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Decision making as a couple

 

Some women we speak to will describe an unplanned pregnancy as a positive turning point in their relationship with the man involved. They see this as a way of re-evaluating and sometimes ending the relationship, and others talk of how the process of dealing with the unplanned pregnancy brought them closer together, helping them to see and step closer to their own preferred futures more clearly.

Talking with your partner or the man involved in an unplanned pregnancy can be a difficult time. Before talking with the man involved in your pregnancy it may be helpful for you to get some clarity about what you are wanting in involving him in the process. 

Here are some examples of what other women have said. Which of these statements might fit best for you?

  • I want him to be involved in making the decision with me.
  • He says he will support me either way but I want to know what he is really thinking.
  • I want to let him know what I have decided.
  • I know he will not support my preferred choice but I want us to understand each other’s points of view as best we can.
  • I want to get clarity from him because he keeps changing his mind all the time and this is confusing for me.

I want him to be involved in the decision making

This is big stuff he is going to have to get his head around. What do you know about him that might help? For example, is he at his best in the mornings, does he like to think things over before talking about them, is there place you go that you both find relaxing and safe? Give yourselves the gift of time if you can. This is a potentially life changing decision. It can be complex and multifaceted. 

Women’s decision making about unplanned pregnancy varies widely. For some women it is clear and straightforward, for others there are many different issues to take into account. When trying to communicate with the man involved, where your thinking is varied and complex, it can be helpful to make a list of the pros and cons.

I want to let him know what I have decided

Under stress many of us tend to get our thinking a bit muddled so writing down what you want to say with a list of your reasons can be helpful.  Before speaking with the man involved in the pregnancy about your decision it may be helpful to road test it with someone else first. Choose someone you trust. You could practice saying out loud what you want to say and you could ask the other person to pretend to take an opposing view, in order to test out the strength of your arguments. This will help you to get clear about your reasoning and get you ready to state your case and hold your position. 

I know he will not want to support my preferred choice but I want us to understand each other’s points of view as best we can.

When couples see things very differently and are finding it hard to talk things over the conversation can quickly turn to argument. Here are some steps that might help take the heat out of things enough to hear each other:

  1. Write your own pros and cons list making sure that you have at least two or three things on either side.
  2. Invite the man involved in the pregnancy to do the same.
  3. Suggest that you now swap and read each other’s lists. If things are really heated you might want to do that away from each other where you can vent to someone else, or cool down a bit before you talk some more.
  4. Seek clarification about anything on each other’s list that you do not understand.
  5. Identify and acknowledge the things in common on your lists (even if you have a different opinion about the best choice there may be shared concerns or considerations).

With a black and white decision like whether to end or proceed with a pregnancy, there is no way to compromise on the options. Either the pregnancy goes ahead or it ends. How you manage the consequences of the decision can be negotiated and compromised upon, and the pros and cons lists can be a starting point for working through these consequences. When couples don’t agree there can be worry that resentment will take hold in the relationship no matter what decision is made. These negotiations and compromises can help to limit resentment.

He says he will support me either way but I want to know what he is really thinking.

It can be a tough spot to be in for both of you. On the one hand he wants to do the “right thing” by saying that he will support you either way but if your mind is not made up this can leave you guessing. Some men worry that offering an opinion one way or another may leave the woman feeling forced rather than free to choose. For the woman, being “free to choose” sometimes feels a lot like being left with the responsibility for making the “right” choice without any information.

The following process might help to provide the woman with guidance while allowing the man to remain neutral:

  1. Write up your own list of pros and cons and make two copies.
  2. Give one copy to the man involved in the pregnancy and invite him to underline two or three things from both the pros and cons side of your lists that he thinks are important to consider. He is not adding to your thoughts but is indicating which of your thoughts he feels more strongly about.
  3. You could also invite him to add one thing to each side of the list that you do not already have down there. By inviting him to add to both sides this can take account of his worry of unduly influencing you one way or the other.
  4. On your copy prioritise the list, which factor is most important. You can rank order them or give each a weight of 1 to 5 for example.
  5. Look over what the man involved has underlined. For each thing ask yourself, in what way does this effect how I weight this factor in my decision making?

I want to get clarity from him because he keeps changing his mind all the time and it is confusing me.

Getting clear about a position on an unplanned pregnancy can be just as hard for the man involved as it is for the woman. Offering him some of the ideas already mentioned in this section may assist him to come to a place of greater clarity. 

Sometimes getting the man involved identifying the factors and processes that are causing him to change his mind can be helpful. This can help promote his awareness of his own processing. This may steady him a little in his own thinking and cause you less confusion. Does he change his mind at a particular time of day or week, after discussing the issues with a friend or family member, or when he is thinking more deeply about a particular factor? This may also help you to get clearer about whether it is his general change of heart that is confusing or whether the particular issues that change his mind are also issues in flux for you. If so this can point to areas for deeper consideration for you both.

Remind him there are no right or wrong decisions, but just the best decision that can be found at the time. You can try also giving him permission to let you make the decision based on what he has already shared, as his mind changing may be an expression of his worries about unduly influencing you.

Sometimes this mind changing can be a form of emotional abuse. It is good to get clear about whether he is genuinely confused or attempting manipulation or aiming to cause hurt. Your knowledge of him and the history of your relationship may give you some clues about this.  It can be a subtle form of reproductive coercion, aimed at prolonging action on the decision beyond the point of choice. If you suspect that the mind changing is a form of manipulation it calls for very different strategies to help you to hold on to clarity. 

You could tell a trusted friend your thoughts and feelings on a day when you feel like you know your own mind, free from the impact of his behaviour. They can then act as your “brains trust” and remind you of your clarity at time when the manipulation and abuse are confusing you.

Take some time away with friends or family if you can to give yourself the head space you need to find your own clarity.

Give your phone to a trusted friend so they can filter any messages he may send you about the decision.

 

Many of our suggestions have included variations on pros and cons lists. These become important documents for moving forward. They are a snap shot of the wisdom that you had available to you at the time you made your decision. They also provide an agenda for planning, to guide you in reinforcing the positives of the decision, and managing the identified negatives of the decision. 

We can offer telephone counselling to individuals and face to face counselling for couples as a resource for your decision making processes. Contact us if this is something you think may help. 

Last modified on: 04 July 2016
Decision making as a couple
04 July 2016

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