GUEST POST: 3 Things Women Want Their Partners to Know During Infertility
Infertility is a stressful time for both partners. For some couples, infertility brings them closer together, and for others, it drives a wedge in the relationship. When I reflect on my experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss, I think three things are essential to strengthening your relationship with your spouse. Everyone going through infertility needs to know they are loved, supported, and have intimate connections with their spouse.
Before I begin, I would like to thank Keegan for honoring me in our first blog collaboration. I share information, stories, and support for infertility, miscarriages, and pregnancy loss on my blog, Confessions of a Pineapple-Your Infertile Friend. Having been through infertility multiple times, an ectopic pregnancy, and a silent miscarriage, I know what a hardship these experiences can be in any relationship. Keegan is a talented writer (and soon to be an author). On my blog, he has written an excellent guest post about Three Things Men Want Their Partners to Know During Infertility. I want to invite you and your spouse to read both articles and find some time to share your insights.
1) Let your spouse know they are loved
Think back to when you and your partner began your journey together. Remember how it felt to have that starry-eyed romantical love that feels like it will last forever. However, as time passes and life struggles come along, our love tank can start to feel like it's empty. Not because we stopped loving each other, but we lost that special spark because we aren't communicating love as we did early in the relationship. Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of the 5 love languages, proposes that a couple can return to loving each other deeply and significantly to their spouse by speaking the appropriate love language.
Early in our fertility journey, I wanted so badly to be a mom and share the experiences of raising children with my husband. I felt that being a mom would bring me the validation I deeply desired. Because our family wasn't happening as fast as I thought it should, I had a lot of feelings where I felt broken and wondered if my spouse would be better off with someone who could give him children. I remember being frustrated with my husband because he reacted differently to our infertility than I expected. I think what I was looking for was reassurance and validation, but all he wanted was to hold me. As my relationship with my husband has developed over the years, we've realized that we have different love languages. I prefer words of affirmation, and my husband likes physical touch.
If you want to help keep your spouses love tank full and ensure they feel supported through the infertility process, try learning and speaking their love language. Filling your spouse's love tank isn't to say there won't be hardships, but showing your support will undoubtedly improve your relationship quality to get through rough days. For example, if your wife’s love language is physical touch when you hit a rough day in your infertility journey, you may need to give her extra hugs and snuggles. Or, if her love language is acts of service, you may want to help with a few extra chores.
2) Supporting your spouse by learning and engaging in the process
As I've spoken with and observed many women going through infertility, I’ve noticed a trend. Wives are most often the primary partner doing all the fertility research. Many women feel that they are carrying most of the fertility burden by understanding infertility, researching treatment options, going to doctor’s appointments, and doing cycle tracking. It can be a lot to balance. One way you can help support your wife is to help research and educate yourself about infertility.
If I were to start a class for understanding infertility 101, I would first begin with understanding the menstrual cycle. I know it's "taught" in school, but there is usually so much focus on contraception and abstinence that they tend to forget to explain the fundamentals of how hormones work in the body. At least, I didn't understand it fully until I was researching due to my infertility. Understanding the menstrual cycle is fundamental to understanding everything else about fertility. Understanding the menstrual cycle is essential to finding the fertile window. It also plays a huge role if you are doing fertility treatments, be it medicated timed intercourse, IUI, or IVF.
My husband was surprised to learn these statistics as we were going through infertility. One-third of infertile couples are due to female-factor, one-third are male-factor, and one-third are both partners that have factors causing infertility. With this in mind, when you are meeting with your team about infertility, it is crucial to get evaluations for both you and your wife. Having both partners evaluated ensures you have the best data to make the best choices for achieving your family goals.
As a final note for infertility research, if you and your spouse decide to go through IVF, I recommend Keegan's book The IVF Dad, coming out this July. Keegan will tell you about his experience as an IVF dad, and you will be better prepared to support your wife through the process. I've not personally been through IVF, but I'm still planning to buy his book just in case we go that route.
You are doing this research to have quality conversations with your wife and your fertility doctors. Having a solid understanding will enable you to help make educated choices along the infertility journey with your wife. By learning about the menstrual cycle, causes of infertility, infertility medications, and treatments, you will be helping your spouse to feel understood and supported. You will also be a more active partner in the decision-making process.
3) Find ways to connect with your spouse intimately
Have you ever felt like your wife was having an affair with the fertility clinic or that you only had intercourse to get pregnant? Or maybe you think that all you and your wife talk about is new treatment options, insurance coverage, and fertility finances. I realize how much investment infertility treatments take, but it can strain a relationship. When going through infertility, it is essential to connect with your spouse. My advice would be to set time aside from the fertility journey for intimacy with your wife.
What I mean by intimacy is not just time in the bedroom, although that is a part of it. It would be best if you took the time to connect, grow, and strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Intimacy can look different in various situations. My husband and I read the book Emotional and Sexual Intimacy In Marriage by Marcus and Ashley Kusi a few years back, and it helped start us on a journey of healing and connection. Some of the forms of intimacy described by Marcus and Ashley Kusi include Emotional, intellectual, sexual, and spiritual intimacy.
In my relationship with my husband, we've struggled with emotional intimacy throughout our infertility journey. It's a very vulnerable feeling to share one’s emotions with someone. My husband usually keeps his feelings wrapped up pretty tight. Because of this, I started to feel that I couldn't share my feelings with him. In the process, we both ended up feeling alone and isolated. Don't be afraid to tell your wife that you are feeling sad, anxious, or disappointed, and be open to couples therapy for infertile partners if needed.
Intimacy can be a turning point in how your relationship grows while going through infertility. We've enjoyed connecting by doing activities together for my husband and I. We’ve done salsa dance classes on Udemy, went for walks/hikes, explored historical sites, or window shopping at the mall. I don't know that it matters what you do with your spouse, but find something that both you and your spouse enjoy and take the time to connect on a deeper intimate level.
Infertility can bring a couple closer together or drive a wedge into the relationship. Finding ways to express love to your spouse, support your wife through educating yourself, and connect through intimacy in marriage can help strengthen your relationship. Yes, there will still be rough days, but don't let your relationship be one of the reasons that infertility is hard.
Again I want to thank Keegan for letting me share my perspective with you, and I'm so excited to read Keegan's book when it comes out in a few weeks! The IVF Dad will be available on Amazon beginning July 1! In the meantime, please check out Keegan's post on my blog to learn about Three Things Men Want Their Partners to Know During Infertility And find us on social media--I"m @confessionsofapineapple and Keegan is @TheIVFDad.