Saturday, March 12, 2016

How NOT to get a divorce when going through infertility

One of the biggest challenges when going through infertility is maintaining a happy marriage. The stress and emotions that come from infertility are so intense. The disappointments and heartache that come every month. The pressure for men to perform on a specific days of the month. Invasive medical procedures. Failed cycles. The exorbitant cost of treatments. 

The process puts so much stress on your relationship that it is difficult for both parties to feel understood and supported. As someone who has struggled with infertility and nearly lost my marriage in the process, there are a few things that I found can help you avoid the path that we went down. 
  • Be a good listener. This is a hard one. Probably the hardest for me. I'm that person that starts preparing my response before my partner has finished talking. But both partners are experiencing different emotions and see things from a different perspective. And both sides are valid. The only way to gain understanding is to listen….truly your partner's struggles. 
  • Dump on someone else. Sometimes we just need to get it all out there. Rant. Cry. Vent. Be angry. And while it seems like our partner is the most reasonable human being to be your "person" because after all they are going through this with you…often times they are not the best person. For some men, they can't handle all the emotions. Or they don't know what to say. Or they feel guilt because they can't fix this. Or they're scared they'll say the wrong thing. And many times they do say the wrong thing and then the crazy person comes out. Often times we have less patience with our partners than with other people. So find a different "person". Join a support group. Find a friend who has been in your shoes and walked this path. Or someone who is going through it currently.  
  • Make time for each other. Sometimes all of this is just TOO MUCH for men to deal with so they retreat to their cave. Whatever "cave" means to your husband. For some, it may be literal and he heads down to the garage and puts on the TV. It might be hitting up with bar with his buddies. For my husband it was the dirt bike track. But it is so important to stay connected during this difficult time. Plan a weekend getaway. Or schedule a weekly outing that's fun for both of you and takes your mind off of infertility (I know…easier said than done).
  • Cut each other some slack. This one is important. And it is my husband's classic line "cut me some slack". Sometimes we are HARD on our partners. We expect perfection. We want them to hold us at just the right moment. Say just the right thing. React the way we would react to a situation. That pressure is not fair. And perfection is not achievable. First of all, men are just different and they're not mind readers. So try to let things go more often i.e. cut them some slack. It is tough to let things go when emotions are high and your world feels like it is crashing down. But just try. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Walk away. Whatever it takes to not react immediately and gain some perspective on the situation. 
  • Try not to become obsessed. Just like it is important for you and your partner to stay present in the relationship and stay connected, it is helpful if you're able to find some semblance of balance in your own life. And this is coming from someone who STRUGGLED with this one big time. I read every self-help book. Devoured everything on the internet about infertility. Blogged endlessly. Tweeted. Facebooked. Instagrammed. Attended support groups. I lived and breathed infertility during a portion of our marriage. It didn't help my emotional state of mind and it certainly didn't help my relationship. I'm not suggesting that you stop researching or seeking information or emotional support. But try not get so wrapped up in it that the rest of the world doesn't exist. And again, I KNOW this is not easy. But if you come close to losing your partner, I think you might find that other things DO matter and you have to make room in your mind and heart for the them.
  • Have empathy. Even though you are both experiencing infertility, you will never experience it in the exact same way.  Because of this, empathy becomes so crucial. I'll never know how challenging it is to go into a sterile, medical facility restroom and produce a sample under pressure. Or to listen to my spouse crying uncontrollably after a failed cycle and not be able to take her pain away. He will never understand how painful it is endure a hysteroscopy or get progesterone shots in the rear every night. But that is okay. We need to put aside our own viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person's point of view. If we are able to validate the other person's feelings and perspective and stay clear of judging, pointing out flaws or jumping to problem solving…it will lead to much more positive interactions. You won't always say the right thing (either of you) but at least you're seeking to understand and responding from a place of love.
Infertility is hard stuff folks. And I am no relationship expert by any stretch. But we learn from our own failures. I'm hoping that some of my hard lessons will save you from some of the pitfalls we landed in during our 6 year struggle to conceive. 

Blogging tips