Journeying through infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and other pregnancy related losses usually brings about pain, grief, anger, confusion, and an array of emotions. It can sometimes feel isolating, even leading to distance and misunderstanding in a relationship. Perhaps one partner wants to talk about their experience of grief, while the other prefers to grieve in silence. Or one partner may desire to share personal information about the infertility journey with supportive friends and family, while the other partner finds sharing unhelpful and even hurtful. Open communication is vital between partners, although it can sometimes be difficult to know how to start. I have listed five things to consider when beginning to share your feelings and experiences about your reproductive concerns with your partner.
- Remember to keep an open mind. You partner may not be feeling the same things as you. All feelings must be allowed in the conversation. Feeling “numb” or being unable to identify any feelings at all is one way to cope. Please leave room for this response as well.
- If talking about your thoughts and feelings is too difficult, consider writing them down, using art, or finding a poem that helps you share with your partner.
- Be sure both partners can be “present” in the conversation. Put down phones, turn off the TV, and be sure there are minimal distractions. Try to focus on one another.
- Identify a goal that you would like to achieve in the conversation and share it with your partner. For example, you may want to know your partner understands your point of view. Think ahead of time about how you will feel understood (for example, when you have shared all your feelings, or when you partner can state your experience back to you). Ask your partner for this directly. Check in with your partner to see what he/she needs from you and how you can give it to them. Be patient and work together to try to meet each other’s needs as best as you are able.
- Consider including a third person in the conversation if both partners continue to have difficulty feeling known and understood. This can help bring clarity and understanding if both partners feel comfortable with the third party.