Supporting Others Coping with Infertility

It is likely that you know an individual or couple who is impacted by infertility. The natural human response is to want to comfort them, but it can be difficult to know what to say or do, especially if you have not experienced infertility yourself. This blog will help you better understand the experience that infertile couples go through and give you ideas for how to most effectively support them.

The American Pregnancy Association estimates that 10-15% of U.S. couples will be impacted by infertility. Not being able to get pregnant or having several miscarriages in a row is difficult to deal with. There are physical, social, and especially emotional repercussions.

One important element of helping those struggling with infertility is to try to see the situation from their perspective. Although they may not make sense to you, try to recognize the losses associated with infertility that they are experiencing.

What people experience:

Self-esteem: The ability to conceive is often seen as a mark of masculinity or femininity so being unable to conceive may make the infertile individuals question their identities.

StatusSociety places value on being a parent so interacting with others can result in daily reminders of the couple’s infertility.

Relationship: Infertility can potentially result in “lost” relationships as the infertility
creates distance between the partners, but also in relationships with others as they may
not see eye-to-eye with the couple on what path to pursue, are unaware of the situation,
do not meet expectations of support, or are uncomfortable with the sexual connotations
of the situation. The intense introspection and inner turmoil that results from infertility
may also lead to defensiveness, moodiness, etc.—reactions that add distance to relationships.

Control: Becoming pregnant is such a personal matter, but when it does not work,
the couple may feel helpless. There is a lack of definitive answers, as well as uncertainty
in deciding what treatments to pursue/not pursue. Becoming pregnant becomes the
main focus, causing everything else in life to take a back seat, disrupting the sense of
control that the couple felt over their lives before. Choosing to seek infertility treatments results in a lack of privacy and intrusive tests that seem to take away from the couple’s control over keeping their relationship private and personal.

But what is the best way to support friends and family members who are suffering as a result of infertility? Each couple, and even each individual will have their own unique experience, but here are some suggestions for how to help:

1. Prepare yourself

You will not be able to best help a couple or individual struggling
with infertility until you have prepared yourself. Acknowledge that there is a  problem and work through your own feelings, shattered expectations, etc., with
regards to infertility. In addition, become informed so that you do not unknowingly
make hurtful comments.

2. Acknowledge the struggle

It will not be helpful if, in your interactions with someone struggling with infertility, you pretend that there is nothing wrong. Do not shy away from talking about the infertility if the couple or individual wants to, but at the same time, recognize that the infertility may
affect his/her/their interactions with you. Although the sufferer(s) may seem irrational
in their struggle, recognize that what they are experiencing is very real to them, and
their reactions may be a surprise to them as well. Realize that you cannot take away their pain or solve the problem for them, but that the purpose of conversations is to
communicate concern. Ask for patience and guidance as you strive to understand and be
sensitive to their needs, feelings, and experience. Ask how they would like to be supported.

3. Listen

Although you may feel powerless to help a struggling couple or individual,
being willing to listen can go a long way. Let the individual or couple know that you
are there to listen. They may or may not be ready to open up, but make sure that they
know that you are there for them whenever they are ready. It can be helpful for the
couple or individual to rehearse their “story” of what they have been through and the
dreams that have been shattered. Ask appropriate questions, such as how treatment is going or how they feel. That will give them an opportunity to confide in you if they choose to. However, if they choose not to, do not push. Listen without interjecting your thoughts and opinions. Accept that each person copes differently and that the needs of the same person may change throughout the experience.

4.  Keep the bigger picture in mind

While itis very important that you are there for the couple or individual in their struggle, do not limit your focus in your interactions with them only to the infertility. Affirm your love and respect for who they are, emphasizing that their infertility is only a part of them. This will help the couple disconnect their identity from the infertility. Invite them to do enjoyable activities with you, but be okay if they choose not to come. For example,
you could find a babysitter for your own children and go out on a double date with the struggling couple. This could be a much-needed distraction from the stresses of infertility.

