When you and your partner decide to start a family, it can be one of the most exciting times in your relationship. How will you will tell your family? Have you pictured how you would announce in on social media? You’ve likely wondered how your life will change. You may have names picked out or dream of having a baby boy or girl. how your life will change, if it will be a boy or a girl. There are so many things to feel excited about.
Unfortunately, for many couples getting pregnant is not an easy thing to do. Over 6 million women in the United States, or 10% of women aged 15-44, struggle with infertility. This one word can turn a time of excitement and happiness, to a time of deep sadness, confusion and isolation. Both men and women may experience some or all of these difficult emotions. There can be physical, emotional and often financial stress. Infertility is almost always accompanied by added relationship stress. Fertility is a fickle thing and there is very little that couples have control over when they are struggling with fertility. However, relationship stress and tension during this time is one thing that you have some control of. Outlined below are 4 simple steps to keep your relationship strong, even during the struggles of infertility.
Talk about it.
Although this may seem obvious, I cannot tell you how many couples I see who have struggled with infertility and not told the other person about what they are experiencing. Some feel embarrassed, inadequate, damaged, afraid – those are not easy emotions to talk about. However, not talking about how you are feeling can leave you feeling like you are going through it alone or you may convince yourself you aren’t allowed to feel the way you do. No matter what you are feeling during this time, tell your partner about it. Make sure during this to use “I statements” in order to avoid the second step on this list.
Do not blame.
The human body can do miraculous things, and act in confusing ways. Sometimes there is an explanation to infertility while other times there is not. The medical term used when doctor’s cannot know for sure what is casing the infertility is truly “unexplained infertility”. Whichever is the case, blaming one person or the other is never helpful. Blame creates an atmosphere of isolation and judgement in a relationship. These two things are not beneficial to supporting your partner. In fact they are likely to increase stress in the relationship which is opposite of what you want during this time. In 2010 the National Institute of Health published this helpful study discussing the correlation between stress hormones and struggles to conceive.
Find support outside of the relationship.
As much as talking to your spouse is important, there may be things that they just can’t understand. Whether this is utilizing your friends and family, or finding a group through your doctor, talking to others who have either gone through something like this before or are supportive of you can help immensely. Make sure you talk to your partner about whom you are sharing things with. If you tell friends, co-workers or family and your partner is not comfortable with that, that may cause additional stress on your relationship. Infertility is a very private subject; you want to be mindful of this sensitive subject and how your partner feels about you sharing.
Focus on things other than getting pregnant.
Although this may sound counter-intuitive, your relationship needs to continue outside the struggle of infertility. Plan dates, go on trips, spend time together talking about things other than getting pregnant. These should be things that the two of you enjoy doing, that are either relaxing or bonding. Not letting the relationship fall to the side while focusing on infertility will better prepare the two of you, no matter the outcome. Check out my recent blog post on how taking a vacation and trying new activities can strengthen your connection to your partner.
Infertility is an emotional roller coaster. There are highs and lows and you never quite know when it will come to an end. If you have your partner right next to you supporting you through, the highs can be celebrated and the lows will be a little less lonely.
If you and your partner are struggling with the emotional or relational that often accompanies infertility, reach out or help. I highly recommend this team of therapists at FTAJ. They are relationship experts and can help you organize your thoughts, process your feelings and improve your relationship despite the challenges. Schedule your appointment today.