PARTNER SUPPORT

Infertility can have devastating effects on the relationship between husband and wife. Although many couples report that weathering the storm of infertility has drawn them closer and made their relationship stronger, many report having difficulties in connecting during this process.

Often, the experience of being unable to conceive and carry a baby to term is the first time a couple has a major goal in their lives over which they have little to no control. When you marry, whether you graduate from college or not, if you decide to rent an apartment or buy a house, what city you choose to live in . . . as a couple, you have choices and can make decisions regarding these aspects of your lives together. So, when you are met with the challenge of infertility, it can be a difficult one indeed.

A large part of the problem seems to be related to that age-old issue of how differently men and women think and how differently they tend to communicate (see Male and Female Perspectives). As we all have heard and probably experienced in our own relationships, women tend to want to express their feelings and men tend to want to fix things and solve problems. This is no different when it comes to the issue of infertility. Just understanding this difference may help a lot, but often, the relationship needs more.

What are some ways to improve your relationship when you're dealing with infertility?

Communicate: Most experts agree that learning to communicate more effectively is the key. Ali Domar, in her new book, Conquering Infertility, suggests spending ten minutes per day talking about infertility issues, using active listening techniques. That way, the wife knows that she will be heard and the husband knows that there will be a stopping point, a limit to the conversation.

Affirm the Positives: I have couples focus on the positive things they do share as a couple. Expressing appreciations to each other on a daily basis tends to make husband and wife feel closer.

Develop a Support System:
Having your partner as your primary source of support is wonderful, but sometimes you need more than this. Having a friend or family member or a support group such as Resolve or a Mind/Body Program where you can get comfort and encouragement can help make your relationship stronger, because you're not relying on your partner to meet so many of your emotional needs.

Plan Time for Play: Taking a break from infertility to do something fun and playful is also important. Too often, infertility takes on a life of its own, and taking "time off," even if just for an evening, can remind you again of the reasons you care about and enjoy being with your partner.

Seek Help Early: Sometimes just having a session or two with a couple's counselor who understands infertility issues can help get your relationship back on track and make the road ahead smoother.

Susan Leonard, Ed.D., L.P.C., L.M.F.T., works with individuals and couples in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area who are struggling to cope with infertility. For more information, contact her at 214.369.4151.