At the time of this writing, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recently overturned Roe v. Wade, which put the right to safe abortions in jeopardy. For my fellow Indiana residents, Governor Holcomb confirmed that abortion restrictions are likely to be discussed in a special session on July 25th.
As a therapist, one of my many concerns is for cisgender men partnered with “uterus-owners.” Yes, we’re not just talking about women when it comes to abortion. I’m sure there are men wondering how they can take action and support their partners at home. Here are my three, very much not comprehensive, suggestions for how to support your partner’s reproductive rights.
1. Just Listen (And Validate)
One of the best things you can do right now is to simply listen to your partner. No suggestions, no advice, just listen. It might be uncomfortable to hear how stressed, scared, and angry your partner is. It makes sense to get into “fix it” mode. Taking action is great, but try to simply understand and be present first. If your actions are informed by understanding your partner, they will be much more helpful.
What does being a good listener look like? Listen with your body language: facing the person, making eye contact, not having distractions (this may not be true for some neurodiverse folks, so establish beforehand what listening looks like for you). Reflect what is being said: “So it sounds like you feel angry because…” This may seem tedious, but reflecting is a great way to let the other person know you’re engaged. Finally, validate, validate, validate. Even if you don’t understand where your partner is coming from or disagree, you can still validate. “I could see why that’s scary” or “I can’t imagine how hard that must be” are great examples of validation. If you need structure around how to do this regularly, try practicing the stress-reducing conversation.
2. Advocate or Donate
One of the more obvious ways to support your partner is by taking action yourself. Any amount of time, energy, or money is better than nothing. Try to avoid the desire to prove to yourself or to others that you are doing enough. Instead, consider what is possible given your circumstances. Do you regularly spend money on coffee or takeout? Talk to your partner about ways you could save by making food or coffee at home and donate the difference to organizations like Planned Parenthood or All-Options. You can also attend events like the Bans Off Block Party. Don’t underestimate the value of your presence!
3. Actively Participate in Contraceptive Decisions
The vast majority of uterus-owners take up the responsibility of contraception on their own even though preventing pregnancy is not one person’s responsibility. One way you can support your partner is to have a conversation about what contraceptive methods work best. Ask your partner how they feel about side effects, cost, and other impacts that contraceptives can have. Even if you can’t change how birth control works, it could be meaningful to your partner if you are emotionally invested in the process. Ask if going to appointments with them or picking up prescriptions would be helpful.
If you are not attempting to get pregnant with your partner, a vasectomy could be a cost-effective and low-risk method of birth control. While this may be a drastic measure for some, it is worth discussing with a partner if having biological children is negotiable in your relationship. More information on vasectomy can be found here.
As I mentioned before, this list is by no means comprehensive. However, I believe that these steps are a great starting point to supporting your partner during this threatening time. If you are experiencing conflict or emotional disconnection from your partner, it may be time to schedule with one of our therapists to provide the tools you need.