Thursday, August 26, 2010

Supporting Someone Through Infertility

Q. I have a friend who is going through infertility. I am not sure what to say or what to do. Can you help?

A. Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional counselor in Tuscaloosa, Columbiana, and Hoover will be answering your question today. "Infertility is often a very painful and private issue that is a source of grief. If a loved one has entrusted you with information about their infertility diagnosis, take a moment to reflect on the responsibility that comes with this before you say or do anything. It can be difficult for even the most caring friends and family members to offer constructive support. But there are ways you can help"

Things to Do:

• DO pray for those who are struggling with infertility, and ask permission before telling others about their struggle — even as a “prayer request.”
• DO have the courage to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). This is often more helpful than any attempt to cheer the couple up. Avoid offering suggestions such as “Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson.” These can sound like heartless accusations. Leave it up to the couple, when they are ready, to testify to God’s grace and His sovereignty.
• DO respect the couple’s privacy. While some couples are very open about their struggles with infertility, others are very private. When the couple wants to share, do be available to listen. Express empathy using words like “loss and sorrow.”
• DO remember that holidays and special events can be painful reminders of the absence of children in the couple’s home. Try not to pressure their attendance, and allow them to come late or leave early. They will not need to avoid these events forever, but may need to do so at particular times in their grief journey.
• DO educate yourself about infertility, both the medical and emotional experiences. Your local hospital, library and the Internet can be good resources.
• DO offer to put them in touch with others who have dealt with infertility or adoption. Let them decide whether or not to pursue that contact. This is MUCH better than sharing secondhand stories about others who tried for years to conceive and eventually got pregnant.
• DO be aware that couples who already have one or more children can experience “secondary infertility,” which is difficulty getting pregnant following the birth of a biological child.

Things to avoid:

• DON’T give advice unless asked. Unsolicited suggestions about home remedies, physician referrals or infertility treatment options may not be very well received.
• DON’T ask the couple invasive questions about the reasons for their infertility, whether the problem is his or hers, or what types of infertility treatments they have tried.
• DON’T say “just relax.” In 85 percent of cases, doctors find a medical cause for the infertility that no amount of “relaxing” will cure. In general, it’s best to avoid statements that begin with “just”, or “at least.” These can be very hurtful and cause the couple to feel their very painful experience has been invalidated and trivialized.
• DON’T push adoption or say “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant.” Adoption is a wonderful way in which God builds families, but God doesn’t call every infertile couple to adopt. And while there are couples who have gotten pregnant following adoption, studies have shown that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adoption is the same as for infertile couples who become pregnant without adopting — approximately 5-10 percent

If you would like more information about how to help a loved one through infertility or if you know someone who could benefit from counseling due to infertility, give us a call. You can click on the contact us tab. We will be happy to help.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Invalidation in Marriage

Q. I've seen the last three blog post and have really been working to better my marriage. What is the fourth negative pattern we should avoid in marriage?

A. The final negative pattern to avoid in marriage is invalidation. We tend to invalidate by subtly or directly putting down the thoughts, feelings, and character of others. You can either directly say that your spouse is wrong or you could simply minimize what they have to say. It causes your spouse to feel unimportant, hurt and disregarded. Of all four of the patterns to avoid in marriage, this could be the easiest to avoid.

Luckily, in order to validate your spouse, all you have to do is treat them with respect and listen. Many times, when a spouse comes with an issue or hurt, they do not want a plan of action to fix it. They are often looking for someone to listen to them and respect their perspective. Many arguments in marriage could be solved simply by listening and validating.

Does this mean that you have to agree with your spouse? No. You can validate feelings and concerns simply by acknowledging them. In fact, research shows that invalidation is one of the best predictors that there will be future issues in the marriage. However, having validation does not say that you will have a healthy marriage. Therefore, stopping invalidation is more important than actually validating. Just listen to your spouse - it will make all the difference.

We are reminded of this idea in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." When we apply this principle to our marriage relationships, we will see a drastic change in the amount of invalidation that is currently present. Work to build up your spouse and help them to feel validated in their life.

All information taken from: "A Lasting Promise" by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Withdrawal and Avoidance in Marriage

(Continuation of Last Week's Post) Q. I saw last week's article on escalation. My wife and I really struggle with escalation in our marriage and want to work on making our marriage stronger. You mentioned there were more patterns to avoid in your marriage. Can you explain those?

A. To continue our discussion of the four patterns in marriage to avoid, we will talk today about withdrawing and avoiding. This can be as simple as walking away or no longer playing an active part in the discussion to simply avoiding any opportunity for a topic to arise. Both of these actions are incredibly harmful to a marriage. Both also happen to be the same negative pattern but with different ways of showing it. Ultimately, if you are withdrawing from conflicts or avoiding them all together, you are stiffing communication in your marriage. You have stopped being open and honest about what you are feeling and are no longer sharing what is truthfully going on with you. Resentment begins to build in a marriage at this point and begins to erode positive feelings about one another.

So how do you avoid avoiding? That is a great question with an answer that is grounded in scripture. Ephesians 4:25-27 says, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." This directly addresses the need to be open and honest with one another. You would never want to allow your anger and resentment to grow and cause it to harm your marriage. It is more important to deal directly with the issue at hand.

All spouses must remember that your actions are not independent. Every decision you make directly affects your spouse. When you came together in the covenant of marriage, you vowed to work together and became one. For this reason, you must realize that you are not independent. If you find that you are not able to handle an issue on your own, seek out a trusted friend, mentor, or contact us for counseling. Never let an issue go on too long before seeking help. As a counselor, my number one warning for those seeking marriage counseling is, "Don't wait until a great deal of resentment is present to seek help."

All information take from: "A Lasting Promise" by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Negative Interpretation in Marriage

Q. I saw last week's article on escalation. My wife and I really struggle with escalation in our marriage and want to work on making our marriage stronger. You mentioned there were more patterns to avoid in your marriage. Can you explain those?

A. According to Scott Stanley, there are four key patterns that you want to avoid in your marriage. Let's talk about negative interpretation and leave the other two key patterns for the next two columns. Negative interpretations occur when one consistently sees the motives of their spouse as being more negative than they actually are. Here is an example: A wife comes home to find the kitchen a wreck. She immediately thinks that her husband did it on purpose just because he knows that she likes the kitchen to be clean. She goes to her husband and demands to know why he has destroyed the kitchen. He responds that he was attempting to surprise her with dinner. In this example, the wife immediately thought the worst thing about her husband.

When negative interpretation is present in a marriage, there is also mind reading that is happening. We think we know what our spouse is thinking, but the reality is that we don't know what is going on inside their head. It can really hurt a marriage when you wrongly accuse a spouse of something they did not do nor they ever thought. Remember, you are not a mind reader!!!!

So how do you work through this negative pattern? First, you must ask yourself, "Am I overly negative or demanding?". Most of the time your answer to this question will be yes. Secondly, you must ask yourself, "Is there any evidence to support a positive view of my spouse and their motives?" Most of the time, you will be able to find evidence indicating that your spouse really does want good things for you and is really trying their best. And lastly, when all else fails, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't allow your interpretation, which by the way are probably wrong, destroy the positive in your relationship.

All information take from: "A Lasting Promise" by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan