Written by Ashley Thorn, AMFT, Wasatch Family Therapy
Finding out that conceiving a child may not come as easily as expected, or may even be impossible, can be a devastating thing. This news can be particularly straining on the relationship between the couple attempting to conceive. However, as trying as this time may be, it is not impossible to stay connected, or even grow closer as a couple. The following are 6 ways to make this a reality:
1. It is okay to grieve
Infertility can bring with it an enormous feeling of “loss”. The dream of having a family may now look different, or even feel hopeless. It is necessary to take time to deal with these feelings. And just as important, it is necessary to allow your partner to grieve in his or her own way. While one may want to share and discuss feelings openly, others may need quiet, alone time to reflect. Be respectful of each other’s ways of coping, and ask how you can best support each other through this.
2. Set limits and communicate expectations
Before you and your partner start down the road of considering alternate methods of conceiving or beginning a family, you must each have the opportunity to share how far you’re willing to go. Is there a certain time limit that you’re not willing to exceed? Are there certain treatments you’re against? What amount of money are you willing to spend? It may be an initial gut reaction to say you’re willing to do whatever it takes to have a family, but that may not be entirely true, or your partner may not feel the same way. Get on the same page about your expectations before making any decisions about fertility treatment or adoption.
3. Take time to nurture your relationships
Infertility can take its toll on your energy and willingness to interact with others. However, withdrawing from those who you love, particularly your partner, may only add to the depression and sadness. Allow people you trust to support you, and spend time with those whom you feel are uplifting. If you’re having difficulty finding the right support, consider telling close family and friends how they can help you, join a support group, or seek professional treatment.
4. Live your life!
Infertility has a tendency to become all-consuming for some people, and every conversation, decision, or action seems to be driven by it. Although it is a major life event, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy life, or find meaning and purpose in it. In fact, finding a balance with stress relief may help you to cope better with this challenge. Look for opportunities to have fun, particularly with your partner. Spend some time trying new things, or put other goals in place that you can begin working towards.
5. Keep sex exciting!
One of the most common difficulties that couples face when struggling with infertility is maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship. Because sex often becomes scheduled, and brings with it a large amount of pressure and expectation at the hope of becoming pregnant, the romance and enjoyment of it is often stifled. Many couples simply accept this as part of the fertility treatment process, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Take advantage of “scheduled sex” by planning something extra special, perhaps giving each other massages or spending the night at a romantic bed and breakfast. Another possibility is to have sex on an unscheduled day when you know there is no possibility of becoming pregnant. It’s perfectly okay to still make time to simply enjoy being together without any agenda.
6. Be patient with hormones
A fact of fertility treatment is that it brings with it hormonal imbalance, not to mention the range of emotions each member of a couple can be experiencing as a result of the stress and pressure of infertility! It isn’t helpful to blame all of the tension on this, but it is helpful to ask each other what you can do to make it easier. Cut each other a little bit of slack, and try to remember that it’s a difficult time for both of you.
Infertility is a painful and draining process. It is completely normal to have difficulty with relationships during this time, especially with your partner. However, if you can remember some of these helpful hints, your journey of infertility with your partner may be a little more tolerable.
Ashley Thorn is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist for Wasatch Family Therapy. She completed her studies at Argosy University as a Presidential Scholar. She has received additional training and certifications in Smart Steps Stepfamily Facilitation, Parent Education Facilitation, and Gottman Therapy. Ashley specializes in helping stepfamilies come together, and has experience in several areas including fertility issues, abuse, sexual addiction, anxiety and depression, trauma, and many other couple, family, and individual issues. Her goal is to help families find happiness, reach their potential, and create a bright future.