As you strive to be genuinely concerned and figure out how they would like their needs to be met, you will not only help the struggling couple or individual, but you will also strengthen your relationship with them.

 


Research provided by Dr. David Schramm and Jennifer Viveros

References:

  • American Pregnancy Association [APA]. (2017). What is infertility? Retrieved from
    http://americanpregnancy.org/infertility/whatis-infertility/
  • Boss, P. (2004). Ambiguous loss research, theory, and practice: Reflections after 9/11. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(3), 551-566.
  • RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. (2017). Frequently asked questions about infertility. Retrieved from http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/whatis-infertility/frequently-asked-questions-aboutinfertility.html
  • RESOLVE. (2007). Coping with infertility: How family and friends can help. Retrieved from http://www.resolve.org/resources/factsheets.html

Strengthening Your Marriage Ten Minutes at a Time

Strengthen your marriage relationship by making the first ten minutes of your interactions together a positive experience! We often do not realize that these first ten minutes of interaction are an opportunity to set the stage for the rest of the time we spend together that day.

This positive communication can foster positive emotions. By spending more time in positive communication patterns, you can increase the positive emotions you feel toward your spouse. When individuals anticipate feeling positive emotions around their partner they are more likely to look forward to being together; but in contrast, unfavorable anticipation of being together can actually create negative emotions and diminish or eliminate the desire to be together. When couples create patterns of positive hellos and healthy initial interactions, positive feelings of friendship and love grow. Spouses look forward to being together as allies and sources of strength in the struggles of life.

The following are suggestions as to how to best utilize this time with your spouse: 

1. Prepare yourself mentally

When anticipating seeing your spouse after an absence, mentally prepare to give your spouse and family the best of yourself. There are likely problems and challenges that need to be discussed, but the problems and challenges will still be there later. During the first ten minutes, focus on having a positive initial greeting (i.e., starting off on the right foot) with your spouse. Later as a team, you will be able to address any problems and challenges more constructively because the negative emotions of the day will be decreased and the positive emotions of being together will be increased. Think of specific things you can say and/or do that will help make those first minutes a positive experience.

2. Focus on the needs of your spouse first

Genuine interest in your spouse’s daily stresses will foster greater love and emotional connection. Attempt to put aside your own issues for the moment and focus on reconnecting with your spouse, asking about his or her day, listening and responding positively. If both partners willingly commit to do this for their spouse, everyone will end up a winner!

2. Understand the power in a smile

Smiling in and of itself can have a powerful impact on others’ reactions and their desires to connect with you. Even though the house may be a mess, you are exhausted from running after the children, and dinner isn’t ready yet, prepare to give a glowing smile to your partner. Your spouse will be better able to put aside his or her own stresses and focus on a positive connection with you. And you just might find that you feel better and can see the humor in the situation if you smile (even when you don’t exactly feel like it)!

3. Be prepared to help your spouse

Inevitably there will be times when your spouse is not prepared to optimistically greet you because of emotions associated with their specific life challenges. It can be easy to get angry, pull away, or become critical, but these are actually the best times to build trust and strengthen your relationship. You can do this by helping your spouse calm the overwhelming emotions. Although you cannot fix all the struggles or change the negative emotions your partner may be experiencing (nor would your spouse probably want you to), you can provide key support by listening, empathizing and letting your spouse know you are on their side.

The daily struggles of life are rarely pleasant, but they can provide opportunities to develop patterns of turning towards each other, supporting each other, and building trust and reliance in the relationship.


Research provided by Naomi Brower, Eric Walker, and Jana Darrington

References:

Gladstone, G. L., & Parker, G. B. (2002). When you’re smiling does the whole world smile with you? Australian Psychiatry, 10, 144-146.

Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New
York: Three Rivers Press.

