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PMS = Punish My Spouse?

I received a rather fascinating email from one of my male readers wanting to know if the whole PMS thing is real or if it is something we women made up to scare the living snot out of men for one week a month. (Seriously, do they honestly think that we would make something like this up? Note to self: guys are paranoid). Here's what I had to say on the matter...

Hi Shelli,

Is the whole PMS thing real or is it something you women made up so you can get away with murder for one week a month? Really – honest question. Some months are pretty bad in our house, but not consistently bad, which is why I ask.



Sadly, the truth of the matter is that PMS is a very real phenomenon. About as real as your species’ need to constantly adjust yourselves. Or look at cars. And while you may believe that PMS stands for “Permissible Man Slaughter” or “Punish My Spouse”, it has been widely documented that the shift in a woman’s hormones at this particular time of the month can make her quite irritable and ratty. Or prone to stabbing her snoring husband repeatedly in the throat until he bloody well SHUTS UP AND LETS HER SLEEP.

Now I realise that this is hardly a comforting thought – that you have to put up with this erratic version of your partner for 25% of each month until she reaches menopause. So, let me begin by reassuring you that for most women, it’s not much fun either!  We might have been perfectly happy yesterday, but today we have the worst life, worst husband, worst job and worst children EVER. And we are fat. 

It’s as simple as that.

Then we get all morose and introspective and begin unravelling our lives to see where it all went so horribly wrong. All while eating our way through numerous packets of Salt & Vinegar chips and entire slabs of Top Deck. We will cry at everything from Grey's Anatomy to Masterchef Australia, before posting profound thoughts on Facebook and sending detailed SMS’s to our friends.

Until a few days later, when the sun magically comes out again and all our misery is forgotten. For about three heavenly weeks, when our husband’s breathing starts to annoy us, or the sound of our children’s whining makes us fantasise about taking them to the nearest vet and having their voice-boxes surgically removed.

Still confused? Okay – think of it this way. Imagine sitting in a restaurant with your partner, having a really nice dinner, when a really gorgeous-looking guy sits down next to her and starts chatting her up. You politely ask him to leave, and can’t BELIEVE the arrogant way he completely ignores you. And how your partner looks at him all wide-eyed while licking her lips. And then ... he puts his hand on her leg and moves it slowly up her thigh. Right in front of you. As if you were invisible. How would you feel? Well, take THAT feeling and then get someone to punch you in the nuts. That’s pretty much how it feels to have PMS.

And don’t think for a second that we don’t know that we are being unreasonable – we do. In fact, if the bitter truth be told, WE don’t think we’re all that much fun to live with either for these few days. I have even been known to have a type of out-of-body experience where I am busy snapping and snarling at everyone who comes near me, all the while wondering what the hell is going on. But it’s a bit like toothache – you can try to ignore it, but the fact of the matter is you that you can’t fight it alone. You need some form of medication, and for us – it is either chocolate or making grown men cry.

It’s also hard to keep track of. We are busy with life and friends and family and work and we don’t always KNOW that it’s PMS. We might just think we’re tired or stressed, and it’s only when we are unwrapping our hands from around a taxi driver’s throat that we go: “Oh, wait. This is not normal. Maybe I have PMS....” And then we go back to strangling the person in front of us. Like I said, it doesn’t really HELP when you’ve identified the cause of your anger, but it is a relief to know that it’s just good ol’ PMS and not your personality.

And as for the question of why we are not consistent, well – it’s hormonal. Some months we eat better and exercise and take our vitamins, and the month passes without so much as a murmur. And other months things can get so bad that our husbands lock themselves in the bathroom while waving a white bath towel out the door and begging for mercy. There’s also the fact that some women are much worse than others at this particular time of the month. Mostly because they’re bitches.

So, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. That while you are staring in wide-eyed wonderment at the snarling woman in front of you and wondering where the love of your life went – millions of men worldwide are feeling your pain. Wait it out, like we do, and order will soon be restored.

Until then, you’re pretty much damned if you do and damned if you don’t – just when you think you have figured out how to handle her hormones, she’ll rewrite the script completely. But a good starting point is running her a hot bubble bath and handing her a glass of wine and a stack of magazines. Never mind the fact that it will really make her feel better – it will give you at least an hour of peace and quiet! Trust me!


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