Infertility can be one of the most isolating things you can experience. When it seems like all the other couples you know are having babies, you might feel like no one else can understand. But that’s not totally true: Your partner is going through it, too. That’s why it’s so important to nurture your relationship during this difficult time. Infertility is like boot camp for marriage: If you make it through, you’ll be stronger than ever. Here’s how.
Realize you may deal with infertility differently. It’s no secret that men and women don’t always experience things the same way. So although men might not want to talk about it all the time, they are most likely dealing with it in their own way. Supporting each other may come in the form of talking about what you’re going through, but it can also come in the form of physical closeness, like hugs and cuddling, and even chatting about other things besides infertility. That may help your male partner feel connected to you even without going over his “feelings” for the millionth time. Of course, he should also respect your need to express your emotions in the way you see fit, even if that involves tears.
Talk about your treatments and how far you’re willing to go. It’s best to be on the same page and have a backup plan. If this IUI doesn’t work, are you willing to do IVF? How many IVFs would you want to do? Would you consider donor eggs or sperm? Is adoption on the table if treatments don’t work, or would you prefer to live child-free? It’s true that some people prefer to deal with things as they come and not discuss the future until it happens. But it’s a good idea to have at least a ballpark idea of the ways you agree to build your family.
Do fun activities together. Although you’d give anything to have a baby, a child will change the kinds of things you’re able to do together. So in the meantime, continue to reinforce your relationship by connecting with each other in ways that don’t have anything to do with babymaking. If you love hiking, have a weekly hiking excursion. If you’re art fans, visit museums. Go out to dinner and make it a point to discuss things other than infertility. Remember who you were as a couple, and what your shared interests were, before you started thinking about having kids.
Don’t blame each other — or yourself. You guys are in this together (remember “for better or for worse”?). So avoid placing blame for your infertility struggles. The greatest temptation is for the person who has been diagnosed with infertility to believe it is their “fault” that their partner can’t have children, and to even think that their partner would be happier with someone else who can. If your partner is the infertile one, reassure them that you did not marry them for their reproductive capabilities. If you’re the one blaming yourself, ask yourself how you would feel if the situation was reversed. Your partner is not blaming you any more than you’d blame them.
Present a united front. Well-meaning friends and relatives will probably be asking questions and offering advice. Decide how much you want to share, and how you want to deal with situations that might present themselves. Are you comfortable telling people you’re dealing with infertility? This can often be the best way to get the “when are you going to have children?” questions off your back, and can help expand your support system. Also, have your partner run interference with their family if necessary, and vice versa (like if you want to skip your niece’s third birthday party). You should have each other’s backs.
Take a break when needed. Infertility treatments are grueling. From the butt shots to the near daily monitoring to the side-effects of hormones, they can wreak havoc on your body and mind, which will affect your relationship. Although you want a baby like now, recognize that the best thing you can do for yourself, and your relationship, may be to take a month off every now and then. If you can, take a vacation or at least a weekend away to reconnect with each other.
Infertility will be one of the greatest challenges to your relationship. But open communication, recognition of your differences, giving support and reconnecting with each other can help you get through it. After all, you are already a family — even if for now it’s just a family of two.