All marriages experience some rough patches along the way. In marriages where infertility is an issue, these challenges can become amplified and divorce can become a more likely outcome if the couple does not learn how to successfully cope with the challenges that arise.
Infertility in America
When people get married, having children is generally assumed to be part of the normal progression of the relationship. As a society, we often take for granted the ability to have children whenever we decide we are ready. Unfortunately, for a certain percentage of married couples, infertility is a serious problem.
In a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, which tracked U.S. fertility problems from 1982 through 2010, they found that six percent of married women aged 15 to 44 were considered infertile at some point from 2006 to 2010. This equates to approximately 1.5 million women. Further, approximately nine percent of men aged 15 through 44 had some form of infertility or non-surgical sterility during 2006 to 2010. Age, race, and education may have been factors in the overall trends.
A Unique Issue
Infertility may be considered by some couples as a life crisis because of the unique challenges couples face when infertility is discovered. It often means a long, indefinite, and uncertain period of time where the couple struggles to conceive through natural or medically-invasive methods. It also strikes a chord at an emotional level because it brings up questions of self-worth and feelings of inadequacy, especially if one spouse is the sole source of the infertility.
Extreme stress is placed on a marriage as a result of all the challenges infertility brings to it, and couples to need find healthy coping mechanisms to get them through the hard times.
Invest in the Relationship
It is critical that both spouses equally invest in their relationship. The first step is to make the issue a priority for both parties. Spouses need to communicate and check in with each other on a regular basis. On the other hand, they also need to make sure to set aside time to talk about other things besides infertility. Do not make infertility the only focus of the relationship.
When the couple does discuss the issue, they should make sure it is productive and focused on the end goal of bringing a happy, healthy baby into the world. Each spouse needs to discuss their own emotions, fears, and preferences about seeking infertility treatment or considering alternative options like surrogacy or adoption.
Talk about your feelings on the issue on an ongoing basis. Be very clear to your partner about what steps you are willing to go through to have a baby. Do not assume your partner is willing to go through the same processes. Always have alternative solutions in mind if your partner is unwilling or uncomfortable with any part of the process.
Disagreement is Part of the Process
There will be discussions, disagreements, and maybe even tense arguments about the topic. Let them happen. Relationships cannot grow and endure if the parties involved do not honestly discuss the issues. Holding back beliefs about the topic can lead to resentment, hurt feelings, and a sense of betrayal if they come out too late in the game.
Speak Right Away
Do not let the issues build up. If something happens, deal with it in the moment and resolve it right away. If one partner harbors negative feelings and finally addresses them all at once, it could manifest in a laundry list of grievances that will only lead the other partner to feel attacked and become closed off and defensive. Use “I” statements whenever possible instead of accusing the other spouse of fault or blame. Be clear about specific issues that are bothering you.
Stay Mentally Strong and Find Support
Take care of your psychological health and sense of self. Infertility affects our self-worth. Infertile men and women experience feelings of inadequacy, defectiveness, and asexuality. This is particularly true if the infertility is a problem for only one partner. Reassure your partner of his or her sexuality and value as a physical human being. Do not let him or her question his or her masculinity or femininity.
Consider joining a support group or seeing a couple’s counselor who focuses on infertility issues. Both can provide unique perspectives on the issue. A support group, in particular, can make a couple feel connected to other couples going through the same challenges and hardships.
If you have questions about family law matters, a Wheaton family law attorney at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. can provide answers for you today.