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For some couples, attempting to conceive is a years-long battle. Having a baby is one of the most emotional things you’ll go through in your marriage, as it is, and if you are struggling to conceive, the effects can be devastating on your relationship. Everyone handles setbacks and obstacles differently, and that’s completely normal, but it can be frustrating. It’s hard to feel united when you’re both feeling different emotions at the same time.
As reality sets in, and you both begin to consider the possibility that you may never conceive, your relationship may feel pushed to its limits. How can you come out of such an emotional, and possibly devastating ordeal together, and perhaps even closer than before? Here are some tips that can help your marriage, not only survive infertility, but become even stronger in the process.
It’s nobody’s fault.
Whether it’s her PCOS or his slow swimmers that are the main issue, you both need to remember that it’s nobody's fault. Pointing fingers is not going to help anything. And chances are, the one with the health issue already feels tremendously guilty. He or she is probably questioning their masculinity or femininity, because of the infertility problems. Assigning blame is only going to make them feel worse, and the entire experience is already emotionally stressful, and hard on one’s self-esteem.
When discussing the problem with each other, loved ones, or your doctor, always refer to the fertility issues as “our” issues. Use pronouns like “we” and “us,” not “you” and “yours.” Presenting the situation this way presents a united front to the world, and shows your spouse that you’re in this fight together.
Support each other.
You are both going to experience extreme highs and lows during your fight to conceive. All that emotional stress month after month, and possibly even year after year will wear down any couple. One minute you may experience grief or anger, the next doubt or hope, and most likely, you won’t be experiencing the same feeling at the same time.
Being in a marriage means that you support each other, and that can have different meanings for different people. Your partner may just need to be held, or they might want you to listen to them quietly, while they vent. Sometimes they'll want you to talk to them about possible solutions, while at other times they may just want to be left alone.
As a couple, you need to communicate with each other to express what you need, whether it’s a pint of ice cream, a shoulder to cry on, or just some alone time. And, if you can’t figure out what your partner needs, ask. You can’t read each other’s minds, so it’s better to ask or explain, rather than trying to guess, otherwise neither one of you will receive the necessary support. Your relationship will only get stronger as you learn how to meet each other’s needs more effectively.
Discuss your options practically and honestly.
You both have a substantial emotional investment in trying to get pregnant, and it will be difficult to talk about it objectively, that’s perfectly normal! These are your future babies, after all. When you begin discussing your options, listen carefully as your choices are explained by your fertility specialist.
After your doctor explains potential solutions, what they cost, and how the process works, sit down as a couple, and have an open and honest discussion. Talk about what each of you thinks you can handle. Some treatments are very invasive, and they’re not for everyone. Be sure that you both feel that you can take on the emotional, physical, and financial stress that comes with any procedure you’re considering.
If one of you is unsure about expensive and invasive treatments, there are natural options you could try first. Leading fertility experts at the New York City massage and acupuncture clinic, the Yinova Center, always recommend trying prenatal massage, acupuncture, lifestyle changes, and Chinese herbs, before resorting to fertility drugs and IVF. These alternative treatments are much more affordable, and far less invasive than Western medicine, so they’re an excellent place to start.
Respect each other's opinions.
You aren’t always going to agree on the same course of action. And, sometimes you’ll decide that you want to move forward with treatment, but you may not agree on the timing or financing. Talk to each other about your life goals, feelings, and opinions. Try to understand and respect each other’s viewpoint. Be prepared to compromise, so that you can come up with a plan you both agree to.
Work together to make a plan.
If you both decide to make fertility treatment a top priority, make a plan, and work together towards your goal. If one of you is spending money on non-essential luxuries, or the other continues smoking, you are not working together toward success. Make a plan that includes finances, lifestyle changes, and future desires, so that you have a common goal to work toward. If one of you deviates, work together to get back on track.
Have a sense of humor.
Developing a good sense of humor will help you both through the stresses and challenges of fertility treatment. When appropriate, it’s okay to just laugh at yourselves, and the awkwardness of the situation. Joking and laughing may not make the experience any less painful, but it will help to reduce some of the stress, while encouraging closeness between the two of you.
Don't let sex become a chore.
There’s nothing like scheduled sex, and endless rounds of fertility shots to kill the mood. Don’t let sex become a chore, inconvenience, or just another item on your to-do list. Try to keep the romance alive any way you can.
Don't be shy about asking for help.
Infertility treatments can be draining, both emotionally and physically. At times, one of you may struggle to understand the other, or even to understand yourself. Speaking with a counselor during this time is nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you, or your marriage. Having an unbiased third party to talk to about everything you’re going through can be a huge help. Whether you see a marriage counselor or individual counselors, they can suggest techniques that will help you cope.
Even if you follow every suggestion on this list, there may still be times when you fight or feel like giving up. But these techniques will help keep your marriage intact and bring you closer as a couple working together to achieve a common goal. As an added benefit, learning these techniques now will help you get through other hurdles that life throws at your marriage down the road.