TTC: How often has your partner been cross or angry, seem to snap at the smallest thing or feel distant, only for you to discover that he’s actually worried about how to pay the bills this month or a big presentation that he has on at work? How do we know what’s in the mind of those that we love? The place to start is kindness. Studies from the Gottman Institute in Washington State confirm kindness as the predictor to a successful marriage. But being kind does not mean not getting angry, pretending things are OK when clearly they are not, or sugar coating the truth. Being able to say it as it is and explain why you feel hurt or angry – that is kindness in it’s purest sense.
Lou told me ‘my husband Ben has always been the strong silent type but as we got longer into our fertility journey he started to withdraw. In my mind I was thinking the worst. That he was having second thoughts about our fertility treatments, that he hated his life and he was going off me’, she recalled. ‘I just couldn’t seem to get him to talk about anything, let alone how he was feeling. I got so fed up and said to him ‘I love you but you need to show me that you’re engaged here or everything we are doing will be for nothing’, she recalled. ‘He had to go interstate for a business meeting and I had an appointment at our clinic. He left early so I didn’t get to see him off. I got a cab to the appointment feeling totally exhausted and stressed. When I got to the waiting room I picked up my book from my bag and a hand written note from him fell out onto my lap. It said ‘I’m sorry I’ve not been very communicative but know that I’m with you 100% even though I can’t be there today – I want this to work just as much as you do even if I don’t express it as much as I should’.
Everyone deals with stress in different ways. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt that we are all doing the best that we can with the situation that we’re in, is so important. Not jumping to conclusions, or making up what we think is happening (because so often we get it wrong). For some of us kindness may need to be cultivated, it may not be something that you’re particularly skilled at, and that’s fine. Learning how to be kind needs intention, practice and time. Next time you’re in a situation that is sensitive ask yourself ‘how can I be kinder than necessary right now?’ See if you can make that your starting place to find the answer.