Make time to talk
Whatever you may be feeling about your current circumstances, it’s important to make time to talk together regularly about where you are each at. Infertility issues affect individuals differently, and there will be times when, as a couple, you are on the same page and other times when you feel very differently from each other. Don’t be tempted to retreat into your own thought life, but keep each other updated on how you’re feeling.
Work together as a team
Help each other through this time (and don’t blame each other for the problem). Share the burden practically (for instance, giving lifts for treatment appointments, picking up prescriptions), and pay attention to what your partner is going through emotionally, being particularly aware that their experience or way of coping may be different from your own.
Give yourself time off
If infertility dominates all your thinking and conversations together as a couple, give yourselves some time off from the issue. It may not be easy, but try to be intentional about setting time aside to do and talk about other things. Undergoing assessments or treatment for fertility problems can feel like a full-time job, so it’s important to keep up with ‘ordinary’ life, such as discussing each other’s day at work or tackling that diy job that’s been waiting for months to be finished.
Don’t underestimate the impact of infertility
Infertility is often a hidden subject – something not spoken about even with close family and friends. This means it’s easy to think that it shouldn’t be affecting you as much as it does or to feel that you should deal with it on your own. The reality is that a diagnosis of infertility has a huge impact. Research shows that in women it can produce the same levels of anxiety and depression as in those who receive a diagnosis of cancer, heart disease or HIV.
Be kind to one another
Because infertility is such a difficult thing to face as a couple, remember to be kind to one another. You are on this journey together and are therefore in the best place to understand what the other is going through. Look out for one another, particularly when facing difficult social situations or conversations, and take opportunities to show care and kindness when you can.
Decide how much you are willing to share
Infertility is a very personal matter, and while some are happy to share all the details of their struggles, others prefer to keep it private. Discuss together who you’re happy to talk to about it and how much you will share with them. Some couples choose not to disclose which of them has the particular ‘problem’ that is causing their infertility; this can be a helpful way of respecting privacy while still sharing with others some of the struggles you’re facing.
Know your limits both individually and as a couple
It’s OK to avoid situations or places that you know will cause you pain, whether it’s baby-showers, children’s birthday parties, or even the nappy aisle in your local supermarket. You may find that you need to look after yourself online too, perhaps by avoiding certain social media platforms or hiding a friend’s status updates. Do what’s best for you at this time. It may well be that you’ll feel differently at a later date, so don’t worry about making short term changes for your own good.
Keep romance alive
Date nights and other special times alone together, romance and physical intimacy can all take a hit when you’re coping with infertility. If you can, try not to make sex all about the mechanics of getting pregnant, and remember the importance of investing in your relationship.
You can be happy for other people and sad for yourself
Every couple struggling with infertility comes up against sudden difficult moments. Acknowledge to yourself that situations like a friend’s pregnancy announcement or even an encounter with a small child are going to happen, and accept that it’s fine to join in the congratulations then cry all the way home. Recognise these moments as ‘trip hazards’ in your grief journey, and make a safe space at home to be quiet or comfort one another when they occur.
Remember that this is hard
Give yourself permission to grieve, both individually and as a couple. The infertility journey is hard and often without a known outcome, so accept that – you don’t have to pretend that everything is OK.
Make time for fun and laughter
Having fun and laughing together is a crucial part of keeping a relationship strong, whatever challenge a couple are facing. Whether it’s spending the day together at a theme park, playing a sport together, or watching a comedy film, set time aside for light-hearted activities in the midst of the sad times.
The journey of infertility is never easy. It is not one that you intended to go on or would have chosen for yourselves and the outcome is often unknown, but it is a journey that you are on together. Choosing to stand by each other and face the challenge together can help to build resilience into your relationship, strengthen its foundations and bring you closer than ever before.