I want to be there for my girlfriend when she has her period every month, which I know is a tough time, but I don’t feel like I fully understand the biological process. Is there some way as a male that I can experience a period?
It’s great that you’re so understanding and empathetic and I’m sure that your girlfriend is grateful that you care enough about her to try to understand how she feels. Truthfully though, every woman’s experience can vary in terms of types and severity of symptoms.
I’m guessing you’re asking about this because your girlfriend has some form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that has both physical and emotional symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, and depression.
These symptoms can also vary from period to period and can be exacerbated by other factors such as food consumption, lack of nutrients, and stress. Even though you can’t understand the specifics of what she’s experiencing at the time, I’m guessing that you have had a few of these symptoms before, albeit in different contexts, and can therefore relate to how she’s feeling.
Instead of trying to guess, you can always try asking her how you can help – I have a feeling just knowing that you care enough to try will be more than enough.
How can you tell if you’re dating a sociopath? A narcissist?
First of all, although sociopaths (the official name is antisocial personality disorder) and narcissists are different, they have some important similarities.
Both of these personality disorders can be characterized by a lack of perspective taking and caring about others’ feelings, being superficially charming and persuasive, and feeling entitled to exploit others to achieve their own goals. These individuals enjoy being the center of attention and feel that they are entitled to special treatment; the regular social rules that apply to others don’t apply to them.
Another way of thinking about this difference is that a sociopath is a more extreme version of a narcissist; for example, sociopaths are often incapable of controlling their impulses versus narcissists who are very careful about the way they appear to others.
Sociopaths’ lack of empathy can also become sadistic, and not surprisingly, they have a harder time maintaining relationships. Although narcissistic personality disorder (NPI) is exceedingly rare, there are higher levels of narcissism in the general population and in all likelihood this is what you’ve encountered.
Some other red flags associated with a highly narcissistic person include a game-playing orientation toward the relationship; does it seem as if this person is trying to “get away with things” (e.g. lying, infidelity, manipulation) in the relationship and then reeling you back in?
Relationships with narcissists also tend to be very intensely happy at the beginning but then decrease sharply as time goes by. Because highly narcissistic people are constantly using and losing others, they tend to have a very wide but very superficial group of friends. Finally, narcissists are often vain and like to draw attention to themselves in a multitude of ways e.g. using pretentious vocabulary, wearing flashy clothing, boasting about their accomplishments, and flirting indiscriminately.
If you’d like more detailed information, my friend W. Keith Campbell has spent years researching narcissism and has written a great pop psychology book called “When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself.” At the heart of it though, highly narcissistic people are entitled users that lack a conscience and are not going to change.
Given that it’s only a matter of time before this kind of partner will throw you under the bus to achieve one of his/her own goals, I would suggest running, not walking, away from this relationship.
Estrada is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Clinical & Social Psychology.
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