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Harriet and Steve sat in my consultation room one sunny morning in July. I listened to Harriet, as her tears fell, recalling the previous four months since the loss of their baby.

Steve sat silently, holding her hand. This lovely couple was struggling, each in their own way, at dealing with a miscarriage. Even the strongest relationship can experience huge challenges following such a loss.

GRIEF EXPRESSED DIFFERENTLY

When Steve spoke, he mentioned that he just wanted his wife back. He was feeling angry and isolated, as she no longer wanted to discuss her feelings with him and was very withdrawn when it came to sexual intimacy.

Harriet said that while this loss was the only thing constantly on her mind, she just felt that Steve wasn’t able to hear about her pain. He kept telling her to focus on the future. She had spent every day thinking and dreaming of the little life growing inside her. The excitement mounted when she had her first scan and heard their baby’s heartbeat. That future was the reality that occupied her daily thoughts. The dreams were shattered the day that she was informed their baby had died in utero.

It was clear that this couple had different ways of grieving. While Harriet was feeling that life was far from normal, Steve was wondering why it was taking her so long to move on.

She was caught up in the obsessive cycle of thoughts about the baby she was longing for. The anxiety and tension had become a barrier between them, but it was also the catalyst for change.

Research has shown that when couples are not able to talk, they shutdown and get trapped in a downward spiral. This couple wisely sought help so they could grow closer and not get stuck.

GRIEF CAN TEAR YOU APART OR BRING YOU CLOSER

Your partner is the one person you may feel safest with to discuss your feelings. If one of the partners feels judged or is not allowed to express their feelings, it can lead to shutdown.

A miscarriage is similar to other forms of bereavement and in some ways it’s also different. If your partner loses a parent or friend, you are able to be the supportive partner. When you lose a baby, you are both in a place of loss. You may have different needs and you may express your grief in your own way – it’s not right, it’s not wrong, but it’s often a cause for concern for your significant other and can become contentious.

HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER AFTER A MISCARRIAGE?

  • Couple feel closer when they are able to talk, listen and really hear one another. While this is vital to the strength of your relationship, it is important to get support from family, friends, colleagues and/or a bereavement specialist.   Do not use your partner as the only form of support.
  • Identify what you most need and want from your partner and gently ask them for this. It may be that you need a hug, a distraction or break from the normal daily routine. Perhaps it is the understanding that your grief may take more time than that of your partner.

Create time to speak about how you feel, using “I” language. Talk about what you are feeling and going through. While speaking about how you feel is important to keep the communication flowing – speaking about it all the time will lead to disconnection.

Keep these four destructors out of your relationship:

  • Criticism
  • Blame
  • Defensiveness
  • Shut-down or passive aggressive behaviour
  • Accept that you will be triggered by life in general and specific situations involving babies, pregnancy and the occasions or celebrations around them. A close friend of mine was unable to accept any invitations to baby showers after her miscarriage. Feelings of jealousy and sadness consumed her until she eventually conceived again. Feelings of loss and sadness may be amplified as birth date approaches.
  • It might also help to speak to other parents who’ve experienced the pain of miscarriage. There are many groups, sites and forums where you can connect to them.
  • Grow in love and work on your relationship. This is a good time to discover more about one another in relationship to loss. Ask your partner how loss was dealt with in his family?   Tell him how your family handled loss.
  • If you feel like a barrier has come between the two of you, consult a relationship specialist who can facilitate the process of building the bond of safety, trust and love.

A miscarriage will define and refine your relationship, but most importantly, you have the power and the choice to let it influence your life in a positive and supportive way.

Wishing you meaningful connection

Love

February the 29th – the date that legend has it when a woman has the privilege of proposing to a man. This tradition and practice dates back about four centuries.   It continues in our day and once again – Leap Year is upon us.

Information available about the origins of Leap Year proposals points to St Bridget in the 5th century. She lodged a complaint to St Patrick because women had to wait far too long for men to propose to them. He then passed a decree allowing a woman to ask her loved one to marry her on only one day of the year, the 29th of February.

There are other stories about Queen Margaret of Scotland announcing that men would have to pay a fine, if they refused a marriage proposal. Other legends from Northern Europe state that the fine was 12 pairs of gloves and, in some countries, a silk gown.

While the thought of 12 pairs of cashmere-lined, bespoke, leather gloves sounds like a suitable fine in my world, fortunately none of the hundreds of men I have coached has had to reach deep into his pockets to do this.

I have huge admiration for these men having witnessed first-hand the amount of detail some of them have spent ensuring that their own proposals are beautifully co-ordinated – sometimes like a Swiss train schedule so it flows smoothly.

