While some research has found that men and women faced with infertility may be more likely to feel dissatisfied with themselves and their marriages, other studies have found that it can bring couples closer together.
This isn’t because these couples breeze through infertility and don’t struggle. On the contrary, according to the research, it’s the struggle – and their need for mutual support—that leads to a more secure bond. Here are ways you can lower tensions and cope better as a couple.
Talk to each other. Share fears. Don’t walk around worried your partner may leave you and never say anything. While it can be terrifying to bring up, you will likely be relieved when your partner assures you that infertility is not going to send them away.
Talking about infertility can become a problem if one partner’s primary coping mechanism is to avoid the topic altogether. It can also become a source of tension if one partner talks about infertility “all the time.”
The key is findinng balance. Be willing to talk, or be willingn to talk about it less, dependinng on nwhich side of the coin you fall.
Connect in Other Ways
Speaking of balance, it is important that infertility doesn’t take over all your communication. Especially in the midst of fertility testing and treatment, infertility can shadow everything in your life. You may not remember what you talked about before your fertility challenges hit.
Make an effort to connect in other ways. Yes, this will likely require actual effort. Think back to what you did during your dating days. Or, pursue a new hobby or activity together. Sit down and make a list of things to do together.
Speaking of connection, don’t neglect your sex life. Reclaim it back from infertility, and make it about intimacy and love again. This, too, will take effort.
Allow for Differences
Everyone copes differently. You can’t judge how much a person cares about an experience by looking at them or even by their actions.
Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves. At the same time, what looks like an overreaction to you may be perfectly normal for them.
This also brings up the issue of the Pain Olympics. There will always be someone in this world that has it “worse” or “better” than you. That person may or may not be your partner. It doesn’t matter. If your partner breaks his arm, and you break your little toe, does your toe hurt less because his broken arm is “worse?” Of course not.
Emotional painn is emotional pain. Offering each other support – without preconnditions or comparisons – is the path to peace.
Reach Out for Support
Please don’t try to cope with infertility alone. Shame does keep many individuals and couples from reach out for support. However, research has found that couples that receive social support have improved relationships. Social support has also been found to be key for women dealing with infertility.
You don’t have to “tell the world,” so to speak. You can chose to share the information with only specific friends or family members or reach out to support groups. Find the counsellor or a coach. Don’t wait till it gets to the point where you have to seek someone. Allow yourself to receive a gift of being supported from a professional you trust as the journey you are on is extremely challenging on all the levels, especially the lonnger time it takes. Just don’t try to do it all on your own.
Sit Down and Make a Plan
Research has found that putting together a practical plan of action helps improve marital satisfaction, especially for men. In some ways, infertility is not plan-friendly. You may not really know how long your struggle will be or what testing or treatments will be needed. However, you can at least make short-term plans. You can also make flexible plans.
It’s Okay to talk about what you would do if you needed IVF, even if IVF isn’t on the radar. And it’s okay to make those plans, knowing that you may change your minds later.
Putting together financial plans – especially a savings plan – is a smart choice. The sooner you start putting money aside, the better. If you don’t need it for fertility treatment bills or adoption costs, you can use it for something else. No harm done.
Whether it’s an argument over who to tell or how to pay for a treatment cycle, avoid black-and-white thinking and aim for compromise. Does one of you want to tell others about the infertility, while the other wants to keep it secret?
Decide together on a select group of people who can be social supports. One of you wants to stop for good, while the other wants to keep going? Compromise by taking a temporary break instead, with plans to discuss moving forward when that break is over.
Consider Fertility Coaching
Sometimes, you’re not going to be able to reach compromises alone. A coach can help you communicate and reach mutual agreements.
You may assume that coaching or counselling is only for those considering divorce, or situations where you feel you cant help yourself any more, dealing with depression or anxiety. This is a myth! Coaching is for everyone who can use some extra help with stress or a difficult situation. It’s taking you from where you are to where you really want to be in life.
Whether you see a therapist or a coach as an individual, or as a couple, it can help. When you feel supported, you’ll be better able to tend to your relationship.
Remember Infertility Is Not Forever
You may or may not have children one day. But you won’t be struggling to conceive forever. Research has found that feelings of depression and anxiety peak around three years post-infertility diagnosis. However, six years post-diagnosis, couples are feeling stronger, and depression and anxiety symptoms lessen.
Your relationship can survive this tough – but temporary – challenge. With time, and possibly support, your trying to conceive years can bring you closer together. Eventually, you’ll either have a child naturally, find another way of being parents or chose to stop trying to conceive. But there is life after infertility. Hold onto that faith. Important is to go through the whole process and allow it all to give you more strength, take it all as an opportunity to reconnect more with yourself and your partner and regardless of circumstances, chose the life you love – the one that will fulfill you individually and as a couple.