As I've already stated, we didn't get an accurate diagnoses of PCOS until around five years into our marriage. That means in the beginning I didn't have a clue why my new wife would go from super sweet and awesome one moment, to off the reservation the next. While we were dating she told me she never had regular periods so I wasn't surprised when she would go months with no period. (In the early years of our marriage she didn't have many periods. Eventually that flip flopped to bleeding for months on end without let up.)
I don't even want to label what women with PCOS go through emotionally as "mood swings". To me that would be like labeling the sun as "warm". Similarly, there is no comparison between normal PMS that women without PCOS experience and the extreme emotional storms that a woman with PCOS endures on a regular basis. Now I grew up with plenty of women around so I was use to PMS. That did not prepare me for what I was going through with my new wife. She would lash out at me like I just stabbed her mother. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it because I didn't want anyone to think badly about my wife. Besides, I wasn't sure if it wasn't just the normal newlywed growing pains; and that's what anyone would tell me even if I did talk to someone about it. As the months went by things were not getting better. Even after I moved us to her home town to be near her family things still didn't get better. To be honest, in the almost twelve years we've been married there have been ups and downs, but things still haven't really gotten better. I mean the symptoms are the same. We have learned how to see the emotional storms coming and how to deal with them. The storms are just as bad as they've always been.
When one of these raging emotional storms hits, my wife focuses it right at me. It's only natural, I am the closest person to her on this planet. Mostly she lashes out verbally. The frequency of these "storms" varies. I'll say this, they are more frequent than PMS. In the beginning I was mortified. One day I went to our bedroom to find a bottle of pills on her night stand. She was trying to take the whole bottle! They were Tylenol PM. Fortunately she can't swallow pills. By the time I came in she had only managed to force down a couple. She's not really suicidal, but when one of these "storms" is worse than usual she just wants it to stop. Shortly before she was diagnosed, my wife actually grabbed one of our biggest kitchen knives and was threatening both myself and her with it. That was one of the most tense moments in our marriage for me. She's only reached for a weapon that one time, though I have been punched and kicked a number of times.
It is very important for me to make it clear how wonderful my wife is. She is sincerely one of the most generous, kindhearted people I know. She would never hurt anyone and never has she let anyone but me bare the brunt of one of these storms. She is not her PCOS. When one of these "storms" come she is not herself.
How did we learn to weather these "storms"? In the beginning she was even more clueless about what was going on that I was. It took years before she realized something was wrong. Scary thought I know. I had to learn early on not to take it personally. It's one of the first, most important, things for a new husband to learn. Even when it's aimed at you, it is not about you. Don't take it personal. That may be easier said than done for a lot of guys. I am not a very sensitive guy to begin with and it was still difficult to put this into practice. IT is better for her to lash out at you than at herself. As men we were made tougher. That may sound sexist or chauvinistic but it is true. Some men don't seem tough emotionally, but in a relationship with a woman that has PCOS a man needs to be tough emotionally. As husbands it is our obligation to endure whatever we have to in order to safeguard our wives.
Another important tool for learning to weather these "storms" is communication. I can't speak for every couple living with PCOS. I can say that my wife is not off the reservation all the time. Once she started to realize there was a real problem we started to talk about it. As I've said, the diagnosis is very important. When she was diagnosed we were able to have much more productive communication about her condition and the emotional side effects. It made it easier for me to take the brunt of her "storms". We both came to realize that she needed the release these "storms" give her in order for her to function from day to day. Fighting them is useless. They are going to happen whether we like it or not. It is better to just get it over with as quick as possible, than try to fight it and have it slowly build up for days or weeks. When I recognize what's going on I want it to get to a climax quickly. Once one of these "storms" reaches that climax my wife is usually exhausted and falls right to sleep. (For us these things always want to happen in the middle of the night.)
Safety. As I've said, we've had some scary moments. In almost twelve years there have only been a few, but they were bad. For a time I hid the knives. During that same time I wouldn't keep guns in the house. Mainly though, I'm vigilant about trying to see these "storms" coming. When I do see signs of one I make sure that I am with her at all times. This annoys her, but I don't let her out of my sight. Which means I most certainly don't let her leave the house. She has tried. I take the keys to her car and I just keep her in the house. This approach has a two fold benefit. It keeps her safe and it really makes her mad. Mad is good. The faster she reaches her boiling point the faster she'll reach the climax of the "storm".
I don't want anyone reading this to think my wife is a raving lunatic. I think everyone living with PCOS understands, but for people that aren't, all this might seem crazy. Also, I know that the concept of headship in the marriage is considered somewhat old fashioned. I see a lot of relationships were the woman is in charge. I don't want to offend any women that may not think there is anything wrong with her wearing the pants. Having said that, this blog is about living with PCOS. I believe it is important for any husband that has a wife with PCOS to be the head of his family.
Weathering the storms that come with PCOS can be very difficult. Experience is really the best teacher, but it can help to have input from older husbands that have been at it longer. If you're a new husband and things seem overwhelming, keep your chin up. You're not alone. I'm hoping that more husbands living with PCOS see this blog and start to feel more comfortable sharing what their experience has taught them. I've seen the forums and support groups out there for the women, but there really isn't a lot out there for the men. We're like a band of brothers. Husbands that aren't living with PCOS can't understand what we go through, no matter how much we try to explain it to them. So don't be ashamed to reach out to those that do understand.