By Edie Bartley and Rosie Matheson founders of Moon Milk Collective
Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels
Have you ever planned an important meeting, date or conversation with a pal, only to realise half way through a catatonic meltdown that you were on day one of your period and you’re an emotional mess and in no place to be dealing with a complex maze of career pivots, showing off your best self or navigating a tricky convo? We have! Oh my word, we have.
Understanding your flow, your energy, and your emotions means you can avoid conflict, tension and a melting down in a fiery pit of hell, and instead nourish yourself with self care and a warm heat pack, and use your peaks to your advantage. We asked the lovely humans Edie and Rosie the force behind Moon Milk Collective to talk us through flow.
What is CYCLICAL awareness?
Cyclical awareness is getting in touch with the subtle changes that occur throughout your menstrual cycle. Every single day of the month your hormones are rising and falling, and therefore so are your moods, energy levels, sex drive and creative juices. Cyclical awareness is living in a way that is working WITH these hormonal fluctuations instead of against them, so that you can enjoy each phase of your cycle. It’s recognising the signs of ovulation before your app notifies you, it’s understanding what the change in your cervical fluid or the swelling of your boobs mean, it’s noticing the drop or rise in libido, it’s not being caught out by big emotions. It’s understanding yourself in a way that means you never feel unpredictable or irrational. It is really listening, and acting from a place of knowing and trusting your body’s signals.
Why does CYCLICAL awareness have the power to create a healthy and thriving relationship?
In any relationship it’s important to know where your partner is at, in an emotional, mental and physical capacity. Knowing if they are tired, hungry or just grumpy changes your way of relating to them. Cyclical awareness comes under all three of those aspects; emotional, mental and physical. Cyclical awareness in your relationship can bring you closer, deepen your intimacy and bring more empathy and compassion into your relationship. It can be like an unspoken understanding, that need not be emphasised each time. It becomes a little dance each cycle, where you both go through the phases together and your life flows in harmony with the changes in your body.
If your partner is aware that you are bleeding, maybe they can be a little softer with you, expect less of you, be more generous or give you more space. If you’re both aware of your cycle, it will help you to both coexist with ease. You will begin to value the permission it gives you to just be, and you will appreciate the respect they have for your body and its natural cycle. There’s nothing sexier than your partner saying “babe are you about to bleed?” and you realise just how much they actually notice, how the little things aren’t taken for granted and how the subtle changes don’t just slip through the cracks.
Can you give an example of an issue that would arise, the result of lacking cyclical awareness?
Our needs and ability to relate are constantly changing during our cycle. What works in a relationship one week of your cycle won’t always work the next. During your ovulation phase you might want to see your partner every day, you may want lots of affection and intimacy. But as you enter the next phase, your premenstrual phase it’s common to feel more introverted, less tolerant, and more sensitive which is ultimately a great thing! This heightened sensitivity allows you to feel what you DO and DON’T want to be putting up with month after month. But without understanding and anticipating these changes it’s easy for a partner to feel confused and rejected as you make the shift from one phase to the next. This can often lead to conflict and tension and the idea that the PMS phase is one to be feared by all.
What does having cyclICAL awareness look like in the context of a relationship? Does it have any effects on a couples sex life?
Cycle awareness in relationships can be as simple as putting a red dot on your calendar so your partner can see when you’re bleeding, then maybe a white dot can represent ovulating, a blue dot when PMSing and so on. This is a great way to subtly communicate/remind them (and yourself) to shift their expectations as your nature shifts with your cycle. Alternatively you could each download a period app like Clue or Flo, that will give them intimate insight into your cycle. It all depends on what level of awareness you’re after.
When it comes to sex if we’re talking monogamy, two people typically have two very different experiences in life, different sex drives, energy, stamina, sensitivity and everything in between, this can cause dissonance at the best of times. It’s important to know that your libido is something that may fluctuate drastically throughout your cycle and to work with it so you can go with and enjoy the urges when they come, and equally enjoy and accept when they don’t come.
From a biological perspective, womxn are programmed to ovulate in order to procreate, so our bodies are primed for sex at that time. Alternatively some womxn desire sex more when their bleeding, which is a time where some people can feel super sensual and affectionate, so like most things in life, it entirely depends on the person.
