Infertility is extremely stressful for couples. It challenges your decision-making skills, finances, emotions, physical health, and sometimes religious or spiritual beliefs. And although infertility isn’t uncommon, I continue to see couples suffering in secret. Guilt and shame in addition to sadness and frustration can lead to isolation.
It’s hard to emotionally support your partner when you’re both experiencing high levels of stress, anger, and sadness. When you’re struggling to “hold it together”, there isn’t much left emotionally to give your partner. It’s a bit like trying to drive a car with an empty gas tank. Infertility is a chronic stressor than can endure for years. It has a cumulative effect on couples.
Open communication on a regular basis is important to mitigating this stress. Couples need need to talk about all of their feelings and about how to best support each other emotionally.
Your Interests and Goals
I recommend that couples talk about other interests and goals. Infertility can become all-consuming as it affects so many areas of life. You’d do well to talk about and spend time engaging in other interests and things that will strengthen your marriage or relationship. If you don’t make time to talk about and do non-fertility related things, you can be swallowed up by infertility and completely miss out on the present. As I said in the November 2015 issue of Redbook Magazine, “…remember that the goal is to add a child to a healthy, happy home.” You don’t want to bring a child into a broken marriage.
You can start by remembering what you talked about pre-infertility. These conversations might be about current events, movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read. It’s great to talk about your passion whether it’s knitting, golfing or comic books. These conversations can also include career goals, personal goals such as running a marathon, mastering a new tune on your guitar, or retiring early. Reminiscing about the past can also trigger positive thoughts and feelings.
Some ways to get the conversation started include:
- How was book club (choir practice, the baseball game)? What was the best part?
- How about we look online for something fun to do this weekend?
- I read this really interesting article about ____. What do you think?
- What podcast are you enjoying these days?
- Tell me about something interesting that happened at work.
- Remember when we used to talk about retiring in Phoenix? Do you still think about that?
These conversations are ways to connect with each other and to show interest in who your partner is and what matters to him/her. If you don’t have these conversations, distance will grow in your relationship. You may lose sight of your own identity and your partner’s identity if the majority of your conversations focus on infertility. These conversations can spark playfulness and enjoyment in the present.
Finances are a reality of life and a common source of conflict. Infertility only heightens stress about money as you have to make choices based on financial resources. Sometimes this means that spending your entire savings on IVF will delay buying a house for another five years.
I suggest sitting down with your bank statements and pay stubs and taking a good hard look at where you’re at financially. Set an initial budget and a timeline for re-evaluating it. Some other questions to discuss are:
- Are we willing to incur debt for infertility treatment?
- What are our other financial goals?
- Are we willing to ask our families for financial help?
- How will we feel if we spend $___ on treatment and aren’t successful?
- What are we willing to give up to finance infertility?
- Do we want to reserve money for adoption?
Other Conversations Infertile Couples Need to Have:
- How are you feeling about our infertility struggle?
- What kind or how much medical treatment are we willing to pursue?
- What previous losses have you experienced? How those losses impacting the current situation?
- What are you doing to cope?
- Who else do you want to talk to about our infertility?
Keep talking. It’s important. And, of course, a couples counselor or support group can help if you get stuck.
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