Couples starting Treatment come to the experience with both their individual and joint histories and a desire for the relationship to expand and include a baby. This encompasses a range of emotions – excitement, hope, determination, and sometimes, anxiety and worry. When the transition to parenthood is rocky, when there are more hurdles to navigate, additional layers of frustration can be experienced by either or both partners. For all couples, the relationship will experience new challenges, perhaps becoming closer, perhaps having moments of distance. When I meet with couples, I often comment that my focus is the well-being of the relationship. Some couples ask about strategies for keeping their relationship strong and buoyant during treatment. While naturally the unique nature of each relationship needs to be understood, I offer some general themes here that might be starting points for further thought.
Bonding and attachment are at the core of how we connect in relationships. Humans need to feel safe and secure in the relationships that matter most to us, and this is more important at times of stress and uncertainty. Knowing how you connect as a couple and how you gain emotional safety from each other is fundamental to your relationship well-being, particularly through treatment cycles. Ask each other; How do we connect best? What allows us to be close and how do we stay there? What do I need to do to promote this in my relationship and with my most important person?
Communication matters (but it is not the whole story)
Yes, clear communication in relationships is important, but communication mishaps often happen in the context of strong emotions when it is hardest for us to communicate clearly. When we feel sad, hurt and in pain, we can sometimes struggle to communicate our needs or feel worried that they will not be met. Understanding that the bond between you is most important and that nonverbal communication and tone of communication are as significant as content.
Have a conversation around examples of good and bad communication – When does it go well? When does it go badly? It can be extremely hard through treatment for partners to witness each other’s struggles and to find a way to hold hope. Talk together about what works. Is it better if I talk right now or just listen to you? What would be most helpful?
Care and Comfort
Be very conscious of how you both provide and receive care and comfort from each other. This loops back to the first point about connection. In times of greater stress our care needs extend, and we need to be comforted in a soothing way. We do this best together so being thoughtful about how to care for each other but also your relationship is central through treatment. Take the time to be clear with each other about what makes you each feel cared for – touch, nurturing, talking….
Making a ‘relationship review’ as central to your treatment as the medical review. Pause and take the time to talk together and consider,
What we did do well as a couple through this cycle?
What should we look at changing? How can we best change this?
When did we struggle most? What stood in the way of us being together during that time?
Have a consultation with a No.1 counsellor as a ‘relationship review’ or consider engaging in private relationship therapy to help facilitate conversations that matter.
Julia Cernaz 27.04.2023