Why I tell my partner everything about my menstrual cycle
When I first got my period at about 12 or 13 I remember my mother insisting on telling my younger brothers. I was mortified and could not understand why they needed to know. My mum explained that they should know that it periods are normal, that I will have one every month and that I might not always feel well. She also said that one day if they have girlfriends they need to know that it’s perfectly normal thing to get your period and they shouldn’t be alarmed or grossed out about it. So my pleas and protestations were of no use and I had to grudgingly accept that they be told. They can tell you themselves whether this information was welcome or not.
I had no idea than that my Mum’s insistence to be open about my period was almost revolutionary for Ireland in the mid-1990s. Obviously among our close girl friends we shared all about our periods but we would be mortified for any boy to find out. In later years I realised that friends, in relationships with Irish men, couldn’t even mention periods to their partners. Tampons were stored at the back of the wardrobe and sex during ‘that time of the month’ was to be avoided at all costs by feigning a headache. Not because my friends didn’t want to have sex necessarily but because their partners couldn’t deal with the thought of a bleeding vagina (more to come on this!).
I have never been terribly secret about my period, mostly because the cramps can be so painful that I end up fainting or vomiting and anyone around me usually finds out why. In secondary school even the handyman knew – he kindly gave me a lift home once. Otherwise, I too was happy to keep the gory details to myself.
Now, however, I share everything with my partner. He know’s that my breasts hurt because my period’s coming. He know’s that I’m tired, cranky and bloated because I’m menstruating. He knows that I might be in two much pain to have sex or that sex might be just what the Dr. ordered for easing my cramps. He know’s when I’m ovulating (also painful) and when I am no longer fertile. He knows if it’s a long or short cycle, if I have heavy or light bleeding. If I bleed for two, three or four days. He knows a lot more than he probably wants to know but he never minds me sharing the details.
There is no other motivation behind this other than to let him know what is going on with me and the changes that happen in my body every month. When I have a cold I don’t pretend my stuffed nose and hacking cough are the result of a knee sprain so why would I pretend that my tiredness, low mood or sore breasts are not caused by the crimson wave?
While I am hugely skeptical of the spiritual menstruation movement that urges us to ’embrace our female energies’ and to plan our lives around our cycles, I do believe that talking openly and frankly about our cycles to those around us is an important step towards normalising menstruation, even becoming positive about it, and breaking the stigma and shame around periods. So I talk to my partner, I talk to my friends of all genders, I talk to my partner’s friends, I blog and I talk to basically anyone else who will listen about menstruation. Yes, I am Abby from 20th Century Women, the awkward guest who brings up bleeding vaginas at the dinner table. Feel free to disinvite me!
Apps for Sharing and Caring
In the new and diverse world of period tracking apps, Clue have incorporated a feature for sharing your cycle with your partner or anyone else who might be interested so they can see exactly what is going on with you over the course of each cycle. Clue is my period app of choice. It has multiple options to register how you are emotionally, physically and socially each day of your cycle. It is has a nearly genderless interface and sends you helpful reminders of when you might be ovulating or if you are about to menstruate. They also publish useful and informative articles on Medium many focusing on inclusion for trans folk. I haven’t gone so far as to get my partner to download the app so I can share the delights of period tracking with him (also he doesn’t have a smart phone), but I appreciate this option for its contribution to breaking period stigma.
So how do you find talking about periods with those around you? Is it difficult? Are they open to listening? Or is it just ‘women’s business’?