One popular benefit of using a Fertility Awareness-Based Method (FABM) for couples is that it improves communication between partners which, in turn, improves the quality of the relationship. Still, talking about cervical mucus and other signs of fertility can feel a little awkward, especially at first. In addition, talking about how to interpret those signs of fertility and their impact on your relationship can be frustrating at times.
While fertility awareness can improve communication, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes willingness on the sides of both partners, along with a commitment to work through the tougher, more frustrating times. There are many helpful communication strategies that are worth looking into and applying to your relationship, but today we’ll focus on the strategy of mindfulness, and how it can make talking about your cycle a little easier.
How mindfulness can help charting couples
We typically associate mindfulness with meditation and yogis, but it is actually a science-based method for reducing stress and improving overall well-being. Mindfulness is a term used to describe the practice of focusing on the present moment and observing your thoughts, emotions, sensations and your environment in a non-judgmental way. Several of the benefits of mindfulness could also directly and positively impact your relationship. Mindfulness has been shown to increase positive emotions and empathy, and to improve relationship quality and decision-making abilities. It also increases our ability to be compassionate toward ourselves and others.
When you are charting and involving your partner in the process, empathy is key to understanding each other’s perspectives. For example, it is helpful to be able to understand how your partner might be thinking and feeling about the process of charting, or with making decisions based on your observations. Additionally, it is helpful for your partner to understand what you are thinking and feeling, especially if you have different perspectives about the process. Empathic communication can help bridge that gap, and mindfulness is a great way to facilitate that conversation because it helps both partners let go of stress, and identify their individual feelings and thoughts before communicating them. This increases the chances for a productive and calm discussion to follow—one that ends with both partners feeling understood and closer to each other (rather than a heated debate that leaves both with hurt feelings).
Similarly, mindfulness has been shown to increase one’s compassion toward oneself and others, which is also beneficial for communication with your partner. When you can understand their perspective (empathy), you can also extend compassion toward your partner if you are having a particularly difficult interaction. Suddenly a conversation that would normally end with hurt feelings can become a conversation that deepens your understanding of one another, all because of compassion.
Try this simple exercise to practice mindfulness:
Sit comfortably and quietly in a chair with both feet on the ground and with your hands resting on your lap. Close your eyes, and breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Then, breathe out as slowly as you can through your mouth. Repeat. As you do this, try to focus on the physical sensation of the breathing process. Feel the air as it fills your lungs and then as you release the air. Then, start to observe, using your five senses, what is happening around you. You can also observe the thoughts that you are having. The key to mindfulness is simply observing those thoughts and what is happening in your environment instead of judging them. For example, if you notice yourself thinking about what you are going to have for dinner tonight, acknowledge that you are thinking about dinner and then simply return to observing your other thoughts instead of berating yourself for getting distracted. It is challenging, especially at first, to observe your thoughts in a non-judgmental way but it is the key to making mindfulness work. Keep practicing this exercise and notice how you feel after each time you try it. You should feel more relaxed, less stressed, and more aware of your thoughts and emotions which, in turn, increases your ability to communicate them to your partner. Think of mindfulness as a way to calm the waters of the busyness of life so that you can see what comes to the surface.
Another simple way to practice mindfulness and reduce stress is through deep breathing. By using a simple deep breathing exercise like this one, you can reduce stress and increase your awareness of what is happening in the present moment (instead of worrying about the past or the future). This is a great exercise to do any time you are stressed, or before having a conversation that you think might be challenging or difficult.
No matter where you are in your family-planning journey, it’s helpful to remember that the difficult times will pass, and that other couples are on the journey with you. Most of all, your partner is on the journey with you, and with the right techniques, you can grow closer together along the way.