This is news to nobody, but it’s still gotta be said: A lot of men don’t know very much about periods. They’re either grossed out by our periods (which is just silly as it is disappointing) or they just have no idea what menstruating even is. For example, as knowledgeable as one of my best guy friends from college is, I recently learned that he thought ovulating was the same thing as PMSing, like they were just different terms for the same thing (*face palm*). The sad thing is, though, this is pretty typical amongst men in my experience (if you have dudes in your life who are very tuned in to your cycle and educated about periods, that’s awesome). They typically have no idea what’s going on in our reproductive hemisphere, which ugh.
Generally, this results in men accusing us of being on our periods when we’re in the middle of a fight or when they think we’re being unreasonable (like this hilariously annoying clip from Get Him to the Greek). To them, we turn into monsters when we’re PMSing, and we’re impossible to be around. I was sick and tired of fighting that stereotype with all my past boyfriends, so I decided to change things up with my current S.O. I wanted him to understand the menstrual cycle — when I ovulated, when I PMSed, when I actually had my period — and how each phase affected my body and my moods. Thankfully, he was open to learning more about it from the start. After listening openly and curiously to all the things his teachers and parents failed to teach him, he now understands more than ever about how periods work — and we’re better off for it.
If you’re a menstruating human who has a non-menstruating boyfriend, I highly recommend giving him a few assignments to learn a bit more about how your body works. Here are six ways my relationship changed with my boyfriend after I taught him a thing or two about periods.
1. We now fight a lot less when I’m PMSing.
Yes, I get hormonal when I PMS. That’s a natural side effect of my uterus preparing to shed its lining, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Mood swings are a common thing to experience during this time of month (although that’s not true for every menstruating person), and I’m no exception. When my S.O. finally understood that I get a little short-tempered at this time of the month, and that the thing I need most is some space.
So when my period is coming up (we’ve been together for so long that he essentially knows my cycle by now), he keeps himself busy and gives me my alone time, no questions asked. I have the house to myself for an evening, watch my guilty pleasure shows, eat all the chocolate, paint my nails, and just have free reign to do whatever I want while I’m fighting off the cramps and crankiness. Having that tiny bit of distance keeps the fighting at bay.
2. He’s more willing to help me out when I’m in pain.
Now that my S.O. gets where the pain actually comes from and I’ve explained to him how it feels, he’s much more sympathetic to what I’m experiencing. For example, he actually cringed when I told him the duty my uterus performed during each period. He couldn’t possibly be unsympathetic after that. So now when he sees me doubling over in discomfort, he whips out the Advil and heating pad without a word. Saves me a whole lot of effort.
3. He no longer cracks insensitive jokes about menstruating.
Guys find themselves to be hilarious when they crack jokes about our periods. They think it’s clever to poke fun at us when we’re “on the rag” or in the middle of “shark week.” Not cool. It pisses us (at least, me) off more than anything. Even though my BF is a pretty conscious guy who doesn’t treat women badly, he’s been known to lay down a few jokes about menstruation before, and I’ve never enjoyed any of them.
As we talked about the facts of menstruation, I made sure we chatted about period taboo, and how the stereotypes perpetuated by our society are only harmful to us in the long run. Women have been put down, neglected, and mistreated long enough. The least we can do is cut out all the harmful jokes and stop putting women down for a bodily function that is perfectly normal.
4. It’s so much easier to prevent pregnancy together.
I don’t use any birth control at the moment. I suffered blood clots from the pill when I was 20, so I can’t use any hormonal methods of contraception ever again. I tried the copper IUD for a year and a half, and it was so painful and debilitating that I had to get it removed. So at the moment, I’m going by my ovulation schedule until I find a form of contraception that works for me.
So I explained my ovulation schedule, and how it relates to my period. Because we’ve got no interest in getting pregnant at the moment (and I mean, like, no interest whatsoever), we both have to be careful about when we’re having sex. Now that he understands how ovulation works, he’s just as invested as I am in keeping track of my menstruation cycle, because he knows how important it is to know the schedule.
5. It’s just brought us closer in general.
A menstrual cycle is a pretty big part of a woman’s life. It takes up a lot of our time and it requires a lot of effort to take care of. It’s really helpful to have a partner who understands and supports you through the ups and downs. It may not sound like a big deal, but having my S.O. take an interest in my menstrual health, which is a pretty big part of my overall health, made me feel cared for in a whole new way. We can talk about things more openly now than we ever could before, and I don’t feel like I have to hide any part of my womanhood to the person I love most.
This article originally appeared on Hellogiggles.com.