Tips for Staying Happily Married Through Fertility Treatment
When you are in the midst of trying desperately to have children, it’s easy to forget that your marriage needs care and nurturing. That’s too bad because in an ideal world your partner will be with you long after your children have grown and moved out. If you do your job right as a parent you must work yourself out of a job in 20 some odd years. With care your marriage will last a lot longer.
I’ve noticed in talking with people who have suffered from infertility that some marriages seem to thrive, while others take a real beating. To find out what made the difference between those that make it and those that don’t, I went to the experts on the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group and asked:
What are you top tips for surviving infertility with a healthy marriage. In other words, what can you do to protect your marriage from the stress of infertility?
Top Ten Tips (Plus 1) for Staying Married (Happily) Through Infertility Treatment
Talk to each other. Don’t assume your spouse knows what you are feeling.
“My husband isn’t big on talking, so I give him a heads up by telling him that I’d like to talk about the next steps this weekend to give him a couple of days to think about it and get ready.”
“TALK! Seriously some nights all I did was talk and cry about it. We had to do things to take our minds off of infertility. But talking was the tops!”
2. Find someone else to talk to.
Friends, therapist, and support groups all work. Bottom line is to find support outside your marriage; it’s a lot to ask one spouse to be the entire support for the other.
“My poor hubby–he really is dear and we did talk. It was just that I needed to talk some more and to people who could understand without preamble.”
“Our therapist was a life and marriage saver!”
3. Realize that your way of handling stress, grief, and decision-making isn’t the only way.
“My husband acted like our infertility wasn’t that big a deal, but then I realized that his way of dealing with it was to try to stay busy and not think about it. He cared – a lot – but needed to work through it with busyness. We all get there differently.”
“Everyone handles trials differently. It was hard for me when I was sad, but my husband didn’t seem to be, but I came to realize we both handled it very differently and that’s ok.”
4. Preserve the intimacy and fun in sex.
While going through fertility issues, it’s easy to think of your “intimate” life as something to produce an outcome or be a chore to get the results you want. As difficult as it is to erase thoughts of baby making from your mind, sometimes it is really good to just be together for the fun of it.
“The timed sex can really eat away at intimacy coupled with the heartbreak of yet another period at the end of the month. We needed to make sure we had pressure free sex.”
“Make love when there is no possibility of getting pregnant.”
5. Take breaks from trying.
“We took day trips as dates that had nothing to do with babies. We’d go antiquing or just for a scenic drive and not talk about conceiving at all that day.”
“The big thing was to make sure that sometimes we were having together time that had nothing to do with having a baby.”
“We would take two months off if any approach was medication intensive like IVF since the meds can A) make you kinda volatile and B) my husband gave me my shots and HE needed a breather between jabbing sessions.”
6. Take care of each other.
Do kind things for him/her, notice and comment on the positive, try to remember why you fell in love, don’t blame.
“It’s so important to remember to put your relationship first and to not let yourself get so caught up on infertility that you forget each other. It’s so much easier said than done, I know!”
“Try to focus on meeting your partner’s needs first rather than yours. It’s amazing what an impact that can have.”
“We constantly reminded each other that it was US. Both of us. No infertile couple should focus on the fact (no matter the real case) that ONE of you is broken/ unable/ baron. Infertility is a couples problem. We were a team. Always.”
7. Focus on your shared faith/values.
“My husband and I have God as the foundation of our marriage and realize that the timing of our children is in His hands.”
“We put our faith in the Lord & know His timing is perfect, period! Even with our faith the struggles with infertility is difficult, to say the least.”
“Lots of prayer counseling and church family support. If I did not have God in my life I would have given up a long time ago.”
8. Count your blessings.
As cliche as it may sound, making a conscious choice together to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t works.
“It took me awhile, but I had to come to a place of just being thankful for my husband. Not everyone gets to have time with just their spouse. I was talking to an older woman who had children right away after getting married and planned to have her retirement years with just her husband, but he died from cancer before that could happen. I know that could be our story as well. We have now had 5.5 years just us that no one can take away from us, but that I let infertility steal too much time from.”
“We choose to look for the positives in every day, & every experience, even though we could just focus on the thing we don’t have–children.”
9. Don’t try to protect your spouse from your pain.
“We chose to turn towards one another, rather than wall ourselves off, which can easily happen when we are in pain.”
10. Do things you will not be able to easily do when you have children.
Work your way through your bucket list together.
“We did lots of things we knew we wouldn’t be able to do anymore once we had kids, like, travel, eating out spontaneously and seeing lots of theatre performances.”
“Do things that aren’t kid friendly, like comedy clubs and late night movies.”
11. Talk about how far you think you want to go up the infertility treatment escalator.
You can always change your mind later, but it helps to be on the same page at the beginning.
“We had to talk a lot about how far we would go to try to conceive a child. In our case, we decided it was a family that we wanted, it didn’t matter how we started that family. We didn’t want to go too far down the road of treatments. IVF was our stopping point.”
“Before we started we had a long talk about how far down the road we would go. Do we do IVF if IUI doesn’t work? If so how many cycles? Would we do donor eggs/sperm if either was the issue? Knowing each other’s boundaries ahead of time really helped.”
“Make your goal that your marriage will be strengthened through the trial of infertility so that you will better be able to handle all the ups and downs of parenting and life together. As one women in our support group said, “Trying to build the family of our dreams – we’ve struggled, but we love each other more unconditionally because of it. We now see and respect the fight in each other.”
Has your marriage been strengthened or weakened by the trial of infertility?
First published in 2014. Updated in 2017.