Infertility may cause stress not only individually, but to a marriage as well. Making sure to have the support for yourself and your marriage is important during your fertility journey.
Yes, it can be stressful, when you are busy with tests, fertility charting, timed intercourse, and medical procedures, a couple could stop connecting deeply like they once did. So what can you do to help your marriage through infertility?
When there is no communication with one another, one partner may be assuming what the other partner is thinking and feeling. Assumptions are not the same as actually taking time to communicate what is being experienced and felt. How can one know what the other is going through if there is no communication?
I know, every expert out there is constantly giving advice to communicate, but for good reason. Why? It works. The catch is that both partners have to be willing to make each conversation full of a healthy dose of give and take. This means when your partner is speaking, listen. I know it can be challenging, but it is truly helpful if the listener can hold their tongue until their partner is done speaking. Take time to truly listen to what your partner has to say. Sometimes all a person needs is to be heard and for feelings to be acknowledged.
It is very healing to be truly heard by the person you are sharing your heart with. Listening can be very challenging, but it is an invaluable tool for good communication. When you are the listener, hear what your partner is saying, acknowledge them by saying “Okay, I hear you, yeah.” Then wait until they are done speaking and ask them some questions, and acknowledge how they feel. “How did/does that make you feel?” “I hear what you are saying.” “Thank you for sharing that with me.” “That must be very difficult for you.” “Is there something I can do to help you through this?”
Try to always use positive words and questions. Avoid the blame game. Listening deeply is something that needs to be cultivated, over time. Be a good listener.
Counseling can be couples infertility therapy! Communication makes a world of difference for couples facing infertility. Counseling provides a time and safe space in which to communicate. Counselors are great at guiding couples through healthy communication skills. For most anyone going through a stressful time, their rationality and patience often goes out-the-window. Working through infertility by finding a good counselor is one of the best gifts for strengthening a marriage. A good counselor can be a foundational pillar of strength for couples facing infertility challenges.
It may even be a good idea to get individual counseling to help each partner to work through their unique perspectives and issues. Do an online search for therapists and counselors who specialize in infertility. Your doctor may even have someone they think is great and can set up a referral appointment for you. There is no shame in asking for help!
3. Be Honest
I know it can be cliche, but honesty is the best policy. Be completely honest about the current situation. Be honest with yourself and your partner. Let your partner know exactly how you are feeling and what you are going through. Your partner needs to hear the truth to be able to support you the best way they know how. Don’t forget the street runs both ways, so encourage your partner to be honest with you, without being judgemental of what they have to say. If honesty in a conversation hurts feelings, ask to take a break and come back to that conversation at a later time. Never avoid the truth of your feelings and experiences!
4. Take out the trash
This means let go of all the negative thoughts and feelings surrounding the situation, your body, your partner and life in general. Negativity breeds negativity and resentment can drag a person down. Pent up negative thoughts and feelings may fester and make the situation worse! Resentment can be a ticking time bomb.
No one is asking you to feel great each moment of the day, because yes, infertility may be stressful, but remember, where you are at is temporary. Hormones are raging and some of that may be due to medications. Take it day-by-day and do what you can to shift perspective to something uplifting. Force yourself to go for a walk, choose to see the beauty in each day. Have a stress management practice. Say a positive affirmation when a negative thought comes to mind. Letting resentment go is a daily practice. Be compassionate with yourself and your partner. This too shall pass.
5. Be Open to Spontaneity
Sex can easily become mechanical with all the charting, timing and reporting back to doctors. Women feel a sense of urgency to get the timing down. Men tend to feel used when sex becomes planned. It can seem like spontaneity no longer exists and the passionate times once shared are a thing of the past. So how can making love be more passionate? Be creative. Yep, I am going to say it, try other sexual activities with each other that has nothing to do with making a baby. Are there other playful sexual activities both of you would enjoy? Try those out. They may be just as fulfilling and more passionate than you expected. Surprise each other. Make it fun.
Spontaneity can’t be planned, but it can be worked into your weekly routine. Be spontaneous about other activities as well; date nights, surprise lunch date, go for a walk, take a road trip, go for a weekend outing.
6. Touch More
Don’t forget you are a team, a team that loves one another. Touch doesn’t have to equal intercourse, though sometimes it should. Touch simply means give a hug, hold each other, hold hands, give a massage, spoon in bed. Allow yourself to receive these kinds of touch if they are offered or asked of you by your partner. Touch connects you and research has shown it is a powerful source of healing.
7. Keep Other Dreams Alive
Dust off old dreams, hobbies and interests that have been set aside while trying to get pregnant. Set new goals, come up with new interests and make plans to go do them. The goal is to stay busy and not just focus on trying to get pregnant. Trying to conceive is but one aspect of your life and doesn’t make up all of who you are. Both partners need to get out and do things that interest them. It is easy to get caught up with the situation at hand, staying busy helps to keep the mind focused on other important parts of life. Do something that makes you happy every single day – you deserve it!
8. Be a Beacon of Hope for One Another
If your partner is feeling down and out, raise that person up. Show them that you love them in some way. Give them hope to keep moving forward. A great way to support one another is to share this experience together. This challenge can deepen your relationship, especially if you go to appointments together, eat well together, and exercise together. Including each other in this experience may bring about a deeper understanding of what the other is going through and shows one another there is a continued commitment to the relationship.
You are each others rock, you are a team and teammates stick together. Refuse to give up on each other. Remember your commitment to one another. Those vows shared on your wedding day still stand today and every day from here on out.
You Will Get Through This – Acceptance
Challenges can be overcome. Be gentle with yourself. Continue to work to accept where you are both at, and what you have been through before making plans for the next step. When couples have not fully processed and accepted all aspects of where they are currently at, they may not ready to move on to the next step…whether that be trying naturally again, IVF, adoption or even choosing to be child-free. Choosing to stand by one another may greatly help any challenge to be overcome. In the end the marriage may be even be stronger than before. The relationship you have with your partner is the foundation for your family, no matter how large or small that family is. You will get through this. Where you are at today is not where you will be forever. Take it one day at a time.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”. – Mary Anne Radmacher
1. Davis, Rebecca. Marriage Makeover: “Can Our Marriage Survive Infertility?” http://www.redbookmag.com/love-sex/advice/marriage-infertility
2. Beall, Amy. How to Keep Your Marriage Strong Throughout Fertility Treatments http://www.babyzone.com/getting-pregnant/infertility/marriage-and-fertility-treatments_67174