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How to talk to an intimate partner about abortion

If we’re going to truly normalize abortion, we need to normalize talking about it—and expand who we talk about it with. Here are a few tips to get the conversation started.

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Team Hey Jane

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If we’re going to truly normalize abortion, we need to normalize talking about it—and expand who we talk about it with.  Are you thinking about talking about abortion with an intimate partner? Here are a few tips from sexuality doula Ev’Yan Whtiney:

Don’t be afraid to talk about it early

Rather than wait until a relationship develops, Ev’Yan recommends having these conversations about abortion, reproductive rights, and bodily autonomy early in a relationship. “In an ideal world I would encourage people to make that one of the first things that you talk about on a first, second, or third date with someone. Because I would hate for people to be in a situation where they’re not having these conversations, and then they have to have these convos and they realize: Oh, we’re actually not aligned at all. That leads to even more heartbreak and upheaval [during] a complicated situation.”

Keep it playful

Yes, this is a big topic—but you can bring it up in a way that doesn’t feel quite so serious. “Have these conversations in a playful, low-stakes way,” says Ev’Yan. “It doesn't have to be like, ‘What are your politics?’ More like, ‘Hey, we’re doing sexy things with our genitals and that could result in me getting pregnant. What do you think about pregnancy? What do you think about my choice to have an abortion? What are your feelings about that? This can be a safe space for us to talk about it without any finger pointing.’”

Find ways to educate

These can be more than just personal conversations; they can also be ways to help share information with the other person. “Be open minded to people’s capacity to change,” notes Ev’Yan. “There are a lot of people who don’t have a lot of education about how this works. This person might be like, ‘Abortion is horrible!” And your gut reaction is: ‘Sorry, you’re not someone I want to be around anymore.’  But it could also be an opportunity to talk to them. ‘This is what medication abortion is, this is what would happen to my body.’”

Good listening goes both ways

Try to convey to your intimate partner that this is a safe space for them as well. “I’m not going to make weird faces. I’m not going to say, ‘That’s weird,’” Ev’Yan says of their own approach to listening. “I bring that depth of curiosity while also holding this space as an empathetic witness. And that really matters. So much trust and honesty can come through if you feel like the other person is genuinely interested in you and holding space for you.”

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Write it out if it’s easier

“When I’m faced with a particularly confronting conversation where activated emotions might come up, I’m not always as articulate in the moment,” says Ev’Yan. If you can relate to that,  they recommend trying to write out your thoughts in a letter. “I like a letter because it can really allow you to put pen to paper about what matters to you, why this matters to you, what you care about, and how you want this person to see you, hear you, and support you. And you can give this letter to the person as an invitation for a deeper conversation, if possible. And if not, maybe it’s just: ‘That’s all I want to say. I don’t want to have this conversation with you because I don't think it will be productive, but I just want you to know how I feel about it.’”

You don’t have to have these conversations alone

If you’re having a conversation with someone you’ve known for a while and you’re not feeling like you’re seeing eye-to-eye, Ev’Yan recommends bringing in additional support. “Maybe that is a friend who also has the same reproductive rights feelings and values as you do. Maybe it’s a therapist that you and your partner sit in session with, where you’re able to talk. Or a friend you really trust who might be a nurse. Bringing them in might be an option.”

When in doubt, protect yourself

Trust your gut, and know when to disengage. “People have a lot of choice in starting these conversations, in ending these conversations, in choosing to be with folks who may not have the same political or reproductive understandings as we do,” says Ev’Yan. “This is a hot-button issue, there’s a lot of ignorance out there, and it’s important to weigh your own safety and your own experiences.”

Ultimately, communication builds strong relationships

These conversations might feel intimidating. But they have the potential to actually strengthen your relationship. “Our partners—the people who love us, the people who support us—are made so much better when we can clearly communicate and ask for what we want. That’s what they want from us,” Ev’Yan explains. “If they love us, if they support us, if they respect us, they’re going to meet the needs that we have with a lot of grace, a lot of compassion, and a lot of willingness to do that work.”

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Written by

Team Hey Jane

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