Couples who have difficulty getting pregnant face an emotional ordeal. Many try to cope with it by keeping to themselves. But infertility impacts one in 7 million couples – about 1 in 8 couples in the US. If you feel like you’re struggling with despair in silence, you are not alone.
Emotions Swing from Hope to Heartache and Uncertainty
When you begin your relationship, you are full of joy and anticipation about building a family. But after years of trying and failing to have a baby, hope can give way to despair, doubt and heartbreak.
In addition to the personal loss, you may worry about how friends and family will react, if you tell them. You don’t want to invite probing questions, and you know you can’t deal with their upset when you’re feeling overwrought by emotion yourselves. Isolation is often the first line of defense. Couples then lose an important support system and disconnect from friends and family to protect their privacy.
The financial pressure you feel may be intense too, as fertility treatments are enormous, unexpected expenses. The strain can overwhelm the stability of your relationship. Your spouse may be dealing with the turmoil much differently than you are. You may feel upset that your partner is not supportive enough, or doesn’t understand you.
Because so much of the treatment focuses on the woman’s body, she can feel invaded, overwhelmed, and jarred by upswings and down swings from hormonal treatments. A man may feel at fault, torn between the goal of having a child and protecting his wife. He may feel it’s best to be stoical, and she may then feel he isn’t fully committed to the effort with her. And each time another hormone cycle comes around, the roller coaster zooms, with uncertainty and hope.
Try To Understand and Acknowledge the Emotions At Work
It is normal to feel despair when you consider a future without the children you’ve planned to have. The two of you may struggle with it in different ways. One partner may want to talk openly about it, and the other may want to avoid all reminders of the problem. You may find yourselves withdrawing from each other, and becoming short-tempered and irritable when you try to talk.
It’s important for you to approach your differences with understanding. Your partner may appear selfish or willfully unsupportive. But this behavior may simply be part of his or her private struggle. Before judging your partner harshly, consider reasons for behavior that free you from blaming your partner,and that allow you to feel sympathetic. You are both doing the best you know how, in a very poignant situation.
Work Out How to Communicate Despite the Crisis
How can you help nurture your relationship when you’re overwhelmed with emotions?
If you’ve been unable to talk about the challenges you are facing, you may need to openly commit to talking to each other. Ask your partner if it is possible to sit and talk together. It may help if you give yourselves some guidelines to encourage you to lower your defenses and make it happen.
- Set a time limit: Limit your talk to 15 or 20 minutes a day. Schedule it on your calendar so you both can relax and know when it’s going to happen, and agree to stop when you said you would stop.
- Find one positive thing to say: Finding something good to say during this session together can be the hardest thing to do in the throes of infertility treatments. But relationships need a high ratio of good-feeling exchanges compared to bad-feeling ones in order to thrive. Know that you are giving your relationship something important and nourishing when it really needs it, each time you find something good to say.
- Be clear with your spouse that he or she comes first, despite the demands of shots and doctor appointments. Try to share your feelings about your feelings. For instance, one might say, “I’m feeling left out of this, your focus is so on the treatments, and I miss ‘us’ And I feel bad saying that, because I know you are going through so much for both of us.”
Copying Strategies Can Help, To a Point
You may find that just taking time to talk and hear each other’s feelings may restore the stability and comfort you need in the relationship. That’s good. But it may not go far enough to help you solve larger issues you face.
You may want to find a trusted counselor to help you look objectively at the problems and make the difficult decisions that you need to make. Counseling can be a critical resource for your relationship and can help you find your way through the difficult decisions ahead with a stronger, healthier bond to support you.