Infertility can wreak havoc on a relationship. Trying to get pregnant may begin as an exciting journey to bring a new life into the world together, but it can quickly become a steep climb filled with painful procedures, blame, shame, difficult decisions, and financial burdens. At some point you may look over and no longer recognize your climbing partner.
Here are 3 tips for maintaining your relationship with your partner while you climb:
1. Acknowledge your losses: The path of infertility is fraught with loss and grief in many forms. Disenfranchised grief happens when we experience a loss that is not socially recognized. For instance, there are not funerals for miscarried babies or sympathy cards for unsuccessful IVF attempts. Not only are these losses not formally recognized, they are often not even spoken. Couples suffer silently, often without the support of their friends and family. Anticipatory grief happens when we begin to grieve the seemingly impending loss. We begin to think we will never have a biological baby, and we start to grieve in preparation for that loss.
Take time to acknowledge these losses as a couple. Share your grief with your
partner (even if your experiences of grief are different) and find ways to mourn
together. This may mean creating your own ritual to mark a loss.
2. Act as a team: Don’t let infertility become one person’s problem or responsibility.
Share the logistical burdens like scheduling appointments as much as possible. Go
to appointments together whenever you can, even if the appointment is only
medically “for” one of you. Try to be together when you receive results of tests or
procedures - even if it’s through a conference call - so that one person doesn’t have
to be the bearer of heavy news. Be curious about your partner’s experiences that
may differ from yours, such as how it felt to go through a certain medical procedure
or what kind of emotions they are experiencing each step of the way.
3. Create infertility-free spaces: Infertility can easily engulf an entire relationship.
Go on a date night where you’re not allowed to talk about anything infertility related. Rediscover activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside since you starting dealing with infertility. Reclaim your sex life by taking a short break from baby-making sex by only having sex at times when fertilization cannot occur. Infertility does not have to define your relationship.
The climb is exhausting and unpredictable, and may or may not end with a successful pregnancy. But by prioritizing your relationship amidst the chaos, you can ensure that you will still be together when the journey ends.
Couples therapy can also be a helpful resource while navigating infertility. Contact me to set up an appointment and start the process today.
Diamond, R., Kezur, D., Meyers, M., Scharf, C., & Weinshel, M. (1999). Couple therapy for infertility. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Humphrey, K. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.