Emotions And Relationships

The emotional impact of infertility on relationships between men and women can be very serious. Yet, many couples come out the other side of the infertility experience feeling that it has brought them closer together, whether or not they have managed to have a child in the end. In some cases, the pressure of infertility can drive a couple apart. That's no reason to panic, however. It's possible that when an infertile couple does decide to separate, the infertility has only exacerbated weaknesses in the relationship that were already there.

Unacknowledged Feelings

Some of the most damaging infertility-related emotions are those which are too painful for a couple to acknowledge. Men and women tend to suppress such emotions, and try to focus on the feelings that unite rather than divide them. If you think that unacknowledged feelings are impacting your relationship, however, you should look for a way to deal with them, perhaps by talking to a professional marriage or fertility counselor. The types of feelings that couples often suppress include:

Harboring secret resentment or blame for the infertile partner (in the case where one partner can have children but the other cannot).

Fears of abandonment in the mind of the infertile partner - will the fertile partner's desire to have kids be so strong that he or she will eventually break off this relationship?

A sense of guilty relief on the part of one or both partners (but more commonly on the part of the man) - due uncertainty or anxieties about having children in the first place.

An imbalance in feelings of grief or sadness - both partners are not equally upset. This can be disturbing for one or both of them.

Different coping strategies - while women may be more likely to want to talk a lot about how they are feeling, men may tend to shut down emotionally. Women can sometimes be resentful of this, or view it as uncaring behavior, but actually it's just a man's way of dealing with pain.

Differing expectations - couples may disagree about the types of fertility treatments they should try, how much they should spend, or how long they should try for. One partner may fear telling the other partner that they want to stop - because this could be perceived as disloyalty or as "giving up."

Sexual problems - both men and women can be affected by the lack of spontaneity associated with sex during fertility treatment. They may also be embarrassed by opening up such a private part of their lives to the scrutiny of doctors. It can be hard for them to discuss problems in their sex life, which may in turn create more insecurity about their relationship.

Helping Each Other

A couple in this situation needs to accept the emotions they are experiencing. They also need to remember that they are two individuals who have the right to feel and react in different ways. Whether they are dealing with shock, denial, anger, frustration, grief or loneliness, the lines of communication should remain as open as possible. Because men and women are different in the way in which they communicate, couples affected by infertility may need the help of a sex therapist, a counselor or a support group to help them through.

Couples can also help themselves by maintaining as many of their daily routines as possible, continuing to plan for the future, being physically affectionate with one another, and spending time doing the things they enjoy together.

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