6 Tips for Communicating to With Your Partner While You’re Going Through Miscarriage

Couples often struggle with communication after experiencing a miscarriage. This is especially common if partners have different coping styles and needs. Trying to understand one another’s perspectives and using healthy communication skills, like “I” statements, can help foster more open communication.
communicating after miscarriage

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, your grief may be strong, intense, overwhelming and all-encompassing. If you have a partner, you may notice that they are grieving too—but perhaps in different ways. We all cope with life experiences in our own unique way, and much of this is influenced by our childhood, life experiences and overall genetic makeup. However, if you’re the person who physically experienced the miscarriage, you might feel frustration over the differences in how you and your partner cope.  

You might even be struggling to communicate with your partner—both in terms of their lack of understanding about what you’ve had to go through physically, mentally and emotionally, as well as how seemingly quickly they are able to recover from the loss.  If you’re having difficulty communicating with your partner after a miscarriage, you are not alone. This article will help you communicate your thoughts and feelings about your miscarriage with your partner. It will cover:

  • The impact of miscarriage on couples
  • How your needs may differ from your partner’s
  • Negative communication patterns
  • Tips for improving communication with your partner

The impact of miscarriage on couples

Experiencing a miscarriage is a devastating event for a couple. For many couples, it is the first time they have faced a traumatic event together. Depending on how partners respond to the event, the experience could bring a couple closer together or cause them to feel more distant from one another.

In heterosexual couples, both partners experience grief following a miscarriage, but male and female partners often grieve in different ways. Males tend to experience less intense and briefer grief reactions to miscarriage compared to their female partners. Females are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression after pregnancy loss, which is not surprising given that their bodies are the ones to physically experience the loss.

Fewer studies have looked at the impact of miscarriage on same-sex couples, but the process of using assisted reproductive technology (ART) to conceive using donor eggs and/or sperm can result in more feelings of sadness, frustration, and helplessness.

How each partner’s needs differ

It’s common for partners to have different needs and to seek different types of support after a miscarriage. When we think of “support,” we tend to think of sharing our feelings with another person. But there are actually many different types of support that partners could need after a miscarriage.

The different types of support include:

  • Emotional support: Listening, spending quality time together, and being present.
  • Acts of caring: Honoring the loss, acknowledging important dates, and speaking about the deceased.
  • Instrumental support: Help with tasks like childcare and household chores. 
  • Appraisal support: Connecting with support groups and the community.

One 2022 study published in the journal Human Reproduction Open looked at heterosexual couples’ needs following recurrent pregnancy loss. The results revealed key differences between the needs of male and female partners. Female partners’ top three needs after miscarriage included:

  • Empathy and understanding
  • Support and care
  • Open dialogue

The top three needs of male partners, on the other hand, were:

  • Optimism
  • Calm and patience
  • No self-blame

The study reveals that partners often have different needs. When partners are unaware of the other person’s needs, it could lead to feeling neglected.

Negative communication patterns

Problems can arise when a couple’s grief journeys differ. In heterosexual couples, a common dynamic is that the female partner feels the most impacted by the loss and wants to talk about it. She wants reassurance, support, and comfort from her partner. The male partner feels impacted, but wants to focus on moving forward. He wants to remain positive and get back to the common goal of having a baby. The female partner, in turn, can feel dismissed by his actions. She may also feel neglected and disconnected from him. This can also lead to a worsening of her depression.

This pattern certainly does not represent all couples. Each person and couple is unique in how they experience miscarriage and the healing process. Couples who find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle can benefit from learning alternative ways to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Tips for communicating with your partner

If you and your partner are having trouble communicating about your loss, you are not alone. The following tips can help you open the door to more open communication and healing. 

Try to understand your partner’s perspective

When we feel like someone isn’t understanding or supporting us, it’s normal to feel hurt and even angry. We can become defensive and forget that the other person is going through their own grieving process.

It’s helpful to try to understand your partner’s point of view. Ask yourself “What may be going on for them right now?”. Perhaps they are grieving by throwing themselves into work or feel like they need to be the ‘strong’ one. You can never really know another person’s perspective, but taking a step back and considering what may be going on for them is important. Make an effort to try to understand them before trying to get them to understand you.

Explain how talking about your loss is helpful for you

A common misconception is that talking about grief will make it worse. The truth is that for many people, talking about loss promotes healing. 

If your partner seems resistant to talking about your miscarriage, it may be because they believe that talking about it will make you feel worse. Perhaps they grew up in a family that discouraged emotional expression. In some cases, they may be unaware that they’re closing off communication with you. They may be repeating patterns that they witnessed in their own family of origin. 

Educating your partner on the benefits of talking about your feelings can be helpful. You can explain that while it can be hard in the moment, you are likely to feel better after the fact. They may be more open to talking about the loss after understanding why it’s helpful. 

Go slowly

While you may want to dive into a deep discussion, this may be hard for your partner. If your partner struggles with communicating their emotions, try to take things slowly. They may need a push to open up, but if you push too hard, they may shut down. If possible, find a pace that is somewhere in the middle of you both. 

Use “I” statements

Using “I” statements is a timeless communication technique. If you are struggling to express yourself, start with “I feel,” and then add what emotion you are feeling. From there, you can dive deeper into your feelings and help your partner understand your perspective.

This technique is especially helpful if you need to give feedback to your partner. For example, if their actions have hurt you, say “I felt hurt when you did…” rather than “you made me feel…” People tend to shut down or get defensive when they hear “you.” Starting a statement with “I” is often more effective.

Tell them what you need

A common communication problem between couples is assuming that your partner knows what you need. When your partner fails to provide what you need, you end up feeling hurt and resentful.

It’s important to state your needs directly to your partner. Be as specific as possible. For example, you might say “I need more quality time with you” or “When I’m crying, I just need you to listen.” 

If your partner has a different love language than you, you may find that they respond with what they believe you need, rather than what you actually need. This is quite common in couples. When this happens, try to acknowledge their good intentions and gently let them know what you need in the moment. It can take time to unlearn thought and behavior patterns, so you may have to tell your partner what you need several times before it sticks.

Listen

Finally, it’s important to listen to your partner as well. Offer them space to share their thoughts and feelings. Make an effort to be fully present without distractions.

Final note

Many couples find themselves struggling to communicate after a miscarriage. Sometimes one partner may want to talk about the loss, while the other partner wants to focus on moving forward. When a couple copes with grief differently, it can lead to miscommunication and conflict. Taking time to understand where your partner is coming from, opening up dialogue slowly, and using “I” statements are some ways to help foster more open and healthy communication with your partner after a miscarriage. 

Author

  • Dr. Emily Guarnotta

    Dr. Emily Guarnotta is a licensed psychologist and perinatal mental health specialist (PMH-C). She has works with clients experiencing a range of maternal mental health concerns, including infertility, postpartum depression and anxiety, and miscarriage. She is also the co-founder of Phoenix Health, an online practice that specializes in therapy for maternal mental health conditions. When she's not working, you can find her enjoying time with her family, traveling, and staying active.

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