Dearest Partners of Women with PMDD,
First of all, let me be clear. This letter does not come with answers or solutions. This is not a "be all & end all" to the chaos of PMDD. Every situation for every woman is different. Ergo (a word not used often enough), no household is the same. After many conversations and emails with men and women around the world, I've realized a few common traits, however. There are similar feelings, circumstances, emotions, issues and experiences...this letter addresses and recognizes them. This note recognizes the real, true emotions and thoughts emanating from the souls of men (and women) coping with a partner with PMDD. This is not a happy letter to make everyone feel better...it's one that draws attention to the mindset reality of living with PMDD. This isn't about me. It's about all of us.
I know you.
You're tired. Exhausted. You feel drained of all energy - emotional, physical, spiritual. Perhaps you feel absolutely nothing at all. You're like a zombie, going through the motions every day. But you're used to it...it's who you've become. You don't like it - you wish you had more energy and lust for life - but you give yourself a daily pep talk to survive the day, praying that today might be better...and you're not even the one with PMDD.
You are constantly on edge. You never know when her hurricane will hit. Predicting how one day to the next will transpire is fruitless. Hour to hour, day to day...hell, even minute to minute, is a pointless exercise. You see her, you love her, you feel for her but you wonder, "what else can I do?" - you've already tried everything!
You've thought about divorce. You've thought about having an affair. You've questioned your life choices...and those thoughts scare the hell out of you. So why do you stay? Why do you remain committed in a relationship that causes you stress and, most likely, shaves years off your life? Perhaps it's because of the words, "...in sickness and health...'til death do us part..." or maybe you're a glutton for punishment or feel, deep down, you can fix her or save her. Possibly, you fear what she'd do if you left. If you have kids, my guess is, you're there for them, more than her.
You've probably heard from her, more times than can count, that she "needs to do (this) or (that) because it might help" - this may include taking a course, going for a run, spending a day or two at the spa, getting massages, nights out with her girlfriends, binge watching Sex & the City or Supernatural, spending a few days here and there away from you (and the kids)...but can you do the same? No. Can you just take off for a few hours and have the day just for you? Probably not. Deep down, you wonder, could she handle the kids for 3 days without me? Your/my gut says no. The time you have out of the house is, most likely, spent getting groceries and doing things that need to be done to make the house and your life a little better.
You probably don't hear "Thank you" or "I love you" nearly often enough...and, as for, physical expressions of love? Not so much. (or, at least, not like it used to be). But when SHE wants it, you must provide! Perhaps sex - or any form of intimacy - feels like a chore...another task to complete. Or perhaps, when it finally happens - a moment together, both of you in a positive, awake state of mind - it's a relief...an opportunity to forget about the trials of tribulations of the past few days.
You say words but may not mean them...or they don't have the same feeling behind them like they used to: "I love you" - perhaps it's said so she can hear the words but, your feeling behind them is different. "It'll be okay" - knowing, deep down, it'll get better for her but not for you. Her diatribes, constant needs, argumentative statements, vitriolic, mean words...you'll remember them and hold onto them and think of them all too often. You'll start to believe them - or, at minimum, question who you are based on her hurtful words. You say, "I'm here for you" but, perhaps deep down, you wish at that moment, you weren't. "
You constantly look for ways to control your environment - from the way you schedule your day to what you cook for supper or how you organize things around the house. More often than not, when she's in her state, decisions are a further stress and amplify her anxiety. What do you do? You make all the decisions, thinking that'll make life easier for her. Yet, unfortunately, it doesn't often work out that way. Perhaps it's her response of "you should've asked/told me" or "why didn't you let me know?" or "if you loved me you'd have...". Friends may say, "damned if you do, damned if you don't" but, to you, it had to be done. Survival instinct kicks in and you do what you need to do.
On the good days, when she's positive, upbeat, full of energy, revitalized, you struggle to enjoy the moment...you don't know how long it'll last...you fear the bubble popping...you're still on edge and, most likely, get down on yourself for not being fully present with her. Even when you know you SHOULD be enjoying yourself, you can't.
You're not fully present on a good day. You're not fully present when you're supposed to be having fun or enjoying life. But you ARE fully present when you're surrounded by her chaos, negativity, anger, frustration and darkness. Think about that for a moment:
You're only fully alive when you're being torn down, when your life force is being given to someone else, when every moment of your day is spent making sure your partner (and your household) lives to see another day.
You probably mutter or mumble under your breath as you walk away from her...things you wish you could say out loud but, knowing the damage they'd do to both of you, respecting her mental state, you keep it to yourself, tucking it deep inside where the feelings fester and ferment. Maybe those words of resentment will go away..or, maybe they've established a symbiotic relationship with your soul. These periods of resentment...they grow in number as the years go on...your thought process dips its toes into the murky waters of ire more frequently and easily.
You feel guilty when you do something for you. Whether a ball game or buying something online, you wonder how she'll react or what she'll think or if she'll resent your 'selfish' ways. So you begin doing less and less for yourself, channelling your energy into your family and her.
If you have kids, you wonder what they'll remember about life in the house, growing up. Will they remember how Mommy hardly slept in the same bed as Daddy? Will they remember how Daddy would always wake them up in the morning, get them dressed, make them breakfast, pack their lunches, cook supper, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, get the groceries? Or will they remember that Daddy didn't have enough time to play with them because of everything he did to make the house function?
You cry. Sometimes there are tears streaming down your face or sometimes you're crying on the inside. But, regardless, you're sad. You're upset - at yourself, at her, at a higher power, at anyone, at no one - yet you keep it to yourself. It's your burden. Perhaps you feel like you asked for this. Perhaps you believe this is your own private challenge. Know you're not alone. There are people out there to help. People are there for you. They want to help...they're waiting at your doorstep...it's up to you to let them in.
This letter is part vent, part affirmation. Maybe you've had some (or all) of these thoughts. Maybe you can't relate at all. In any case, you aren't alone. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, strength builds from pain. For whatever your reasons, your resolve to remain committed to someone struggling with the very fabric of being, is powerful. While my words may not be enough, you are a great person, standing beside someone who needs you more than words. You may not hear it enough or feel it or even believe it but your presence is an amazing gift - not only to her but to the universe. You make her world - and the world around you - a better place.