Guénguen, N. (2008). The effects of a woman’s smile on men’s courtship behavior. Social Behavior and Personality, 36, 1233-1236.

Voydanoff, P. (2005). Consequences of boundary-spanning demands and resources for work-to-family conflict and perceived stress. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 491-503.

Mackey, W. C. (1976). Parameters of the smile as a social signal. The Journal of Genetic
Psychology, 129, 125-130.

The 7 Signs of a Healthy Relationship

Relationships can be one of the greatest joys in life. Research even suggests that love and intimacy have a greater impact on our quality of life than any other factor, including diet, exercise, stress or genetics! Relationships can also be complicated. So, how do you know if you are in a healthy relationship? Check out these 7 signs of a healthy relationship.

 

1. You are honest with each other and you have a strong sense of trust between you. There is no hidden agenda or secrets from the past.

2. You can openly discuss everything—the good, the bad and the ugly in a calm and supportive way. If you have disagreements, you are able to discuss them respectfully and turn your differences into fair compromise.

3. You both know who you are and what you want out of life, and you are on the same page in terms of your basic values and life goals.

4. You enjoy doing things together but you also have quality time apart doing what is most important to each of you. You encourage each other to grow and change and be your best selves.

5. You respect each other’s boundaries and right to privacy.
6. Both of you contribute your fair share to the relationship.

7. You feel safe and supported in the relationship.

 

Some of these might seem like common sense and some might cause you to think a little more about the health of your relationship. Whether you are in a strong relationship or one that is currently in need of a little help, consider attending a relationship strengthening event such as the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration on February 8 at Weber State University to help you create a relationship worth a lifetime of memories. See registration and details here.


The research and information was provided by Naomi Brower

Reference:

Ornish, D. (2018). Love & Support. https://www.ornish.com/proven-program/love-support/

10 Things You Can do to Romance Your Partner on a Budget

When couples first meet romantic feelings are usually very strong and partners go out of their way to reveal themselves to each other. With time though, these feelings can fade but you can reignite them! Before we dive into tips on how to “reignite” your relationship there are two common barriers that are often a challenge.

  • Time is often a major barrier for couples so before trying any of these tips sit down
    and compare schedules. Find some time just for the two of you when you can
    participate in any of these suggested activities. Even the busiest couples can usually find
    some time if they plan for it and stick to the plan. Doing so gives a message to each
    other, and to your kids, that you care about each other and your relationship is
    important.
  • Quality child care can also be another barrier to spending time alone as a couple. If you do not have family who can babysit for you, find a friend (perhaps one who has
    children) and arrange to exchange babysitting with each other.

Now that we have considered some potential barriers to spending time on reestablishing
romance in your marriage, here are a few tips to help get things on course.

1. Write What You Feel

Take a moment to reflect on the things you really like or appreciate about your partner but often neglect to say. Write them down in a little note or on a decorative card, and put it someplace where it will surprise her or him like under a pillow or on their car’s dashboard. If writing is not your strong suit just keep your sentiments short and sincere.

2. Go “Out” to Eat Together

Going out for an expensive dinner is traditionally a popular way to show your partner that you care but due to the expense, this gesture is usually reserved for special occasions. Try using the same concept of a fancy dinner out but at home and not necessarily on a special occasion. The reason people usually like romantic dinners is because of the ambiance and the beauty of the setting. With a little planning, a few candles, a decorative presentation and some soft music you can bring the joy of fine dining into your home, especially if you leave the TV off and spend the time talking with each other. If cooking is not your best talent, order take out and serve it on your best dishware.

3. Catch a Flick

Movies are a great way to de-stress with your partner. They allow you to sit
and forget about life’s challenges while sitting shoulder to shoulder with the one you love. If you catch a matinee before 5pm you can both see a movie for less than $15. If that’s a bit more than you would like to spend, try joining your local movie store or an online movie rental site. A single movie is usually less than $5 and can be enjoyed without even leaving the house. For the full effect, add some popcorn and drinks!

