I am constantly impressed by the profound impact that infertility has on relationships. I’ve seen 15 years of family building effort end up in bankruptcy, failure and divorce as well as in healthy babies. The strain of being infertile can send a relationship spiraling faster than a lead balloon. Others, though, show incredible buoyancy, almost a lightness of being, taking it all in stride and moving on. Given that the impact of infertility on quality of life is similar to having cancer, what’s the secret to keeping things on the keel?
What keeps a couple strong in times of extreme stress is termed “resilience.” It’s a kind of elastic ability to take a hit, get back up, bounce back, change and thrive. What gives a relationship resilience is pretty clear to psychologists. Here are some of the key features of resilient couples:
- They connect. Often. And as simple as a kiss, hug, text or smile.
- They communicate. With respect.
- They listen. To each other. With empathy and forgiveness.
- They celebrate. Small things just as much as the big ones.
- They hope. And share goals.
- They control what they can and let go of what they can’t.
- They commit to solving, not ignoring problems.
- They laugh. A great way to break up tension and reduce conflict.
- They don’t blame, but rather admit to vulnerability and fears.
- They move past conflict, and into understanding and helping.
- They move forward, and not backward.
- They are good friends. Maybe not always “in love,” but certainly friends.
1+1 = More Than You Know
Resilience doesn’t come naturally to most relationships; it is part of the work of partnership. Think of it as a muscle that only gets stronger when exercised. Funny, the resilience concept sounds a lot like another word that has been a staple of relationships since time immemorial: Love.
So, this holiday season, start with small steps toward building resilience. Lead with love. Take a good look at your partner…and smile. Tell stories. Recall memories. Repair those little hurts. Share your dreams and your fears. Hold hands. Go for a long walk. Give and get some hugs. Remember that although alone you can make a difference, together you can really make change happen.