Being ready to have a baby and facing infertility struggles can be a frustrating, challenging time in a couple’s relationships. Infertility is a challenge people face in different ways. No way is necessarily right or wrong. The important thing I tell my patients is to understand and respect your partner’s way — his or her needs, coping mechanisms and communication style — and work together to support each other.
It’s not unusual to have one half of the couple who wants to talk about the infertility struggle often while the other person prefers to not discuss it. Both perspectives are valid, but it’s important to understand your partner’s needs. In situations like this, I often suggest establishing protected time during the week to talk about infertility. Set a time and a time limit. It can be 10 to 15 minutes each week, or whatever works for you as a couple. This protected time gives the partner who wants to talk the comfort of knowing there will be a focused conversation about their relationship, infertility, challenges or any related topic. This also gives the other partner the comfort of knowing that he or she will not be peppered with topic throughout the week. For many, being caught off guard about a sensitive subject is upsetting and challenging. Remember, you are partners in this challenge and dealing with infertility together is important (not always easy, but important).
For some couples, identifying a signal that you need to talk works well. Your signal can be a word, phrase, action or anything that works for the two of you. It’s merely a sign that one of you needs to talk. Working together to find a signal that helps you and your partner open up can keep you connected during the tough times.
While you may feel alone at times, remember that there are a multitude of resources to assist you. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a third party open up communication channels. I work with patients at the Center for Reproductive Medicine to facilitate those conversations. Together we find the middle ground that acknowledges each person’s needs and works to establish a comfort level that works for the couple. There’s no manual on how to go through infertility. Everyone copes in their own way and it’s important to work together.
Because of the nature of infertility, intimacy can become a challenge for some couples. Even if intercourse revolves around an ovulation schedule, it’s important to keep affection and intimacy going. Sit on the couch and hold hands. Your reproductive years are limited and you don’t want to tie intimacy strictly to conception. You’ll want to keep that intimacy going long after your reproductive years have passed.
You may not be able to meet all your partner’s needs as you both experience infertility. That’s OK. Talking with a therapist or friend can help.
Take the next step:
- Learn more about the Center for Reproductive Medicine.
- Read a related blog post, “Talking Helps: Infertility may feel isolating, but you are not alone.“
- Check out our full collection of fertility blog posts.
Lindsay Brennan is a clinical social worker at the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine. She sees patients individually, as couples and conducts a monthly support group. She received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan School of Social Work.
University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine brings the expertise of infertility specialists and research scientists together to help each of our clients have access to the latest fertility therapies and technologies available through one convenient center. We offer a full spectrum of assisted reproductive technology options, including IVF, fertility preservation, intrauterine insemination, donor insemination, and pre-implantation genetics diagnosis.