The A-Z of connecting with your partner (Part 4: The new normal)
Obviously, our focus for the moment is living life in a new way due to COVID-19 but the truth is that this advice works for couples navigating life at any point in time.
M. Mental Health
Most people are feeling stressed and anxious in these abnormal times. For fertility patients, this feeling can be magnified. This is a normal response to a very abnormal situation.
Given your fertility journey, you will probably not be a stranger to feeling distressed. If you or your partner have struggled with mental health issues prior to lockdown, please make sure you are continuing to get the psychological support you need. Please contact our counsellors if you would like some further support.
N. New Normal
How long this ‘new normal’ continues is largely out of our hands. Take the time to appreciate the slowing down that our more limited lives currently enforces. This intense time together will not continue forever. Enjoy and be grateful for the closeness and intimacy it can hopefully bring to your relationship.
Has your relationship been clouded by constantly thinking about what life will be like when your baby arrives? Obsessing about the injustice of not being pregnant yet can lead to anger and bitterness.
How do you get past this? Lockdown may help you feel more contained and present focused. Remember, you are doing everything you can to have a baby.
Perhaps this is the time to stop running on automatic pilot and start to trust yourself and your partner. Be aware of your behavior and how it impacts on your partner. Lean into the stillness of this time together. Know what makes you happy and try and do more of it. Make an effort to Be Present in the now.
Do your values and actions match up? Take time to question and think about how you want to live your life.
Take time to savour small moments together – like eating mindfully, exercising together, or planning time under lockdown together. You may wish to come together at a specified time every day to check in with your partner and make him/her feel appreciated at this time. Rituals can become the culture of your family.
Many heterosexual couples in fertility treatment say that sex becomes only about baby making and a reminder of failure. The lack of spontaneity can leave partners feeling an overall lack of affection and intimacy. It can be hard to reconnect. Think of some non-sexual ways of connecting that may bring you closer physically, like cuddling, taking a bath together or massage. Remember women may feel shame towards their bodies after treatment, and men may find it hard to perform under pressure. Try and avoid always having sex to schedule.
T. Tune into your body
Notice what lifts your spirits, when you are feeling angry and tense. What makes you laugh and feel good again? Notice your partner’s body language which can be powerful than words. Act responsively.
Understanding what you want, or need is a prerequisite to successfully communicating with your partner. Dig deep to try to develop self-awareness. How do you communicate what you want with your partner – do you retreat thinking your partner should automatically know what you want by reading your mind? Do you sulk/go quiet/distance yourself? Try to understand your partner in the same way.
Think about information overload and the impact on you, especially the constant news updates about COVID-19. You may be constantly connecting with people online to the point of exhaustion. Try to set some time limits on going online, try to have time without your phone to be more present in your life. Our brains are adaptable, you can override old patterns and introduce new ones that do not dominate your life. Exercise is a healthy alternative to always being online.
You can control your digital virtual world if you choose to, so it doesn’t end up controlling you and shutting out your partner.
If you are working, it may be a welcome distraction during lockdown. If you or your partner has lost your job, this is understandably an added stress, particularly with costs of treatment and everyday living being very real issues for all of us. The future may be hard to plan, with so much employment uncertainty at present.
X. Marks the spot
X marks the exciting spot in your life when you choose this time to focus on your relationship! Enjoy this time together.
Yoga online may be a rewarding thing to do as a couple during lockdown. There are many video classes that are specifically aimed at women trying to conceive. Yoga can also help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
See V for virtual. Zoom is a wonderful way of staying connected with family and friends. You don’t have to accept all Zoom invitations though; it is fine to say No.
So, there you have it, my A to Z on how to nourish, sustain and repair your relationship while in enforced isolation and beyond. Not all of this may be relevant to you and it is not intended to be prescriptive, just some musings from someone sharing lockdown with her partner. You can find the earlier episodes here:
Part 1: Positive actions in relationships
Part 2: Maintaining and repairing relationships
Part 3: Practising gratitude and building relationships
Our counselling team is available to our patients via email, phone or Skype. Please contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org, or Genea Hollywood at email@example.com and Genea Oxford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Genea's Fertility Collective to find more advice, useful tips and tools plus the latest updates on COVID-19 and the impact on fertility treatment.
Disclaimer: Please note that this is a Genea Group blog and as such information may not be relevant for all clinics. We advise that you consult clinics directly for further information.