle (or if you don’t), I would highly recommend letting your partner know when you’re starting your period. Quick texts saying “just your monthly reminder: I’m not pregnant,” or “SHE HAS ARRIVED” have both made regular appearances in my conversations, so don’t be shy! If you feel a little awkward doing this, that’s okay – it’s normal. Try to bring it into your conversations in a way that makes you comfortable, but also be understanding if your partner doesn’t know much, or if they also get a period, if they have different symptoms than you. They may feel more awkward than you do! I find a good time to bring it up is when I’m on my period and feeling the symptoms in the moment. I’ll mention a craving or ask to avoid sad movies, and let my partner know it’s because I’m on my period. If you stay over at your partner’s place, consider asking if it’s okay to leave a few hygiene products at their place so you’re prepared in advance.
Letting your partner know about your period should lead to more in-depth conversations about other parts of your cycle, like PMS or taking contraceptives, and how it affects you. This is a very useful conversation, as it could help alleviate some tension if your partner knows you may be more sensitive or recognize your symptoms even if you don’t see them. You can and should tell them about any pain you might experience (from cramps or otherwise), how you deal with it, preferred foods, and other things you go through regularly.
You can lead into these conversations with a funny story to make it a little less awkward. For example, I once went to CVS to stock up on pads and saw they had an offer for Haagen Daaz ice cream (and who doesn’t love Haagen Daaz?!). When I checked out, the guy at the counter looked at my bag full of pads and three tubs of ice cream and asked (very kindly) with a pained look on his face, “Tough time for you?” My boyfriend and I still laugh about this story! And this is a great example of how to let your partner know what types of food you crave or what supplies you need. If you go grocery shopping together, you can even take a quick trip to the aisle of feminine products and show them which one(s) you prefer, and why.
Women often take on the burden of birth control: 60% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 report they are on some form of contraceptive. Not only does birth control affect your hormones, but it can be a burden to consume regularly. The pill, for example, must be taken at the exact same time every single day. Getting an injection or replacing a patch every few weeks or months can be stressful to plan for, particularly if you require a medical appointment to be made in advance. However, no one should be forced to take contraception. To make sure this is an agreement between you and your partner, you should discuss what form of contraception you use (or don’t use) and discuss how it affects you and your relationship. It’s okay to feel awkward having this discussion, but it likely benefits them as well, so there’s nothing to be ashamed or scared about!
However, menstruation is not necessarily experienced by all women, nor are periods exclusive to those who identify as female, so there are so many considerations to keep in mind. The important part of any relationship is being open with your partner and letting them know how they can support you, even if it’s only by lending an ear or shoulder, or maybe some comfort food and a cuddle. If your partner also menstruates, you can compare your symptoms and share what helps each of you feel better. Every person and their body is different, and caring for one means learning about it – and only you can help your significant other learn about your body. This means having an active and ongoing conversation with your partner about these details. A quick chat one evening is a good start, but try to turn this into a regular part of your life by including your partner in what you’re going through. As you discuss it and make it a normal part of your life together, the awkwardness will give way to support, compassion and humor.
Ultimately, your partner should be someone you feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest with. If you can’t bring up your period around them, how will they know to support you during this time (emotionally and physically)? Your period is not something to be ashamed of, and it shouldn’t be something you have to keep from your partner.