Infertility - the inability to have a child or more children despite how desperately you may want to. Yeah, it pretty much stinks. All you and your spouse want to do is bring a child into your home and share your love with him or her. Then month after month after month, you're disappointed over and over again. Some couples go through this for years and years. It's the kind of struggle that can make or break a marriage.
So how do you make sure your marriage is strengthened and stays strong through this challenge? Here are some ideas that come from my own experience with infertility, and from suggestions I have received from other infertile couples.
Put your spouse before your children
One piece of common marriage advice is that you should always put your spouse before your children. Why should your future or hoped for children be any different? If all you ever focus on is the next step in trying to have children, then your relationship with your spouse is going to suffer. It's important to remember that you are in this together. As in other trials, you will need each other's support through the ups and downs.
Be honest with each other
It's important to stay open with each other as you endure this trial. Tell each other how you feel and what you think about your options for trying to build your family. Women are often better at expressing feelings, but husbands also have strong feelings about not being able to have children; so make sure you both express how you are doing. It's also really important that you are on the same page as you decide what your next step is (more treatments, adoption, living child-free, etc.) and that you honestly discuss the financial aspects as well. Failing to be honest about what you really think, even if you don't agree with each other, will only make one of you resentful when the decision made is not what you wanted.
Talk about something else sometimes
You don't have to talk about your infertility in every conversation you have. If that's all you ever talk about, you're going to lose your connection to each other pretty quickly. You didn't get married just to have children, so that shouldn't be what your relationship is all about. Refocus on your relationship by having time set apart when you agree not to talk about your infertility and focus instead on why you love each other. It could be one day a month, a weekly date night, a weeklong vacation or whatever you want. Do things that you love to do together, and give yourselves a break from the stress of trying to conceive.
Have sex just for fun
Nothing makes intimacy as unexciting and stressful as only ever doing it because you're trying to get pregnant. Have sex sometimes just to be with each other — not just because the timing is right to make a baby. Just relax and enjoy one another's company. Sex is not only for making children; it brings you and your spouse closer together and is a way to show love for each other. Other forms of intimacy, such as hand holding, are important in keeping your relationship strong as well.
Remember that it's no one's fault
One question infertile couples get asked a lot is, "Whose fault is it?" People want to know if your infertility is a male or female factor. But the reality is that it's not anyone's fault! Infertility is essentially a medical problem, and there's really no sense in blaming your partner for something that he or she can't control. On the flip side, there's also no sense in blaming yourself. Make sure you both know that no matter what, it's your issue together and that you are going to support each other at all times. Also remember that this is hard for both of you, even if you are the one bearing the brunt of most medical procedures. Be supportive of each other, no matter which position you may be in.
Allow infertility to bring you together
Have you ever noticed that in a lot of books and movies, couples get together after going through a stressful experience together? The same thing can happen in real life. Going through infertility is definitely stressful, but it can teach you a lot about each other and help you bond. Crying together, celebrating even small victories, attending doctor's visits together, fundraising, talking about your hopes and worries and many other things can help you become closer to one another.
Get counseling if you need it
And finally, if you find that your battle with infertility is really affecting your marriage, don't be afraid to get counseling. It's better to get help with your relationship than to let this struggle become a wedge and break up your marriage. There are counselors who are specially trained for helping infertile couples, and even if there aren't any in your area, a regular marriage counselor can help when needed.
When going through these difficult times, it's hard not to linger on what you don't have, but try to remember that your marriage is more important than your lack of children. You're in this together, and that's how you should stay.