6 Tips For Dealing With Infertility When You And Your Partner Aren’t On The Same Page
By Elyse Ash
It took my husband Brad and I two years to get on the same page when it came to our fertility treatment. Again…it took TWO YEARS to get alignment between two people. That’s the equivalent of having a hung jury for 730 consecutive days. Every day we would debate and discuss the individual costs, risks, merits, and advantages of IUIs versus IVF versus adoption versus living child-free. And every day, our feelings would subtly shift like tectonic plates. Today, three years after we started trying to conceive, I can say we are 100% aligned with our process and our plan ahead. But for how much longer?
Throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to talk to Brad about our journey and more importantly, how to listen and respect his opinion. Truly. Not just pretend-listen while secretly thinking up points to back up my own beliefs. So, here are 6 tips for dealing with infertility when you and your partner just can’t seem to get on the same page:
1. Do Your Research
First thing’s first. Before you can make an educated decision about how you want to pursue your fertility journey, you need to get smart. Unfortunately, sex education in this country has fallen tremendously short when it comes to teaching women about our bodies and our own reproductive health. I truly believe the best thing you can do in your first 12 months of trying to conceive is educate yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to become a biologist or anything; there are plenty of awesome books that explain our bodies in conversational, casual ways. Also, begin researching the types of fertility options that exist and their estimated costs. While it will probably be overwhelming, doing your research in advance will help you make the right decisions later.
2. Be 100% Honest About Your Opinions
Too often, we hide our true feelings from our partners. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to seem like a burden or we’re scared of getting rejected. But the worst thing you can do when it comes to talking about infertility with your partner is being dishonest about what you want, whether that means downplaying your feelings or not sharing concerns you have. If you’re uncomfortable with adoption, say so. If you’re scared of needles and don’t want to pursue IVF, say so. The worst thing you can do is hold in very real feelings and fears you have about this journey; it’ll end up just making you feel more lonely and misunderstood. Plus, you owe it to your current self and your future self to be authentic about what you need to be happy. If you’re not, that could result in big resentments down the road…and that’s not good for anyone.
3. Listen to and Respect Their Opinions
I’m a woman in a heterosexual marriage. And for this reason (among many others), I often felt like my vote should have counted more than my husband’s. After all, I had more skin (and hormones) in the game, and I honestly felt entitled to 70% of the votes rather than the traditional 50/50 setup. It took me a while to learn that just because my body requires me to do a bit more work, the costs, outcomes, and responsibilities would be split equally. While it’s natural to feel like your vote should count more, that won’t help you win any arguments. It’s important to give your partner the space they need to process and share their feelings openly with you. They need to feel safe and not like they will just get steamrolled, yelled at, or vetoed. This means listening, rather than reacting emotionally or getting angry or shutting down. It also means asking questions about why they have their feelings. It means sitting down and having real, hard, long conversations about your hopes and dreams. And conversations work both ways. Your partner is your equal and you need to work through what’s best for you both together.
4. Understand that Feelings Might Change
The thing about drawing a line in the sand is that you can always keep moving the line. That happened to us multiple times in the three years we’ve been trying to conceive. At first, Brad didn’t want to do IVF at all. He had no interest (and frankly, thought it was “creepy”). But when we got my endometriosis diagnosis and learned that our options were pretty limited, he changed his mind. Then he said he only wanted to do one round of IVF. But after our first round of IVF failed so spectacularly, he changed his mind…AGAIN. It’s important to know that what you think are your hard limits very well might change. Conversely, don’t count on your partner to change their minds either, which leads me to #5…
Talk about your fertility journey with your partner. Discuss your feelings and fears. Confide in one another. It’s not always pretty, but it’s necessary to keep checking in emotionally with one another. Make sure your partner feels heard and included in each decision. Touch base to see if you’re pleased with how your chosen path is feeling. While it’s not crucial to have State of the Fertility Union-level meetings every night, it’s a good idea to have them every few weeks or months. Infertility is an incredibly emotional experience and things change all the time. Test results change. Hormone levels change. Financial situations change. Insurance coverage changes. You have to keep checking in with one another to make sure you are still aligned, still a team and still prepared for what’s to come.
6. Get (Additional) Support
If you’re feeling overly stressed, anxious or scared about your fertility journey, it can be a good idea to talk to someone else (in addition to your partner) about what’s going on. Maybe that’s a professional therapist. Maybe that’s a close friend or a parent. Or maybe it’s joining Rescripted's free fertility support community, where you will find thousands of others who GET IT. It’s good to have multiple people you can talk to about your issues; not just your partner.
Naturally, there may come a time on your fertility journey where you and your partner are at a crossroads. Maybe one of you is ready to stop expensive treatments while the other wants to try one more round. Maybe one is just DONE with trying to have kids at all while the other one wants to start researching surrogacy. These times are the hardest. The most stressful. The most lonely. That said, it’s imperative not to flippantly throw out ultimatums to your partner unless you are really ready to walk away from the relationship. It’s not fair to say you want out of the relationship if you can’t have things your way unless you actually mean it. You’re a team, and just because you don’t like your teammates’ opinions doesn’t mean it’s okay to hold them emotionally hostage.
That said, you need to be true to your own desires and what you believe will make you happy. If your partner doesn’t want to try any longer and you do, then maybe it IS time to reevaluate your relationship. But my point is that if you’re really, truly ready to move on from your partner, that’s ok. Just make sure you mean it because it’s the kind of thing you can’t take back.
Infertility has a weird way of bringing out the worst in so many of us; it can make us feel jealous and petty and bitter. Stressed and anxious and depressed. It’s hard work to feel connected to your partner on this journey, but I guarantee that if you put in the effort to stay emotionally in tune and open to your partner’s feelings, things will get much better.
Elyse Ash and her husband Brad went through three years of infertility, two rounds of IVF, and one frozen embryo transfer before seeing their first positive pregnancy test, which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce, and pretending she’s into yoga.