4. Phone in Your Feelings

In this day and age, cell phones are a common part of everyday life. Use yours to send a romantic text message to your partner. It can be a pleasant surprise to receive a random message in your inbox. If your partner keeps his or her phone off during the work day, a message from you can be a great find during a break in the day.

5. Take a Hike

There is a lot to be said for the simple act of walking. Walking with your partner is a great activity because it can be a relaxing time to talk about life. Not only that, it is a great way for you and your partner to get fit.

6. Get “Board”

Board games are a timeless and inexpensive way of having a great time. The cool thing about them is that once purchased, you can enjoy them for years to come. Pull the box out of the closet, set out some refreshments and have a blast. Another subtle twist on this
idea is to play cards or put together a puzzle.

7. Catch Some Culture

Concerts or plays can make a fun date night but can also be expensive! There are, however, some great alternatives to attending concerts or plays at traditional venues. Look through newspapers each week for the entertainment calendars and notice the
billboards at the local schools. This is a great way to see what kind of activities are going in your area. Local bands and schools are eager to play and always need an audience. Why not let it be you!

8. Dream Out Loud

Part of creating a healthy marriage is setting goals for your future together. Part of this goal setting begins with discussing your hopes and dreams for the future. This simple activity can be a great escape from your present financial challenges because it allows your imagination to run free. Using your imagination will go a long way in shaping your actual plans for the future. By building the foundation for your future you will draw closer to each other and potentially experience a return to former romantic feelings that can be easily overwhelmed during challenging times.

9. Take a Class Together

Research indicates that couples who spend six hours a year in marriage education have happy successful relationships. Taking a class together can help you to gain new skills and insights to strengthen your relationship. Check out the free classes offered in Weber County listed in this newsletter. A listing of classes can also be found on can also be found on under the classes tab at the top of the page!

10. Expand Your Circle

Spending time with other couples who are devoted to developing a healthy marriage can be fun because you can share your experiences and enjoy your commonalities. Many churches and community groups have activities that are designed to be fun and engaging and include good company, laughter, conversation, and refreshments. Check out the low-cost date nights coming up this fall in Weber County listed in this newsletter. Events can also be found on the right side of this page under events!


Research provided by Naomi Brower and adapted from the Alabama Marriage Coalition.

7 Tips for a Mindful Marriage in the New Year

We are approaching the end of yet another year, and the years seem to just keep flying by. If we aren’t careful life can slip by without fully enjoying the people and things we love most. Being mindful, or maintaining an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings, can help us to be more mentally, emotionally and physically present, and more fully enjoy those things, and people, that matter most to us. Consider these seven tips to increasing mindfulness in your relationship with your significant other in the new year.

1. Practice personal mindfulness

Practicing personal mindfulness can help to create a stronger relationship with your significant other. Quieting the excess chatter in your mind will help to steady your emotions and lower your physical and mental stress levels, potentially making you less reactive to your partner’s actions or words. It can also help you to focus on the small, everyday moments with your loved one, such as being fully present when you hug or kiss them.

2. Prioritize time with your spouse

In order for us to connect and be mindful of our partner, we need to have time together. Make your spouse a priority and give them your undivided attention, even if it is for ten minutes every day to check in with them about their day. No TV. No phones. No books. Just each other.

3. Continually learn about each other

Take time to ask open-ended questions so you can know about what is really going on in their world. The more mindful you are of each other’s hopes, dreams and challenges the more of support you can be to each other.  

4. Show affection 

Let your partner know that you are mindful of them through showing your love daily through affection. Hold hands, give a lingering full-body hug, or five-second kiss.

5. Play together

Have fun together and try new things. Show that you are mindful of your partner by trying things that he/she enjoys doing.

6. Express appreciation and compliments

Show your partner that you are aware of them by sharing genuine compliments and words of appreciation daily.

