In my experience, I’ve had mixed reactions from former partners regarding my period. But until recently, I had never had a relationship where my (male-bodied) partner is on incredibly good terms with my lady business…especially during shark week. In fact, if anything this partner is on better terms with my I-hate-my-uterus week than I am.
After our first tentative brushes around the topic, he dove into the unfamiliar and slightly hostile waters: “When you menstruate…“ Never have three words made me blush so much; I openly gaped at him and then promptly attempted to change the subject.
He continued. “I care about you, therefore I care about how you feel. I want you to feel comfortable talking to me about anything.”
I later realized to my embarrassment that in these conversations, his open nature and honest questions were not the issue, I was. I’ve never had a very healthy bond with my lady bits. Unlike many of my friends, my periods were not something I delighted in (Yay womanhood!). They were four days of agonizing cramps, heavy flow, and way too many soiled undergarments. It wasn’t until I hit college that I started looking at it differently, though not in an entirely positive light.
Prior to my current relationship, Aunt Flo’s arrival was something that was awkward for my partners and terribly embarrassing for me. I’m sure my years in school did nothing but reinforce this stereotype, so I let the cycle of shame continue. I encountered reactions of anything from the occasional “gross” to a downright refusal to buy feminine products for me, even if they happened to be at the store. All this fuss over a bit of processed material that couldn’t possibly be used by you?
I was disgusted but somehow not surprised To my embarrassment, I now realize that I had grown used to the stigma. In a way, my current partner’s complete honesty has changed how I see and treat myself. As a woman, I should not feel ashamed of that which I cannot change. Someday my body will grow a human; how amazing is that? I feel like that experience will be worth the years of washing out my bloomers in cold water and awkwardly changing my tampon in public restrooms.
Until then, I’m trying to learn to relish my womanhood for what it is. This starts with learning to talk about my period with my partner. I recommend taking baby steps. It took me months to be able to say words like “vagina” without deflecting and using dumb terminology like hoo-hah because I was uncomfortable with the raw truth of it. And if we’re being honest? I still slip into slightly abrasive terminology when I’m uncomfortable, even if I can’t explain why I’m uncomfortable. But I strive to be as open and honest as possible, even when talking to someone other than him. I tell him when I’m cramping or how nervous I am to go to the gynecologist, and to my surprise, he has even offered to go with me for emotional support. We maintain a healthy attitude towards subjects such as birth control options by keeping an unspoken policy of open communication and offer insights by sharing previous experiences.
Gradually I’m learning to accept my body right as it is, as he has already. In our relationship, we don’t see menstruation as something dirty or unclean, and learning by example, I see it as a natural occurrence. And in an individual, what do we appreciate more than their true nature?
Since tackling this one awkward subject, there is no conversation that is off limits, and all it took was a bit of patience and time. He was kind and understanding, and maybe a little bit probing in his questions. At the end of the day his questions have helped me more than anything because they made me question why I found everything so hopelessly embarrassing.
My advice to anyone who wishes to approach this topic with a partner? You have to be okay with being uncomfortable, but keep in mind that this is temporary. Never let anyone embarrass you for wanting to have that honesty as a part of your relationship; it goes hand in hand with intimacy. And in reverse, don’t be embarrassed because someone wants to have that conversation. I promise you cannot actually die of embarrassment (I know from experience). I am at this place of ease with my partner because I responded to his request for communication. I took a giant leap, landing far outside my comfort zone and everything has become that much easier simply because of my trust in him.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.