Quite possibly the cause of most grief in relationships and something nearly all men stay away from, is the misunderstanding and stigma around menstruation.
The answer: use the app YouSoGetMe (click the pink button on the right), enter her last period start date and it will tell you how she feels each day. If you don’t know when her most recent period started, just wait and she will tell you or you will notice.
The reason the misunderstanding exists
Period grief for men exists because society has been taught women should hide it and men should not talk or ask about it. This old way of teaching has created the wall of menstrual stigma. Unfortunately, it’s set to stay this way:
- Some years ago I asked my then 16yo son what his high-school taught about the menstrual cycle, he replied ‘it happens every 28 days and has three phases, (some names of body parts) and hormones, that’s all. I asked other high-school kids and found that nobody was taught anything else.
- My father, myself, and every single man I’ve asked in the last 20 years said they were taught the same thing ‘here’s the mechanics of it, don’t ask, it’s easier that way’.
This style of menstrual teaching to men is akin to teaching the mechanics of building a car, instead of teaching how to drive the car so you and everyone else can stay safe.
What should be taught?
Men should be taught the physical feelings of menstruation because men like to solve problems directly. The important thing men want to know (about the period) is how to help their wife/girlfriend/daughter if something is wrong, and when it is easier baby-time. Men don’t want to know the menstrual things women talk to other women about.
We only want to know what to do if our help is needed, without having to askEvery Man, Ever
From our 20+ years of research, we have found women prefer their partner to understand their feelings – and that’s a key part. While women want the pain to go away, they also want their feelings to be listened to. They also want it to be no issue when she tells her husband ‘I’ve got really painful cramps, I want to lay here on the sofa for a while’, and he knows it has nothing to do with her capabilities as a person, same as when his own body hurts (source: many women).
Making it about the feelings validates the approach for both men and women, and this will dissolve the wall.
How the wall is dissolved
The wall is only an illusion created by a knowledge gap. Filling in the gap by teaching about the physical feelings of menstruation dissolves the illusion because the different view lets you see through the wall. There are two other things needed to fill the gap.
- That it’s ok to know this.
- That the focus has changed from period blood to feelings.
The first part has resistance but is the easiest way forward.
The second part is to put the focus of menstruation (for men’s understanding) to be about the feelings, which is the aim of the YouSoGetMe app. We spent years creating and refining the right info and the right means to provide it, have completed, tested and refined the woman’s version, and have nearly finished the men’s version. You can get it now and it will update with the men’s version soon.
Getting the right focus
I started researching the menstrual cycle 20+ years ago when my wife fell ill after a birth control injection. Her body reacted badly against it, I wanted to help her, and I tried to discover the chemicals within the injection. Instead, I discovered many things about the cycle that I didn’t know (see how it started, here).
I wanted to know ‘how do her natural hormones make her feel each day, and if she needs my help, what type of things would she like best?’ so I wrote a small system to help me to understand how to help her. Yeah, like Jerry McGuire.
- Days 1 and 2: make breakfast, cook dinner, give her the TV control, hot water bottle, and let her rest. Early night.
- Day 12 to 16: easy pregnancy time, take her out, but also get ready to stay home if she wants.
- Day 22: expect ups and downs, she may have PCOS or PMS feelings
- Day 27, 28: she’s tired, give her some space and get things done first before she needs to ask about them. Prepare dinner or know what I want to have. so she does not have to think.
My wife got better and we got on with life, then two years later and in the week following our son’s birth, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. This began two years of painful treatments. My understanding of her natural body feelings from menstruation became important during her harsh treatments and brought us closer together: I knew when she needed space and I knew when she wanted me there more, or when she wanted private time. She was relieved that I understood her at a much deeper level and took care of things without having to be told or having to ask. I just got her.
Sadly two and a half years later she passed away and I made a promise to somehow make good from what had happened to her into something that can help others. I began to put all the menstrual info together, found supporting works, and released my thoughts. I was ridiculed (by men) so I went back to soaking up info.
Some time later a world expert picked it up and gave me direction, then many unhappy women critiqued it, ripping it apart but also rewriting it and making it better; this year, many female friends again rewrote it and refined its focus.
Instead of Shark Week
Now for day 1 of her cycle, instead of thinking it’s shark week and to stay away or walk on eggshells, men learn ‘It’s better for her body to relax, rest and restore with rest, a hot water bottle, sofa time and the TV control, while you take care of things (meals, cleaning, kids, washing, and other things). She can eat chocolate, and it’s better to not have cold foods or drinks these days, try warm water instead. Go walking in the afternoon or after dinner, learn to give tummy and back massages. She will be more susceptible to getting colds. Don’t keep asking ‘are you ok’ because she is ok and just handling things her way’.
Changing the focus to how she feels and what to do about it is easier for men to accept.
Because the info in the app is written by women, there is nothing unsuitable for men to know, it’s all about how menstruation makes the body feel, how to interpret it, and things to do to make life easier.
Dissolving the wall, personally
Dissolving the illusion of the wall starts with the permission to yourself ‘it’s ok that I know this’. Having this understanding in an everyday form normalizes the period and we found this makes other things apparent.
- There’s nothing to hide because the old paradigm is gone. Men only want to know the answer to two questions ‘how are you feeling’ and ‘how can I help’.
- Women don’t have to hide their feelings, and men can ask and talk about it easier.
- A man would rather know the difference between how he makes her feel and how her cycle makes her feel, instead of walking on eggshells until things seem better.
- When it’s about feelings, women can say ‘hey my body hurts, it’s making me feel X, I’m going to work from home.’ It should be like when people tell their boss they are sick, can’t breathe properly, hurt their leg, got a bad stomach/diarrhea, or have bad flu. This is for all body ailments and is easier to adopt.
- Keeping the topic about feelings removes any creepiness or discomfort, makes it clinical in a personal way and also preserves the femininity of women.
This is not perfect because every woman is different, but it’s a powerful way to begin removing the stigma.
We believe that using this approach will lessen or remove menstrual stigma, stop unintended pregnancies and abortions, improve relationships and marriages, and decrease divorces (not to mention that the cost of divorce was more than $33 billion in the US last year),
Removing this wall and filling the gap will create different and new opportunities, a rise in understanding and communication, stronger relationships, increased men’s and women’s mental health, better romance and non-sexual intimacy in marriage, and a stronger society with a better economy because we can easier address issues.
We believe that by focusing simply on feelings, that the wall of menstrual stigma can be dissolved.