How to Strengthen Your Relationship During Infertility
Some of us are lucky to have partners who are “naturals” when it comes to providing support during infertility treatment. Probably the majority feel that their partner is helpful and caring and wants to be there for them, but sometimes might not know the best way to do so or the right things to say. This of course is complicated by what you need at that very moment, which could constantly be changing. Sometimes you may be more inclined to talk about what’s bothering you, while other times you might prefer being distracted and talking about anything else. And possibly, the way your partner needs to be supported differs from the way you do. Here are some suggestions for giving, and getting, the best degree of support possible while you’re struggling through infertility.
Remember your partner is not a mind reader
What do you need in terms of communication and encouragement? Do you want him to ask you how you’re feeling every day? Or should he wait until you bring it up? Let your partner know! This will make you feel better and eliminate unnecessary resent. “It means a lot to me when you ask me if I’m doing okay each day.” “Please plan something fun for this Friday night to get my mind off all this.”
Fitting infertility appointments into your own schedule can be taxing enough, and for both of you, it might be near impossible. Unfortunately, doctor’s appointments are not something you can divide and conquer - the person who is trying to get pregnant almost always need to be there, and the other partner probably doesn’t need to come to every single one. But if there are specific procedures, or days when you’ll be getting news, or conversations with doctors that you really want your partner to be present for, prioritize those and let him know, and then try to schedule accordingly.
Try to verbalize for your partner what you’re feeling, and to understand what he is
Sometimes all the stress of fertility treatment and trying to conceive can “mush” together in your brain and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s upsetting you. But for your partner to help you in the best way possible, it’s usually best if you can try to put into words just what you’re feeling. Are you anxious about the needles (or your hormone levels or your number of follicles?) Are you sad that your last cycle did not work? Are you frustrated with the way your nurse conveyed information? Is it getting you down that it seems like a new friend is pregnant every day? Even just the act of putting into words what’s troubling you might be helpful for you personally, and will also naturally lead to more productive conversation with your partner.
It’s also normal for one partner to feel some degree of guilt over the cause of the couple’s infertility. Regardless of whether there is an issue with her egg quality or your sperm count, remember trying to conceive is still a joint effort you’re tackling together. Acknowledge your feelings about this matter and talk it through without apologizing or placing blame, both of which are unnecessary and unproductive.
Set a time limit
Fertility treatment can be all consuming. The logistics, decisions, and emotions can fill your brain, and dominate your conversations with your partner. If you haven’t opened up to others about your journey, then it may seem natural to “unload” to your partner the instant one of you walks in the door at night. But if you only spend a few hours together at the end of the day, you may find that trying to conceive is all you talk about, which can ultimately change the dynamic of the relationship, and be a draining for both of you. Consider setting a time limit that seems reasonable to you - 30 minutes per night, or one hour three or four days per week - to talk about all you need to, and then try to limit it. This will help you feel more like “you” as a couple.
Don’t let your infertility schedule take over your life as a couple
Surely there are going to be some schedule changes and possibly occasions that need to be missed. But be sure to pencil in date nights here and there to allow you to reconnect, and don’t give up doing the things you like to do together, or individually, because you’re stressed. If you’ve been in the thick of treatment for a few months and are considering a vacation, even if it means taking a month off or delaying a procedure a few weeks, it might be the best idea for you and your partner. Chances are, when you look back, it won’t really matter to you whether you got pregnant in September or August, especially if you can make new memories as a couple that you’ll cherish.
In hindsight, many couples say that their infertility journey made them stronger as a pair, but it certainly might not feel like that while you’re stuck in the middle of what’s likely the most stressful thing you’ve tackled with your significant other. Take it one day at a time, be gentle with one another, and try to keep the lines of communication open. You’ll be surprised by how your relationship can grow and strengthen despite the adversity you are presently facing.
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