A complex negotiation: Women’s experiences of naming and not naming premenstrual distress in couple relationships

22 September 2014

Recent research has demonstrated the importance of family relationships in women’s experience of premenstrual changes, and their construction of these changes as ‘PMS’. However, the discursive process by which women take up the subject position of ‘PMS’ sufferer through the explicit naming of ‘PMS’ to an intimate partner has received little research attention. Drawing on 60 individual interviews with Australian women, conducted between 2004 and 2006, we examined accounts of naming ‘PMS’ in intimate relationships, women’s explanations for naming or not naming, and their experiences of their partner naming them as premenstrual. The analysis process identified an overarching theme of naming ‘PMS’, which was made up of three themes: naming to explain; ‘PMS’ becoming the only explanation for distress; and ‘PMS’ as not a legitimate explanation for distress. The findings suggest that clinicians need to be aware of women’s complex, and often ambivalent, experiences of naming ‘PMS’ within their relationships, when working with women, and couples, seeking treatment or support for premenstrual distress. Premenstrual distress; PMS; relationships; cultural construction; Positioning Theory