Infertility can be one of the biggest tests of your relationship – how you deal with it, how you communicate, and how you support each other through diagnosis, treatment, and hopefully pregnancy, can make or break a relationship. It can sometimes be easy to forget why you are going through this stressful situation to begin with – because you met somebody you love and want to have a child with them.
Some couples find that their relationship is actually stronger after going through ordeals together – they find ways to communicate and focus on each other’s needs and that brings them closer. While doctor’s appointments, tests, and new routines will be foremost in your mind you should not neglect your core relationship.
Men and women often have profoundly different experiences during treatment. For example, during IVF women may feel in pain, overwhelmed, and irritable, while men or female partners may feel isolated and sidelined during the process. Likewise, the partner with the diagnosis may feel like they are letting their spouse down or are somehow less of a man or woman due to societal expectations.
There are a number of strategies that you can employ to strengthen your relationship and deal with what you will go through in the coming months.
Open but Limited Discussion
Communicating your feelings to your partner is essential to staying connected and in tune with each other’s feelings. However, sometimes these discussions and anxiety can dominate your daily life, leading to more anxiety rather than a problem shared.
- Try to limit conversations on the topic to a particular time and talk about set things, such as your feelings, a new treatment, or how one of you is being affected, rather than talking about the same issues repeatedly.
- If you have a new feeling or opinion, make sure that you discuss it with your partner but ask to do so, do not blindside each other with charged discussions – it’s important that the listener is receptive and ready to hear what is being said.
- Make sure you have time when you do not discuss fertility (or, ideally, even think about it) so you are still connected when it comes to day to day life and the things you are passionate about.
- Make sure that you are present during discussions, not playing on your phone or multitasking so that your partner feels heard.
- Do not assign or take blame during discussions.
- Realise your feelings are caused by the situation, rather than your partner. However, at the same time try to consider ways to make your partner feel supported and loved.
Stay Connected Sexually
When trying to conceive, sex can seem like a means to an end or even a chore, but it is important to still feel close to your partner. One or both of you may feel less loved by a more routine or goal-orientated sex life, less desired, or under pressure to perform. You may also feel a loss of privacy from having to discuss your sex life so openly with strangers. These are perfectly normal reactions, but couples need to work together to reduce negative feelings towards sex. You can try to ensure invitations are only extended when your partner feels welcome and relaxed, that you try to take responsibility for your own emotional reactions to intimacy, and that you make time for intimacy beyond sex to maintain a feeling of closeness that is unaffected by your current treatments or goals.
Remember to Value Your Partner
The time and even the expense of fertility treatments can make romance difficult, but if you have any ‘couples routines’ or activities that have previously made you feel close and cherished, it’s important to maintain them. You can even develop new ones to help you set aside time and remember why you are trying to conceive in the first place. For some couples (especially particularly goal-motivated people), it can be helpful to take up a hobby/interest that allows them to achieve small milestones over time to take the focus off conception alone.
We have an independent, specialist, fertility counsellor available and a counselling session is available without charge when you have an IVF cycle. If you feel you would benefit from an outsider giving you an independent perspective, it is an option to book (chargeable) counselling sessions irrespective of your treatment choices.