Wise Counsel From Susan Quilliam: Termination Troubling

Dear Susan,

When I fell pregnant last autumn, it just wasn’t the right time. Matt and I both agreed we wanted to wait until we were settled, got our careers sorted, had a good income, so I terminated my pregnancy. No problem. End of story.

But I can’t seem to put it behind me, and particularly over the past few weeks, our relationship has gone from bad to worse. Our sex life has completely died – in bed we just say goodnight, roll over and go to sleep..

I want to get back our love, but we hardly even talk now. I’m pretty sure all this is linked to my termination but I can’t just pull myself together and forget what happened.

Dear Laura,

No, you can’t just pull yourself together and forget what happened – if you had been able to, you would. And my guess is that Matt can’t forget either – the two of you have been through the mill emotionally. Of course, not every couple reacts like this – some navigate termination easily and move on quickly, but the fact that you two are having problems – and that you yourself trace the problems back to your termination means that it isn’t ‘end of story’ at all.

Why is this happening? The most obvious answer is that you are both grieving the lost opportunity of having a child – and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that things are coming to a crisis round about the time when you would otherwise have given birth to that child. Grief often makes waves between couples, particularly when it’s not expressed. So have you expressed it – have you cried? Has Matt cried? Have you cried together?

You may also be worried about the future, concerned that you may never again get the chance to have a child. Particularly if your termination didn’t result in any health problems there’s almost certainly no need to worry about this. But many couples do worry – and that too may be pushing you apart.

Plus, there could be some blame or self-blame floating about. Did you and Matt really agree on what to do Did either of you feel pressured by the other? Let me be clear here – I am absolutely not saying that your decision was unwise, but sometimes after the event it can feel unequal.

All of these are huge issues, scary ones to even think about, let alone admit to each other. No wonder you aren’t connecting, not talking, not wanting to make love.

My advice is absolutely simple. First, you need to start opening up to each other. Tell Matt how you are feeling, let him say how he is feeling. Express your feelings, your fears, your regrets. It may be painful to open up but once you know that you are facing this together, everything will become hugely easier.

Second, talk to a counsellor, who can help put the past behind you. Your local Relate centre can help you do this.

Above all, avoid regret. You both did your best, made the best decision you could, and with the best intentions. Rather than let this break you, let it bring you closer – so that when you do start your family, you are the best possible parents you can be.

Susan Quilliam also offers email, phone and face-to-face coaching on relationship and sexuality issues. Contact her here.

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