Can your marriage survive infertility?
While most fertility treatments are performed on the woman, and are happening to the woman’s body, you and your partner are in this together and your marriage is affected in more ways than one.
Struggling with infertility may be one of the most difficult challenges my husband and I have ever faced and in our almost 10 years together, and we have encountered plenty! With each failed cycle, we share not only a common goal unrealized, but an intense love, disappointment and heartbreak. Oftentimes many things go left unsaid; there are unmet expectations and always a lot of stress. We process our journey differently from one another, but always try to stay on the same page.
Communication is key
In our case, our infertility issues lie with me and my body and I feel guilty all the time because it's my body that is failing over and over again and no matter how many times my husband reassures me that we/I am doing everything right and it's not my fault, I can't shake those feelings.
Sometimes I feel alone in this fight because I'm the one going to the doctor, ordering the medications, picking up the medications, administering the medications (most of the time), refilling the medications and having all of the invasive procedures in between.
The hormones imbalance me and turn me into someone I don't recognize and make me say ugly things. My husband has learned to steer clear of me during these bouts and I have learned if I don't tell him what I need or ask him to accompany me to a doctor's appointment, how does he know I want him there? When he doesn't ask how an appointment went or about the results of the latest probing, I'm hurt. Sometimes I'll tell him after the fact but that's not fair because at that point he can't do anything about it. It's a delicate dance and emotions are high.
We are a team
We know firsthand that the communication between us is crucial if we are to confront our quest to conceive another child effectively. There's just no getting around it, we have to talk! We have to be open and honest with one another every step of the way, expressing our fears, desires, frustrations and especially what we need from one another. This is not a battleground for one; it's a team effort and I can't imagine a better teammate than my husband. We are in this together, his fight is my fight and vice versa.
After discussing with my husband how infertility has affected us so far, I wanted to see what other couples had to say when I asked: Is your marriage strong enough to combat infertility?
Communication is the common denominator
"The short answer is, yes," says Coreen K. "We now have two children and are (still) happily married. The long answer, though, well, it’s long. Our infertility tested our marriage. We didn’t always speak nicely to each other, and at times didn’t speak to each other at all. There was yelling, crying and laughter (sometimes maniacal). We were not always each other’s rock. My husband didn’t go to all my doctor appointments and I didn’t ask him to. But the love was there and we knew we were in it together."
Communication and honesty were key for Beth M. and her hubby. "My husband and I really struggled in the beginning; after our first failed IUI he didn't want to proceed anymore for fear of how I would handle another let-down. Since then we have had to open up our lines [of] communication, we could have never survived without being open and honest with each other! We only survived infertility because of each other."
Many women who are battling infertility begin to feel like they aren't worthy of keeping their spouse. "After eight years of struggling with infertility we got through it with a lot of support from family and friends. I always knew the problem was me so I felt extremely bad for the fact I couldn't give him a child," says Amber K. "I once asked him if he wanted a divorce so he could find him a wife who could bear him children, but he said he'd love me no matter what and if we didn't have kids that was OK."
Sometimes through difficult times, couples grow closer and their bonds grow stronger. "I've been married 15 years trying to conceive the entire time," says Andrea G. "It's been mentally and physically draining. Financially [it] was rough! My husband and I separated for several months recently because of mainly fertility struggles. It was just a strain on our marriage all those years. It's hard but it truly has made us stronger in many ways. I would be lost without my husband and I almost let this nasty fertility journey destroy my life."
Infertility will put your marriage to the test, but if you focus on the importance of your relationship, it could be used as a wonderful opportunity to make your marriage stronger. If you and your spouse are struggling to communicate and get along through your infertility journey, your RE should be able to recommend a couples counselor.