Supporting your partner’s decision
|This may be a difficult time for you and your partner. If you are feeling upset or confused it is important to make sure that you are receiving good support and advice. |
Right now, the most important thing that you can do for your partner is to support the decisions that she makes. At the Women’s, we recognise a woman’s right to make her own decision about her pregnancy.
It is usual practice for women to have their first appointment alone, without their partners. This will allow your partner to talk with a counsellor or medical consultant about her thoughts and feelings about unplanned pregnancy. However, after the first appointment, if she would like you involved, your support would be welcome.
In Victoria abortion is legal1.
If your partner has chosen to have an abortion it is important that you support her to the best of your ability. Research into women’s post abortion experience shows a link between good partner support and a woman’s emotional well-being following the procedure. Conversely, where this is lacking or there is instability in the relationship, a woman may experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and uncertainty about the decision2. It may be hard for you to be supportive, particularly if your partner’s decision is in conflict with your beliefs or if you are feeling confused. It is crucial that you look for support for your own feelings.
What you might feel
|This is a decision which may require a lot of support from you and you may be confused about what to do or say. An unplanned pregnancy can bring up different issues for each of you and place a strain on your relationship.|
Common feelings that you may have include:
- concern for your partner’s well being
- frustrated or angry if your partner is blaming you
- concern about how this decision may affect your relationship
- guilt or regret about the pregnancy and/or abortion
- reluctance to share your own feelings, to appear strong or to avoid influencing her decision
- angry about the decision
- a loss of control over the situation
- confused about what to say or do to show your support3.
|All of these feelings are normal but it is important to seek support to manage your feelings and to find strategies to help yourself. You may wish to seek individual counselling or support for yourself, as well as couple or relationship counselling if this is something you both want.|
|Men’s Line Australia, which is a 24 hour telephone counselling service may be a good place to start 1300 78 9978.|
Practical things you can do straight away to help:
- Look after yourselves - it can be a stressful time. Take time out from other commitments if you can.
- Let her know you’ll be around to help her with whatever decision she makes.
- She might be feeling physically nauseous as well as worried and preoccupied with the decision, so ask her if you can help her with any practical concerns (taking her to the GP, talking to her about work commitments, looking after children, doing the shopping) as well as offering to talk with her about her worries and feelings.
- Offer to help get information about how to make the best decision about an unplanned pregnancy. Look at the Women’s website www.thewomens.org.au to get some reading material on unplanned pregnancy. Other websites such as www.childrenbychoice.org.au and www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au also offer credible information on unplanned pregnancy and abortion.
- Ask her who else she wants to confide in about this - reassure her that she doesn’t need to tell everyone only people she thinks will be supportive and non-judgemental.
- Ask her if there’s anyone she would feel comfortable with you confiding in at this time, to talk about your own thoughts and feelings.
How you can help her to make a good decision - what can you do to support her?
- Make time for the two of you to talk. It is likely that she will need to talk about it many times.
- Expect that she might ask you lots of questions as she needs to find out a lot of information to make her decision.
- Respect that it is her decision.
- At the decision-making stage, simple actions - such as just being there to listen, or raising questions about all the options available with this pregnancy - can help her to look more clearly at how each might impact on her.
- Women often want to know how their partner feels. Do try to be open with her about your feelings while still supporting her with hers. It is important not to use your own feelings as a way to control her decision. However, it is good that she knows how you feel so that she can assess the reality of the situation. Saying something like “I’m sorry that you have to go through this and I will support you no matter what decision you make,” might be good for her to hear.
- Acknowledge your role in the pregnancy and let her know that you know this.
- Encourage her to seek support from a counsellor if she feels like she is not able to make a decision. Sometimes just being able to express what she wants or feels, to someone who is not directly involved, may help her further. It might also help you to know that she can speak to someone else so that you are not carrying the decision between you alone.
What if I do not agree with her decision?
|Your partner may make a decision that you do not agree with and you may feel you can’t offer her your full support. While you may disagree with her decision, it is important not to try to change her mind. Let her know that you respect her decision, even if you don’t agree with it. No one can be completely sure how they will react to an unplanned pregnancy until faced with it themselves. Some women will have a particular stance until they are in the situation themselves. Your partner may choose something which will surprise you both. |
Even if you strongly disagree or have moral objections to her decision you may need to take time to think about it further. Some men experience a range of emotions including a sense of loss that eventually leads to acceptance. Women choose an abortion for a variety of considered reasons and their own judgement tells them this is the best option at the time. Similarly, for a woman who opts to continue a pregnancy she may feel she cannot bring herself to have an abortion. Each pregnancy will be unique in terms of the factors and context of a woman’s life at this time.
If you decide that you cannot be there to support her decision, whatever it may be, then she needs to know what you can and can’t offer. For example, if she chooses to continue the pregnancy, and you feel you cannot be there for her, she needs to know this and to know that she will be deciding to parent on her own. By being clear about what support you can offer, she will at least be able to factor this in to her decision making. Overall, the best decision will be reached when it is done in an environment of trust and respect. Forcing her into a decision aimed at meeting your needs or wishes could be detrimental to her because of the ultimate physical, psychological and emotional impact on her body and her life.
|For more information on unplanned pregnancy and abortion look at the Women’s website www.thewomens.org.au. Other websites such as www.childrenbychoice.org.au and www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au also offer comprehensive information on unplanned pregnancy and abortion.|
|1. Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act 2008|
2. Baker 1995; p.94; Children By Choice no. 30, 10/04
3. Baker,1995; p.96
- Baker, Anne (1995) Abortion and Options Counselling; A Comprehensive ReferenceThe Hope Clinic for Women, ltd. Granite City, Illinois
- Children by Choice Association, Inc Information series No. 30, 2004 ‘How to Support a Woman through an Abortion’
|To the best of our knowledge this information was current as of May 2010.|