A fairly easy way to establish how your cycle affects your sexual desire is to track your cycle (which is something you should be doing for your own benefit anyway). Even just placing a simple note or emoji on each day of your calendar will help you to look back over the weeks and see what your personal trend is when it comes to sex and your cycle.
What are the first steps for introducing cyclical awareness into a relationship which has never had it before?
A great way to introduce cycle awareness is to firstly educate yourself and share little pieces of information here and there. It’s important to not overwhelm your partner, or expect them to know everything at once. To begin, just share with them the interesting facts you discover along the way. If you already have an open and free communication channel maybe tell them that you’d like to help them understand your cycle because you think it will help your relationship to thrive, and as you discover all the unique quirks of your cycle you can let them know too.
If you are bleeding and you feel less social maybe say to your partner “hey im bleeding, so i’d love to just eat some pizza and have a bath tonight” or when you’re ovulating and possibly feeling more playful you could suggest you both go on a date that night or hang out with some friends together.
Gradually, by modelling through behaviour and communication they will begin to see a pattern and learn your ways. If they are also a menstruating human, your initiative may inspire them to delve into their own cycle, learn their own unique difference and inspire them to weave more cycle awareness into their own lives.
Do you have any products, resources or tools you can recommend to people who are in a relationship that consists of one or more menstruating people?
We mentioned Clue earlier, which is a great app to help you track your cycle, and integrate cycle awareness into your relationship. There’s also the possibility of syncing your period with your partner if they also menstruate, because as we know this can happen! This may help you connect and recognise the differences and similarities of your cycles, and allow you to support each other through it all.
When it comes to period sex it can be a lovely way to connect with your partner on a truly intimate level and get them feeling comfortable with your blood, your natural processes and the changes you experience as a menstruating person (again, if they also menstruate, your openness may give them permission to invite you in, which will give you the same opportunities to familarise yourself with their body).
Regardless of your feelings on period sex we recommend getting yourself a vibrator and/or an OhNut.
Periods can be painful, it can be the last time you feel like getting frisky – however! Orgasms are a natural pain reliever and they are an incredible mood booster, anxiety reliever and energiser. So with a vibrator such as the Gaia Eco Vibrator (which is also biodegradable, yay!) you can use it externally for a clitoral orgasm.
Alternatively if you prefer the internal experience, an OhNut is something you can use to experience a more shallow penetration during sex, it is a silicone ring that you can use on your partner or your sex toy as a buffer between you, so just the tip goes inside, which is sometimes just the right amount when bleeding.
In a more general sense there are ways in which you can integrate some sort of ritual into your relationship, which not only adds a really special feeling to your relationship, but it can also take away from the difficulties of it all. Perhaps on day one of your cycle you and your partner might enjoy your favourite cafe for breakfast. And during your pre menstrual phase your partner can give you a massage. If you’re both bleeding at the same time it’s a perfect opportunity to take a day off and relax together, maybe watch your favourite movie together and veg out. That way you are feeling pampered and nurtured, but also your cycle becomes this important thing that is prioritised rather than dreaded. It also just gives you an excuse to do cute things together!
What does cyclical awareness mean for a non-menstruating partner? what can they expect, what can they do?
A non menstruating partner will generally be fairly unsure about it all. Occasionally they have some understanding prior to being with you, which can be great, but sometimes the understanding they have will come from the stigmatised and tabooed version of menstruation that we are too often taught by our society. In which case there may be some unravelling of preexisting ideas to do before you really get into learning more. In general, non-menstruating partners can be open and curious, it can be really exciting for them to learn and figure out the mysteries of menstruation. It can be a little daunting as well so go gently.
All in all, your body is magnificent and powerful, and it’s important that they honour and respect that. A non-menstruating partner won’t necessarily experience such obvious cyclical changes and can therefore be a more consistent support for you. Once you teach them, they will be able to recognise when you need that extra love and care, and without their own cycle to be managing they may find it easy to provide that for you.
It can also be helpful if your partner is able to learn the hormonal side of things, so that they can see the biological changes and the realness of your experience, which will help them be more patient and empathetic, understanding that your dealing with physical symptoms of a completely natural process that needs to be considered as an integral part of your relationship.