Society has imposed an unfair image of the perfect marriage – homeowners, successful careers, healthy finances, and children. The problem with this mindset is it’s not feasible for everyone, and that’s okay, even if society doesn’t unanimously agree.
Infertility is a challenge some couples face. Every couple decides to walk down a different path: experiment with infertility treatments, decide to adopt or not pursue having children through either direction. US News reported a Danish study that found infertile couples are three times more likely to end their marriage in divorce if infertility treatments are unsuccessful. “Our findings suggest that not having a child after fertility treatment may adversely affect the duration of a relationship for couples with fertility issues,” said Dr. Trille Kjaer, of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center.
Nonetheless, infertility is common. About 9% of men and about 11% of women of reproductive age in the United States have experienced fertility problems. Infertility can be brutal on marriage because it can feel like a huge blow to an unprecedented happy ending.
If you or someone you know is grappling with infertility challenges, you may be wondering, “What can I expect?” Even though the collection of answers will vary amongst every couple, it’s safe to assume an array of unexpected challenges are common. Identifying how these instances could affect your relationship is wise because it will allow you and your partner to build a solid foundation together.
Differences in opinions on the next steps towards moving forward.
Maybe you and your partner didn’t go into the relationship thinking about having children. Heck, you may have agreed that you didn’t want children. But finding out that you can’t naturally have children together could be a tipping point. In fact, not being able to conceive a baby could prompt conversations you didn’t think would ever happen.
Be emotionally prepared to disagree on the next steps. One person may be open to infertility treatments and/or adoption; however, the other person may not and rather not have children at all.
Mentally prepare yourself for opposing opinions. It’s important to be open and honest with your partner. Maintain a calm and rational mindset. Even though you may not agree with each other, you must agree to move forward on the same path. Perhaps it’s taking adoption or infertility treatments under consideration for a few months versus shutting down the option after one conversation. Or maybe it’s not. Take the time to process everything.
Adoption and infertility treatments are extremely expensive. IVF treatments are not a guaranteed option – in fact, some couples will spend tens of thousands of dollars and still walk away without a child. Copays, fertility tests, and treatments not covered by insurance, travel, lost work time, and adoption lawyer fees can become unexpected bills. The emotional and financial toll that adoption and IVF treatments can impose on a couple is heavy. Tensions can become surmountable over finances because couples may have taken out loans, sought out additional work to help with payments, or asked friends and family for financial help.
No one can prepare you for the letdown of not having children naturally. As a couple, it’s crucial to discuss what financial means you both are willing to pursue. Later down the road, you may be successful at adding children to your family, but you want to make sure that success wasn’t at the cost of your relationship.
Everyone deals with pain in a different way, and it’s important to fully accept that. Couples may feel like their partner doesn’t care enough or is overreacting, but no one should cast judgment on someone else’s coping mechanisms. Studies have found that women are more likely to experience marital stress than men, regardless of the cause of infertility. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that men don’t care – their relationship stress levels are just lower.
Give each other space and allow each person to process the feelings at the speed they need. Provide grace to each other and understand those coping mechanisms may change depending on the stage of grief someone is in. Try not to project your feelings onto your partner.
Also, don’t allow your feelings to turn into resentment. It’s unfair to put the blame on your spouse and lay that emotional burden on their shoulders. As you are coping, be ready and willing to talk with your spouse about the feelings you are experiencing – this way, you can stay on the same page and not leave anything up in the air to be misconstrued.
Sharing the infertility news with others.
Discussing your infertility struggles with other people, even your closest friends and family is a decision you should make together. Depending on how each individual is coping with reality will most likely influence their willingness to be open about the struggle. Also, it may take one person longer to share than it does for another person.
If you weren’t anticipating any infertility issues, the discussion can feel uneasy or even somewhat shameful. However, if you can’t agree when to share the news with everyone as a couple, you’ll experience resentment towards your partner and increased relationship tension.
No one has all the answers, and being presented with a challenge, like infertility, is a time when a professional is needed. No one ever expects to go into a marriage and eventually need counseling, but it’s important to recognize the benefits of therapy. Some couples have no arguments about seeking help; however, others may be on the fence.
Even if you aren’t openly disagreeing, being proactive, and seeking help from a marriage counselor or therapist could make your relationship stronger and healthier.
Infertility is often a taboo topic to discuss. Many people assume that every married couple should be able to naturally have children, but that is because most of our society is not allowing themselves to be vulnerable and discuss their hardships. If you and your partner are willing to communicate honestly and openly, the unexpected ways infertility is impacting your relationship will not break your relationship.