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Dear Louanne... My husband wants another child but I don’t feel the same urge

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Stock image (Danny Lawson/PA)

Stock image (Danny Lawson/PA)

Stock image (Danny Lawson/PA)

Dear Louanne

My husband wants another child but I don’t know if I do. He comes from a large family and has always been very open about having a large group of kids. I knew this when I married him and at the time I agreed with him. But now, after having one, I feel complete. I don’t feel the same urge to have more children, but I know he does. How can we have a much-needed conversation?

- RW

Hello RW,

Differences of opinion happen in all relationships. Compromising is an important feature throughout the lifetime of a relationship. You and your partner may be familiar with compromising on the latest TV series you will binge-watch or what is for dinner. You may have navigated compromise on more serious things such as where to live or what you decided to call your child.

Agreeing how many children to have is a whole different experience in compromise.

You and your partner already had a conversation about having children before you married and how you both shared hopes for a large family.

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Having had a child you have discovered that you may have changed your mind. This happens — people do change their minds. Life happens — health issues, fertility, career, change in financial circumstances can all lead to us finding ourselves on a different path to what we anticipated.

Thinking about the conversations that lie ahead (and it is likely that there will be more than one conversation) try to keep an open mind. Rather than seeing you and your partner on opposite sides, think of yourselves as working through this together.

Keeping an open mind supports you in understanding your partner’s feelings and will enable your partner to be able to share their thoughts and feelings.

In preparing for the conversations reflect on the reasons why you feel the way you do. Does the impact of pregnancy and birth seem daunting? Are you wondering if you could love another baby as much as you love the child you have? As financial pressures squeeze are you thinking of the practical cost of bringing another child into the family?

Tell your partner that you would like to have a conversation about your family plans. Reassure them that you want to hear their thoughts and feelings and that you are genuinely curious about what they will say.

Agree together some ground rules about the conversation. It must be a safe space in which feelings can be expressed honestly without blame or judgement.

Respect for each other’s opinions must be assured and communicated in a way that each partner feels valued. Don’t interrupt each other.

Make time for these conversations. They are not the kind of discussions you have while putting on the laundry or while making dinner. These are important conversations that need time and space to honour the relationship that you have.

You may not reach an agreement in the first, the second or third conversation. Think of the positions you both hold as ‘for now, not for ever’. You can return to this conversation further down the line, six months from now or a year.

This is an emotional issue. You both may experience a range of responses — feelings of hurt, disappointment, resentment towards your partner. Remember that you are both being honest with each other and trying to navigate a challenge together.

Relate NI couple counselling is available to support you both.

‘When is the right time to seek counselling support?’

Dear Louanne

When is the right time to seek support from a counsellor? I have seen a counsellor in the past and it was incredibly beneficial in helping me work through many issues and untapped worries. I’m worried I am starting to feel similar to how I was before. I’m just not sure if it’s bad enough yet to go back to counselling or if I should just wait and hope it will pass, not to mention I have read that many counselling services are under pressure and I don’t want to take a place away from somebody who may be struggling more than me.

MF

Hello MF,

Sometimes the ‘best’ time to work with a counsellor is when you are feeling strong. Many people wait until there is a crisis in their life and then enter into a counselling relationship. The challenge with this approach is that some valuable time is spent ‘firefighting’ the crisis before the work can begin, the work that is the underlying cause of how the crisis came into being.

Attending counselling before feeling very low means that you may not have to experience such a dip in your emotions or quality of life. Counselling support will help in finding ways to understand more deeply what is happening. Sometimes when we are very close to things we don’t see what is going on and the help of a skilled counsellor enables us to really notice what is happening to us.

Counselling can also equip you with additional tools and coping strategies to manage the challenges you face in a helpful and healthy way.

I am reassured to hear that you had a positive experience in your previous counselling work. I am also encouraged that you are open to attending counselling again as you notice a potential change in your emotional health. We don’t attend the GP once in our life and think, ‘That’s me done. I’ll be well for ever now.’ We know that life brings a range of health experiences and that we will need to go back to the GP at some stage, for a new condition or a check-up on an ongoing issue. Counselling can be similar.

You raise the issue that counselling services are under pressure. Our national health service has been under pressure for years now and, following the pandemic, services that were at breaking point before are now feeling as though they have been demolished. Elections are coming up. Use your vote to support politicians committed to the NHS and emotional health and wellbeing.

Mental health services were always the poor relation in the health service. The fallout from the pandemic is being described as a tsunami of mental health issues. So, yes, counselling agencies are under pressure and they always have been. Does that mean that you ought not to seek support? Absolutely not. If you broke your leg would you think, ‘It’s not too broken yet. I’ll try walking on it for a bit longer. I’ll wait before I ask for help because everyone is so busy.’?

I would encourage you to access support now. Yes, there may be people facing more traumatic experiences than you, but it’s not a helpful comparison. There will always be people who are doing well and those who will be having a more difficult time. You are important and have every right to have you needs met.

For more information on Relate NI, see www.relateni.org


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