7. Service

Show your partner that you are mindful of them by helping to ease their load through small acts of service. Even little things like getting up with the kids, making dinner, or doing a chore you normally don’t do can make a huge difference.


Research provided by Naomi Brower

References:

Doherty, W. J. (2013). Take back your marriage. New York: NY: The Guildford Press:

Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (2007). The seven principles for making marriage work. London, England: Orion Books, Ltd.

 

Parker, T. (2016, August 24). How to mindfully meditate in marriage. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/mindfully-meditate-marriage/

Why Trust Matters in Relationships and Marriage

Trust is a valuable asset in every relationship. It is the cornerstone that shapes an individual’s ability to engage in a happy relationship. Trust provides comfort in a relationship where two people can learn to count on each other. Consider the following tips to help you build trust in your relationships.

T The first key is time.

Healthy relationships and healthy marriages require time to learn each other’s likes and dislikes, hot-button issues, favorite topics, life experiences and expectations. Trust between couples is built by investing time in each other. Individuals relax when time spent together is respectful and honoring, maximized and fulfilling, and rewarding (even when challenging). Even couples who have been together for a long time must continue to invest time in each other to nurture the trust in the relationship.

R The second key is reliability.

Reliability is important because of each person’s need to have someone they can safely count on. As couples grow together, spouses take on specific roles and responsibilities in the relationship or family. The ability to rely on each other to effectively manage a family or marriage together is essential to sustain trust. Reliability builds an abiding trust that is essential to successful relationships.

U Understanding is the third key to deepening a trusting relationship.

The greater the understanding, the more likely it is that spouses will develop unconditional love. Many relationships suffer from what appear to be half-hearted attempts at understanding and accepting differences in each other. Part of this also understanding when relationship expectations are realistic and when they are unrealistic. It is difficult to establish trust without understanding. It is easier to walk away than to walk in someone else’s shoes.

S The fourth key to developing a trusting relationship is sacrifice.

When a person exhibits behaviors in which they sacrifice something for the good of the relationship, trust develops. This can be thought of as the opposite of selfishness in a relationship. It is difficult because many people (unknowingly) expect greater sacrifice from their spouses than they are willing to make themselves. Sacrifices of both partners must be balanced and must be mutual in order to avoid any resentment of one partner toward the other. A healthy marriage is the product of two individuals, each making sacrifices for each other to better the relationship. It is helpful for partners to discuss with one another what their expectations are and be open about what sacrifices each partner feels he or she is making for their relationship or family.

T The fifth and final key to develop a trusting relationship or marriage is thankfulness.

This means recognizing and appreciating a partner’s efforts. As spouses or partners grow in relationships, they should never be taken for granted. They should always be shown they are appreciated for their kindness, concern and care. Doing so expresses to them that they are important, and their efforts are rewarded. Trusting one’s heart to another demands reciprocity, as it is easier to continue to perform lovingly when your gestures are appreciated. Thankfulness matters, because one will seldom continue to pour love onto an unappreciative person. A lack of thankfulness can doom a relationship.

 

Understanding the necessary keys of trust can help couples to thrive and grow in their relationship. Try to focus on building one aspect of trust in a close relationship this week!


Research provided by Naomi Brower

 

 

Reconnecting in Relationships

 

We all have challenges even in our closest relationships. In fact, most relationships have about 12 things that they disagree on at any one time. Twelve!!! But what’s more important than those struggles are the things we do to build our relationship and to reconnect. When we focus on the things that are going right in our relationships, we can more easily conquer the struggles we may be facing as a team. So how do we reconnect and build a stronger relationship?  Consider the following “three L’s and a T.”

Look at your partner

We see those we love almost every day but when was the last time you looked at them deep in their eyes and really connected with them? Try this, look in your partner’s eyes for about 30 seconds, really pay attention to their expressions, and be in the moment with them. Look at the person as a whole, for who they really are, and not just what you might be hurt or frustrated about.   When we really connect with someone, we feel it deep inside and it also literally stimulates our brain, not to mention helping us to feel closer to our partner!

