A diagnosis of infertility usually causes emotional anguish, and for some couples, it can be devastating. The ability to “google” about infertility often makes things worse, causing the would-be parents to worry about things that don’t even apply in their situation. Medical terminology, worst-case scenarios, heartbreaking stories of other couples’ infertility, and joyful stories of success that they feel they may never experience can work to increase anxiety, cause negative self-talk, and damage the couple’s relationship.
It’s in times like these that talking to a counselor is particularly important. Infertility treatments can take months or years. It’s crucial to develop coping skills and ways of strengthening your bond as you go through this difficult time. There are many issues you will face, and you need to face them together.
First, there is the internal battle. Both men and women suffer from the diagnosis of infertility. If the problem is in one partner, that person often feels broken. The negative, haunting self-talk begins: “There’s something wrong with me; I’m not a real man; I’ll never be a mother; I don’t deserve to be a parent; God is punishing me; Will my partner leave me?” This inner talk can lead to depression and self-medicating to quiet that terrible inner voice.
Next, there is the relationship. Often, the infertility is not caused by one partner or the other. This situation actually makes the burden easier to bear, because neither spouse can “blame” himself or herself. But it has its own challenge: the thought that maybe “we aren’t really meant to be together.” The pressure of treatments can cause stress between the couple, as well. And sometimes they just don’t know what to say to each other. When a wife is devastated by the diagnosis of infertility, a husband naturally wants to protect her and help her but he is often afraid of saying the wrong thing. Meanwhile, a man might throw himself into his work to prove to himself and to others that he’s still strong.
I help clients work through their inner conflicts and develop healthy communication, both with each other and with that inner “self” that can be so hard on us. The first step is to talk out all those things that haunt you and all the fears and feelings that are affecting your relationship. Even if your bond is strong, it’s important to know how to communicate well in order to keep it that way.
After this, I help couples find the positives in their situation and focus on them. There are always positives. A healthy view of the situation will help you find them together and capitalize on them.
Infertility can be considered a two-patient challenge. Couples are evaluated together, counseled both separately and together, and are both included in the decision-making process. Remember, you’re not waging this battle alone; you have a partner who is waging it with you. Find a counselor who specializes in infertility to help you grow closer during this process. And in the end, whether the fertility treatments are successful or not, there will be more important changes and more need to work things out as a couple. Keep your counselor close by in that early transition period.