Infertility Couples SupportHow can you and your partner stop arguing and get on the same page about infertility and fertility treatment?

Dear Lisa,

I am having a lot of difficulty with my marriage since I started fertility treatment.  We argue a lot. I snap at him and he feels I am overreacting.

He says I need to be hopeful but how can he be hopeful after all of our disappointments?  We're not seeing eye to eye about a lot these days.

I have to admit I also feel resentful about waiting so long, which I do blame on him.  Am I wrong for feeling frustrated with him?

Susan

Lisa Schuman Ask the Expert

Infertility Support for Couples

Dear Susan,

No. You are not wrong for feeling frustrated. No, you are not wrong for having regrets.  And no, you’re not wrong for not feeling hopeful.

Your husband is not wrong for how he feels either. It is well known that couples have more strife during infertility treatment due to all the physical and emotional pressure that occurs.   After treatment has ended they can find themselves either feeling closer having survived it, or unfortunately, divorced.  The thing you need to know is that most men and women experience fertility treatment differently. How you handle these differences can bring you to a better understanding of each other and yourselves.

It’s almost like men are from Mars and women are from Venus in fertility treatment as well as in other areas of life. Men tend to be optimists and like to deal with their problems when they must– they often aren’t looking ahead to the next fertility treatment cycle, instead concentrating on what is going on right now.  Women are more likely to be pragmatists and plan ahead for possible problems.  Men may want children and can feel very sad about having trouble conceiving. Often though, they are concentrating on supporting you (yes, even if it doesn’t seem that way) and your feelings.

Ingrained in most women's psyche is the idea that she will get pregnant when she wants to.  Even for woman who don't dream about being a mom from the time they are little girls, they believe the option is there.  A woman may have to struggle to get to grad school or get a promotion but having a baby is something her body was made to do and those are her expectations– an easy pregnancy. After all, her period reminds her of that possibility every month and she usually spends her young adult life trying not to get pregnant. So when it doesn't happen it’s devastating. She feels her body has failed her and all her childhood dreams are crashing down on her. Men just don't have this physiological or emotional experience and so they can't understand it.

So accept that you may have different perspectives and ways of looking at and experiencing infertility.  It doesn't mean you no longer are the perfect match with your husband or that he doesn't love you or want children.  As we get older our experiences in life show us that sometimes we don't feel the same way about everything as our spouse.  When we are young we think we are on the same page about most things and having children can be the most serious and emotionally charged topic there is, so this can feel devastating.  You don’t have to let your differences ruin your marriage though. Try to remember why you fell in love in the first place. 

If your husband can't understand how you feel, the two of you can meet with a reproductive (fertility) counselor who can work with both of you to realize your reactions are understandable and very common. Then you can place your anger where it really belongs.  On the infertility.  You can both be angry with the unfairness, the disappointments, the inconveniences and the stress of having to struggle through something that you expected to achieve and that comes more easily for others.  That is a place where you can unite, and hopefully, find more closeness.

Warmly,
Lisa

Topics: Support, Ask the Expert

Lisa Schuman, LCSW
Lisa Schuman, LCSW, is RMACT’s Director of Mental Health Services. With almost twenty years of experience in the field of reproductive medicine, Lisa provides patients with support, guidance and education. Lisa has extensive academic experience, having received several awards for research projects at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s (ASRM) and the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society’s annual meetings. Lisa completed college at Northeastern University and received her MSW at Yeshiva University. Her desire was, and continues to be, to continue to grow and learn with the aim of having added skills to help her patients. Lisa meets with patients at RMACT’s Norwalk and Stamford offices.
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