Infertility Stress Wreaks Havoc on Romance.
No surprise there. I know from personal experience what havoc infertility can wreak. My guess is, you’ve caught a glimpse of this truth too. Failing to maintain a romantic connection during a trying time can easily be the undoing of a marriage. Stress begins to loosen the heart connections as partners withdraw to their own island of pain. The ideal, of course, is that you’d be able to come together in a time of crisis, to nurture your relationship, to tend it with the tenderness of a gardener sustaining fragile plants in a greenhouse. However, sometimes, the challenges of infertility can feel too substantial: there is the sadness of realizing life is looking different than you thought it would; hopes are dashed and grief rises from monthly losses; and financial concerns emerge as baby-making is no longer easy or inexpensive.
The question becomes, what can you do to keep your relationship, vital and thriving? Especially now, in what may feel like the winter-time of the soul? As I look outside my window, snow blankets every hill and valley. It would be so easy for us to mimic the frozen tundra outside, to withdraw, to shutdown, to close our hearts, in the face of sadness that is infertility. What is needed to create a spring thaw?
Mount a Kindness Campaign in Your Relationship.
Right now, in the dead of winter, Zoe, my Hibiscus plant, (and yes, I name my house plants) is a profusion of hot pink flowers. She is thriving regardless of the snowy conditions on the other side of the glass. A prime seat in our sunny, south-facing window encourages this tropical goddess to flourish despite the 6 degree days we’ve been having lately. While, protection from the elements is a key aspect to her survival; she depends on the right nurturing from me – regular watering and the sweet nothings I whisper (and yes, I talk to my plants too).
A Kindness Campaign is a way to create a warm, sunny, supportive environment for your relationship. Like a tropical plant in the middle of a mid-west winter, your relationship may need a little protection from the elements. Kindness is the sunshine of a south-facing window. Thoughtful actions and gentle words, arriving at regular intervals, are like the scheduled watering, and sweet whispers Zoe receives.
A campaign is a systematic plan in service of a specific purpose. While a systematic plan might not sound like the height of romantic action, I’m personally a huge fan. Having a purpose and knowing what specific actions to take make things easy, natural, and automatic; for example, Watering Wednesdays. Having a certain day of the week identified for a specific purpose keeps me from forgetting what I need to do to ensure Zoe recieves proper care. However, what keeps this task from being mindless, or so automatic as to be robotic, is the extra care and attention she gets as I take time to asses the soil, the color of her leaves, or whether aphids have appeared. A campaign, a plan, is the springboard to a deeper connection to the one you love. It helps foster a greenhouse environment where each of you is able to honor the journey you are on this year.
Infuse Your Relationship with the Sunny Warmth of Kindness.
A flourishing relationship depends on the light of kindness to shine in two key areas: One is on yourself and the other is on your spouse.
The first place to mount the campaign of kindness is in your own heart and mind. It is easy to become critical of yourself when the going gets tough. Stress, fear, sadness, and envy, can all wreak havoc with the peaceful, fun-loving side of you. You may be surprised by the person who has seemed to take your place instead. There may be places inside you didn’t realize could be so tense, scared, envious, angry, or sad. A particular kindness is to give yourself the opportunity to feel your emotions, to recognize how normal they are in light of the experience of infertility. The second place to organize a campaign of kindness is with and for your spouse. It is easy to lose track of who you were together before infertility dominated your life.
February is an excellent month to begin putting your own spin on what a Kindness Campaign in your household will look and feel like, what with the clamor and all the hub-bub of Valentine’s Day. Now, perhaps, Valentine’s Day may just be what the doctor ordered to get your baby-making, sexy-time off to a great start, and if it is, perfect. However, from my own personal experience with infertility, Valentine’s Day added a unique pressure to look and feel sexy at a time when the various hormones I was taking left me feeling weepy, tired, bloated, and particularly unattractive. Instead, you may want to step away from the singular event of Valentine’s Day and consider the entire month of February as an opportunity to consciously create strong, meaningful, supportive relationship.
Easy and Important Components of a Kindness Campaign:
Kindness is Permission. A great kindness we can give our spouse is the permission to be whoever he or she is in a particular moment, especially those tricky, sad moments. If you haven’t recently, stop a moment, and hold your loved one in a deep, long embrace. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling without judging your emotions. Give yourself permission to indulge in some self-care, whatever that might be for you: relaxing your housekeeping standards for a weekend; going out with friends; getting a massage.
Kindness is Appreciating. A happy kindness is spending time remembering, appreciating and savoring the personality quirks which drew you to the one you love. Personally, writing little notes of appreciation and putting them in unexpected places for my guy to find helps me savor who he is at his best. In return, I adore the little sticky notes that appear on the cabinet door above the coffee-maker. Kindness is also appreciating more deeply, who you are. What strengths and talents of yours are being called into action during this challenging time? Appreciate your deepening capacity.
Kindness is Laughter. A wonderful kindness may simply be setting aside time in a weekend to find an activity you both enjoy, and spend time opening up the laughter and joy of who you were before infertility entered your married life. It is absolutely OKAY to acknowledge moments of happiness, even in the face of sorrow. Let the sunlight of a mutually good time warm your relationship.
Kindness is Learning. An expansive kindness is welcoming the opportunity to learn more about who your spouse is, in the face of this circumstance. What beautiful new side of your partner has been revealed? What beautiful new side of you is being revealed?
Kick-Off Your Kindness Campaign:
As you begin formulating your plans, here are some questions (courtesy of Gay Hendricks) to consider:
- How does kindness feel inside of you?
- How can I be kind to my body today?
- How can I be kind to my feelings today?
- If my religion was kindness, how could I practice my religion with others today?
Now, picture your spouse and your upcoming interactions with him (or her) and take a moment to imagine surrounding him (or her) with kindness.
Imagine beaming the warm, sunshine of kindness on and around you, and on and around the one you love.