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Photo of author and real-life IVF patient, Jennifer Palumbo.

Jennifer Jay Palumbo is a writer, public speaker, infertility advocate, author of the blog “The 2 Week Wait,” and a proud IVF (in vitro fertilization) mom of 2 boys. This article is based on her own fertility journey.

As someone who has personally struggled with infertility, I know firsthand just how stressful it can be. No one is ever fully prepared to manage the feelings and emotions that may come with the inability to conceive. My husband and I often felt there was a weight on our shoulders that neither one of us felt able to help the other carry. If you are experiencing infertility, chances are you are familiar with this feeling.

During our infertility journey, my husband and I often found that we reacted differently to the challenges we faced – something many partners may go through. You and your partner may feel lost as to how you can help make the other person feel better, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. Our experience taught us that there may be things partners can do to support one another through the fertility journey. 

Be there for them

This may seem obvious, but one thing you can do to support your partner through the fertility journey is simply to be there for them. This may include standing by them, being present for them, and showing your support.

Here are some specific things that helped me that you can consider:

  • Attending doctors’ appointments together.
  • Setting time aside to talk to each other about our feelings.
  • Having regular "check-ins" with each other to see how we were doing.
  • Practicing active listening: allowing each other to talk about how we were feeling and what was on our minds. 

jennifer jay palumbo in the midst of recording

Photo of author and IVF patient, Jennifer Palumbo.

Focus on clear 2-way communication

It’s important to be open and honest with your partner. This is easier said than done for some people. Consider telling them how you feel about what you’re going through. Acknowledge infertility, specifically. Explain how what you and your partner are going through is affecting you, and let your significant other do the same. This kind of open, honest dialogue isn’t always easy, but it can help you both gain a better understanding of each other on an emotional level. As a result, you may be able to better support and comfort one another.

It’s also important to acknowledge and validate your partner's feelings – and try to refrain from offering solutions. It’s normal for a partner to want to solve their loved one’s problems. But we may not always be able to do that. Sometimes, just listening to your partner – really listening –  can be enough.  In my personal experience, starting sentences with, "at least" instead of phrases like, "it's not that bad," helped avoid minimization of my own pain.

Here are some phrases that I have found to be helpful:

  • "Even though I can't improve things, I hear you and am here for you."
  •  "You have every right to feel that way."
  • "You're going through something hard, and I'm proud of how you are managing."
  • "Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"
  •  "I understand why you feel this way."
  • "I can see how upset you are. Can I comfort you in some way?"

jennifer jay palumbo

Photo of author and IVF patient, Jennifer Palumbo.

Spend time doing something you enjoy

You might try planning time together doing something you know your partner enjoys. For me and my partner, that was often a day at the beach, a hike on a sunny day, or a special meal out. This time together often provided me with an emotional reprieve and helped us bond with one another during this difficult time. 

Your significant other may seem disinterested in activities that they usually enjoy. Infertility can cause stress and feelings of depression, which can make it difficult for your partner to feel motivated, present, and engaged. In my experience,  it helped to gauge my activity levels. Sometimes rather than leaving the house, I found comfort in gathering some blankets and binge-watching a new television show together.  

jennifer jay palumbo

Photo of author and IVF patient, Jennifer Palumbo.

Consider other forms of support 

When it comes to managing the challenges of your fertility journey, it may be helpful to have a support system. Connecting and engaging with that support system may include visiting a friend, setting up a lunch date, or having family over for dinner. Though these may help, you may still find that you need to seek additional forms of support. 

Professional counseling can be an opportunity for you and your partner to talk about how your experiences with infertility have affected you. Psychological support can help communicate relationship tension and conflict. Consider reaching out to a counselor who specializes in couples therapy and infertility.

Peer support groups are also a way for you and your partner to talk about your experiences with others who are experiencing similar things. There are support groups available for couples experiencing infertility. Consider researching peer support groups in your area. Or try looking to see if one is available virtually.

Infertility can be difficult and may test your relationship with your significant other. There are different ways you can support your partner through infertility. Learning to communicate, prioritizing each other’s feelings, and gathering support from outside sources are ways to help one another face the challenges of infertility. If you are still struggling, consider reaching out to a professional.

Visit FertilityJourney.com for infertility resources and information.