On coming apart at the seams

One area of miscarriage & infertility that doesn’t get talked about very much, is how it can much it can affect your relationship as a couple over time…

And I don’t think I’m being too dramatic when I say that how you learn to handle and navigate something like this, can literally make or break a marriage.

So here are a few of my own experiences & thoughts…

Learning to communicate through grief

For us, the initial challenge we faced was learning how to communicate through our grief after miscarriage entered our lives.

It came suddenly and unexpectedly, and the shock of it hit us both hard in different ways…

Part of the problem is that although grief is a process with lots of different phases to it – shock, numbness, anger, sadness and disappointment- you don’t necessarily move through any of them in any tandem with your partner.

So when you’re in floods of tears, their numbness can really grate on you. And when they’re feeling very sensitive, and you’re seething with anger about everything, it can be hard to meet in the middle, and give each other the support that you need.

What’s more, we also found that we had different ways of processing our loss, which was also difficult to navigate at times too.

I am an external processor who likes to talk out loud about everything as it happens, but my husband is much more of a quiet reflector, who didn’t want to hear my constant emotional shifts and ever-changing thoughts and opinions. But it didn’t mean that he wasn’t hurting or didn’t care about me, even though it often felt like that at times.

So my advice is simply to respect each other’s processes as being different; but also to keep the communications channels open.

Give each other space when you need it, but just make sure you keep checking in with each other regularly about how you’re both feeling. Don’t close down, shut each other out, or become isolated from each other, just when you need each other the most.

Understanding one another’s differences is everything.

The impact of infertility

If miscarriage is a sudden and unexpected trauma which presses all your buttons, fertility is more of a slow-burning issue that can slowly and silently tear you both apart.

And yet no one ever really talks about it very much…

But the fact is that repeatedly trying to conceive, then failing, then trying again, then failing again month after month, can really begin to take it’s toil on your relationship and on your sex life too.

Firstly, it’s hard to deal with the pressure of constantly performing at the right days and times. I mean, there’s nothing that kills all the romance or joy or spontaneity in your relationship quite as fast as endless ovulation strips and fertility charts and tracking the right days.

After a while, all of that stuff can just become very stressful and pressurised, and in this particular context, sex can often turn into something you just resent and no longer enjoy.

So if you are reading this and thinking ‘yep, that’s us right now’ then my advice is to take a short break and to take the pressure off yourselves, even if it will only bring some very temporary, short-term relief.

And I know that when you’re in the middle of it all, this can feel like the most terrible idea, because that desire to have a baby can become so all-consuming…

But trust me, if you’re at risk of damaging your mental health, your partner’s mental health, or you’re letting it overwhelm your whole relationship, it simply isn’t worth it.

In the waiting weeks

And then there’s also the waiting weeks and the results weeks to get through each month too. The waiting and hoping but trying not to het your hopes up too much can be a particularly hard part of the month to navigate because nerves are up and tensions high.

So you will need an extra measure of grace for each other during the famous 2 week wait …

Avoiding blame & Shame

Finding out you’re not pregnant … again … becomes ever more soul-crushing for a couple with every passing month. And it’s hard not to get into a blaming and shaming cycle over it.

Blaming sounds a little bit like this: If only we had tried harder. If only you’d been less tired that night. If only you didn’t work away so much. If only you put more effort into this…

And shaming sounds more like this: It’s all my fault. I messed it up again. I miscalculated something. I couldn’t perform when I needed to. I’m always letting you down. There must be something wrong with me.

These are the kinds of scripts that can easily begin to play out between a couple who have been trying to conceive for a while.

Sometime these things get said out loud, but often they are also left unspoken. But either way, they can easily create a space and distance between you.

I know this, because we have absolutely been there too. And as the months pass by, the distance only grows; tensions rise and resentments fester, as the stakes continue to go up …

And if you don’t do anything proactive about it, chances are that you’ll keep slowly and silently unravelling and tearing away from from each other, until one day you realise you’ve completely come apart at the seams.

Pull together not apart

Sometimes it can be so hard not to take out all your frustration and anger and disappointment out on the other person, just because they’re there.

But really, this is so counter-productive because all this does is increase the sense of pulling apart from each other, at exactly the time when you need to be pulling together the most.

Choosing another way

The truth is that being on this constant monthly rollercoaster can really wear you down, and leave you feeling so emotionally depleted, that it exposes weaknesses in even the strongest of relationships.

And honestly, the only way that I know back out is to actively and intentionally choose to keep intentionally helping to fill each other back up.

This means looking out for when the other person is having a hard day, and trying to ease their load.

It means choosing joy over despair, and trying to find new and exciting ways to keep having fun together – even on the days you don’t feel like it.

It means caring enough to ask each other how you’re doing, even when you don’t really want to hear the answer.

It means praying together a lot more, especially on the days when you’re feeling stressed or anxious or despairing.

It means learning to be much quicker to say sorry and to build a bridge back to the other person, over and over again.

And it means asking God for the extra helpings of patience, kindness, sensitivity that you need … and just bucketloads of grace for one another.

Thankfully, our God excels at giving us more of His grace whenever we ask for it and admit our weakness and our need – as I’m reminded almost every time that I open up my Bible.

And the good news is that His grace doesn’t ever run out.

It isn’t rationed, or in scarce supply. And you can’t ever use up your quota for the day. There is always more available for those who ask..

So ask for it, and take it.

Take as much as you need from Him today.

And then take some extra just in case…

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