Partner A: I want to be hopeful.
Partner B: I am afraid to be hopeful.
Both points of view are understandable but A and B may not understand each other.
It is well known that couples are likely to have more strife during fertility treatment. It is often the first time a couple does not see eye to eye on something that is deeply important in their lives. This experience can also occur later, during the early parenting years. If the couple manages their relationship well, they are more likely to feel closer having “survived” the treatment or the difficulty. One key that can help couples survive through these difficult times is not only understanding that each person may experience the same event differently, but accepting that it is ok to feel differently about the same issue.
Just like the famous book by John Gray teaches, some people are from Mars and others are from Venus. Although this book refers to men and women, same sex couples also experience similar dynamics. Therefore, let’s call the partners in this illustration, partner A and partner B.
Partner A is an optimist. This partner isn’t looking ahead to the next fertility treatment cycle, or parenting issue but is instead concentrating on what is going on in the present moment. This person may say, “I feel we have a good plan, if it does not work, we will deal with it”. From this person’s point of view, as long as there is a reason to feel optimistic, there is no reason to feel worried. With this as his or her frame of reference, it may be hard to understand why partner B is so upset and partner A may begin to focus on making partner B feel better.
Partner B is likely to be a pragmatist and a planner and spends time searching for solutions to problems that have not yet happened. In fact, partner B may spend a lot of time on the internet searching for information and feels consumed with thoughts of the problem. This person may see his or her focus on the problem as evidence of a commitment to parenthood or treatment. With this frame of reference, he or she may feel that partner A does not care, does not love him or her, or that these divergent views are evidence that there is trouble in the relationship. Perhaps they are not meant to be together at all!
While this is a simplistic description of a complex dynamic, many aspects of this scenario are familiar to several of the families we see at the Center for Family Building. Typically, as couples age, they witness unfairness in life, unexpected experiences enter their worlds and difficulties emerge that can cause them to realize that they do not always look at the world with the same set of eyes. When fertility treatment is needed, and when problems arise early in parenting, it is often the first time this reality is faced. It is helpful if the couple can see these different points of view as an opportunity for a deeper understanding of each other, not a sign that they are incompatible.
Creating a better relationship necessitates understanding, and accepting that there is no one right way to feel about a particular situation. Acceptance is difficult as most people struggle to understand how the other person can also care, but have a different way of seeing the same problem. If couples are able to recognize this, then perhaps partner A can listen to partner B and stop trying to make him or her feel differently and partner B can see that partner A is also dedicated to the same goal. It is also not a competition. If partner A does have stronger feelings about something than partner B, that does not mean that partner B does not care at all. The more couples can accept each other, the more likely they are to remember that they are on the same team and perhaps focus on the things they like about each other, like the reasons why they fell in love in the first place.
If you and your partner need some help accepting each other and reconnecting, please feel free to reach out to us. We are here to make your journey easier.