Laugh with your partner

When we were kids we laughed 200 to 300 times a day but the average adult may only average 12 to 14 times per day! When we lose humor in our relationship, we may get too wound up and lose sight of the bigger picture and being able to see humor in one another and in challenging moments. For good mental health, it’s a good idea to get five belly laughs a day. So, turn on your silliness and dance around the kitchen or find ways to make each other laugh! It’s not only good for your own health but also strengthens your relationship.

Listen to your partner every day

 Sometimes we think we are being good listeners but in reality, we are more rejecting then we are receiving of our partner. Often times listening is about seeking connection with someone rather than having someone share advice or solve problems. Even if we ask for advice, we are often just seeking to be understood and validated.  So, the next time your partner is sharing their thoughts with you, listen very carefully to what your partner is sharing, not just to the words but why it is important to them.

Touch daily

 Physical touch is good for our health! Shoot for five hugs a day. Many of these will probably be from your partner, but they can also be from kids or others that are close to you. Touch could also be in the form of holding your partner’s hand while watching TV, giving them a kiss hello or goodbye, or touching them on the shoulder or hair as you walk by just to let them know that you acknowledge them. When we touch someone, we let them know that they are important to us and it builds our relationship.

By practicing these “three L’s and a T” on a daily basis we exercise our relationship muscles so that we continue to grow together rather than letting our relationship atrophy. Reconnecting with your partner doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money, but making some investments every day can make a huge difference in your relationship and your general happiness and satisfaction in life!


Research provided by Naomi Brower

Based on personal communication with Doug Nielsen, psychotherapist and speaker, www.dougspeaks.com

 

Staying Connected

Family researcher and psychologist, John Gottman, Ph.D. suggests that small emotional connections between partners add up to big-time relationship satisfaction. He compares them to making steady deposits in a bank account and watching your savings grow.

Taking time to make these connections can be challenging in our busy world, and especially during the increasingly busy holiday season. For those of you who would like some creative inspiration, here are some ideas on how to stay connected with your special someone. Pick the ones that work for you. Use them as a starting point to create your own “quick connects.”

  1. Make sure your kisses last at least six seconds. Every now and then go for a full minute.
  2. Write them a love note– on the mirror, in their lunchbox, purse or pocket, or text/e-mail it.
  3. Send funny and/or romantic cards by snail mail or e-mail.
  4. Get silly with each other and laugh out loud together.
  5. Grab your partner for a spontaneous dance when a favorite song comes on the radio or stereo.
  6. Hold hands.
  7. Send a funny photo on your phone.
  8. Ask about each others’ days.
  9. Listen with 100% attention—make eye contact when you talk.
  10. Give a one-minute shoulder or foot massage.
  11. Do something unexpected for your spouse.
  12. Snuggle on the couch.
  13. Touch each other with affection.
  14. Notice and comment about something your spouse does that you like.
  15. Say thank you and you’re welcome.
  16. Be interested in what your spouse is doing. Offer to help.  
  17. Leave a flower or special treat.
  18. Write a poem for your special someone—it’s ok if it’s silly!
  19. Offer to cook dinner if you aren’t the one who usually cooks.
  20. Post photos on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror that remind you of wonderful times you’ve shared.
  21. Offer to take the kids out of the house for a while and give the other parent some alone time.
  22. At night, step outside together for five minutes and look at the stars.
  23. Sing to each other.
  24. Establish a weekly ritual that you faithfully observe. For example, watching a favorite television program, taking a walk after dinner, putting candles on the table.
  25. Watch a sunrise or sunset together.

Try this…

  • Make up your own list of things to do to quickly connect with your spouse.
  • Make sure you do at least one thing from your list every day.

This research and information was provided by Naomi Brower

References:

 Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publish

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started