Staring Contest

Bronwyn's picture

Even though a human being is part of the whole, most human beings experience themselves, their thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest. This is what Einstein called “a kind of optical delusion of consciousness” in which most human being live. (Einstein, 1950, from Siegel, 2010, p. 255)


In the effort to build a family, many couples commit a great deal of effort and care into learning about fertility, pregnancy and birth. This is a reasonable pursuit for people trying to conceive; for months on end, it’s the first and last musings of the day. You’re tracking your cycle, taking your temperature, checking for cervical fluid, monitoring ovulation with devices and strips; where in that is there time to enjoy your partner? When your intimate times start to feel like a means to an end, it may be time to revisit your attachment.


Attachment is something that happens in early infancy and childhood, resulting from the interpersonal exchange between child and caregiver. Securely attached children display distinct behaviours and traits compared with their poorly-attached peers. While this may seem slightly off the topic, its importance cannot be overstated, as similar mechanisms for this attachment (widely believed to be a fundamental survival instinct) exist in adult relationships as well. That is to say as adults in committed, romantic relationships, we exhibit the same basic features of the bond between caregiver and child. Here’s a summary.


  • feel safe when the other is nearby and responsive

  • engage in close, intimate, bodily contact

  • feel insecure when the other is inaccessible

  • share discoveries with one another

  • play with one another's facial features and exhibit a mutual fascination and     preoccupation with one another

  • engage in "baby talk"

As we move stridently about our daily tasks, it’s easy to neglect the delicate web tethering us to each other. With appropriate attachment to our partners, we experience joy, ease and more smoothly navigate the tumultuous waters of infertility.


What does this mean in practice? Every couple has their rituals of what works for them, but one practice of conscious intimacy, used for building and strengthening the bonds, is eye gazing. It sounds simple, but a depth of closeness and clarity blossoms in the true presence of each other. Try it sometimes; you don’t even need to tell your partner you’re doing it. Simply make genuine eye contact and don’t break it; ask a question and truly listen to them. The healing power of this simple gesture can strengthen or heal bonds, even in the face of profound stress.



Be the island of refuge for one another in the lurching, uncharted sea of infertility. For further reading on the topic of attachment in adult relationships, check out this publication by Dr. Sue Johnson.  There is also a counselling practice next door to Acubalance offering a couple's workshop based on the principles in this book.


And, of course, if you need any help or advice about infertility, don't hesitate to call and book a free 15 minute consultation. I'm always available for a chat.