As yet I have not had any of the women I coach ask my advice on marriage proposals. However, because this is Leap Year, the big question ladies is – should you propose to your beloved? If so, what, when and how should you do it?

IS THE RELATIONSHIP WELL ESTABLISHED

Firstly to eliminate the risks of being rejected, – we want to establish that this is a relationship with a solid foundation and that it has the legs to go the distance.

You’ve been dating long enough to have experienced one another’s worst traits, met the families, socialised with friends, discussed the future and what you both want from it as individuals and TOGETHER.

As long as he (or she) loves you and is committed to a future with you and has no issues with marriage, he/she should say yes.

Before answering the question as to whether a woman should propose and when and how should she go about doing this, I decided to conduct a survey. I am thankful to the cross section of men from all professions and trades – including some clients, a couple of good male friends, and an ex-boyfriend – men who readily shared their opinions and answers to help out.

THE RESULTS ARE IN

Stephen was quite emphatic in his reply that he would never want the woman he loved to propose to him. He’s very much the Alpha male and said that it would make him feel like she was taking over. “Heck, I would feel completely emasculated!” he yelped.
This is not about right and wrong. It is important to consider this if your partner fits into the Alpha Male category, perhaps leave the proposal to him.

Neil loved the idea of the woman proposing. “To me, the setting is so important,” he told me. “I love the idea of either a dawn or dusk setting as long as it’s a surprise.” He said he wanted a rich-textured experience followed by a fun event that she knows he would love – a concert, favourite musician or dinner in a beautiful location to consolidate the moment.

Rory thought a jazz club after an intimate kiss would be the ideal time and place. “I love jazz and the romance of the setting. This, together with the heightened emotions from the music would be just perfect,” he told me.

Barry was quite taken back when I asked his opinion, as it had never crossed his mind before. After some thought he replied that the best time for the question to be asked was just as he turned the light off to go to sleep, to followed by a passionate encounter.

Michael was quite in favour of being proposed to by the woman of his dreams.

He said an everyday real-life situation like a supermarket queue would certainly surprise him.

Personally I would opt for a setting that would be emotionally memorable.

Mark is into adventure experiences. “I suggest she pop the question just after a bungee jump when the adrenaline is high,” he laughed.
The detail is in the planning. If you know your man well, you will also know what he likes to do, whether he is a morning or late evening person and what time of day would be best.

When a man is planning to propose to a woman he thinks about it for a long time and women need to appreciate this.

If you have been waiting for Leap Year to do this – you still have time to plan the event.

Think about what would please your beloved. Unexpected is the keyword – don’t tell all your girlfriends beforehand.

I love the moment when Emma from Radio 4’s The Archers proposed to her partner Ed.

Imagine the scene: The lights are turned on and Emma compliments Ed for being an amazing man and a wonderful Father. She says that he succeeds and that’s why she knows he will be an amazing husband too. Ed is completely surprised and says, “What?” Emma replies and says that he knows she loves him and then asks the question: “Will you make me the happiest woman in the world? Will you marry me?”

This scene captures all of the surprise and emotion. Ed ecstatically says YES, again and again and again. Click on the link below to listen to the special moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWvmrtXDocw

DOING IT

You might consider heading to a beautiful place with a good view, or an adventurous setting like skydiving, snorkelling, while watching the sun rise over a wilderness, or on safari. A romantic city break you both love such as Prague, Florence or Rome?
If you are very active, a hike up a mountain or hill with a bottle of something amazing to celebrate at the end.
Having been on the receiving side of two marriage proposals in non-memorable settings, I really do suggest that thought and planning go into the detail. Sadly both times I felt somewhat cheated of the magic and excitement of what could have been a truly memorable event

Mark this occasion by arranging something memorable afterwards: dinner with a group of friends, or dinner for two in a favourite place to consolidate the love you feel and last but not least a ring to symbolically tie the knot.

IF HE SAYS NO

Remain calm. It’s not the end of the world. Take a few moments to feel grounded and breathe before you ask him what the reasons are. It could be too early for him in the relationship. He may have some underlying issues you don’t yet know about – perhaps relating to finance, work, or deeper feelings about commitment.

Whatever is discussed, it could be a great moment of illumination and you may be given clarity about whether he is the right partner for you. Perhaps you will ask yourself if it’s worth investing more energy in the relationship, and if it’s time to move on.

To quote Bono: “Marriage is like an act of Grand Madness – you jump off the top of Killarney Hill and discover that you actually can fly”.

Wishing you a lifetime of love and magical kisses

Love

Shelley