Infertility is a very stressful thing to endure in a couple's relationship. The experience of infertility literally has an impact on every aspect of your life, including your relationship with your partner. Each person experiencing infertility responds in very different ways. Today I will talk about coping with the stress of infertility and its impact on relationships.
As one could imagine, men and women experience infertility differently. Not being able to conceive a baby can often put significant pressure on both partners to do everything they can to conceive, putting their relationship at risk of feeling misunderstood, disconnected and detached. For example, a woman who wants to have a baby can feel "obsessed" with getting pregnant; it is practically all she can think about. In fact, the desire to have a baby is so strong that it is a primal instinct. Men want to "fix" the problem, but soon realize they are helpless in this, resulting in feeling like they are failing their partner. What makes this difficult is that women want to talk about it, men often don't. The result is that not sharing their feelings with each other has the potential to put a wedge in their communication, further leaving one or both partners feeling vulnerable, alone and isolated from each other.
At some point in a couple's infertility journey, there will be a crossroads where they may need to decide to continue with treatment, adopt or chose to remain childless. In my own personal experience, as like many infertile couples I've worked with, one partner is ready to move forward before the other person. This can cause a lot of stress or even conflict in a relationship because of where each person is at emotionally, mentally and physically. Unfortunately, conflict is a regular part of the infertility experience, which can be very challenging to couples.
There is really no way to avoid the stress and resulting conflicts of infertility and the risks factors that can impact a couple's relationship. However, there are things a couple can do to strengthen and protect their relationship during infertility and reduce stress and conflict. Here are some suggestions:
- Take time to do good self-care; participate in things that bring you joy and pleasure
- Journal your feelings, experiences, and emotions regularly
- Become more aware of your needs physically and emotionally, then ask for what you need
- Exercise; participate in recreational activities together
- Engage in meditation, relaxation and mindfulness activities
- Schedule a time each week for "containment time"; this can allow you to talk about your feelings and the stress of infertility with your partner
- Join a support group with other individuals or couples experiencing infertility
- Seek individual and/or marital counseling with a therapist who understands the intricacies of infertility on relationships
I hope that this has been helpful to you or someone you know experiencing infertility. Stay tuned for tomorrow when Natalie discusses the isolation of infertility.
Written by Emily Freeze, MPH, MA, LMFT
Emily Freeze, MPH, MA, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Emily enjoys doing individual counseling, couples counseling and family counseling. Emily specializes in women's issues, specifically maternal mental health and reproductive mental health.
Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.