“….to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
For Better or for Worse.
Recently I received an email from a reader asking if I had any ‘marriage survival tips’ that I could share. Anything that my husband and I have found that has helped us in our journey over the last 4 years. Now that I had been asked this question, I really had to put some thought into how I could answer. I’ve pondered for the last week or so on and off, jotting down notes and ideas that came to my mind. But I really struggled trying to find the words to answer her question…
Infertility, without a shadow of a doubt, falls under the category “worse”.
The problem is that there is nothing even remotely “normal” about navigating the ups and downs of infertility. No matter the diagnosis, it can quickly become fervent. The life you once knew ceases to exist. The dreams you shared about starting a family when you were ready are shot. As my husband and I have traveled this road of waiting to have a baby, riddled with doctor’s appointments, charting temperatures, buying an insane amount of OPK’s & HPT’s, prayer, seeking, hoping, reading and studying, we’ve learned things about God, about each other, about ourselves and about the power of empty places.
It’s just plain difficult. But not impossible…
I’ve thought long and hard about the advice that I have to share. I’ve looked back over the last 4 years of our lives at the more significant experiences that we’ve dealt with at how I responded and then again at how my husband responded. Please don’t take what I have to say as the golden rule to surviving infertility, but these are the answers I’ve come up with. The real nitty-gritty stuff, this is what’s helped us survive together:
Talk it Out: Infertility can affect you both physically and emotionally. It’s important to share how you’re feeling with your partner. You may be frustrated or depressed that another month has gone by with no success. You may be in pain from fertility medications and injections. No matter how you’re feeling physically and emotionally, you and your spouse should be open and honest with each other about every step of the journey. Now here’s the kicker, I am the one who has struggled with ‘talking about it’ – I keep things bottled up. And I’ve learned that you shouldn’t. Please learn from my struggle – talk with your spouse.
Don’t Place Blame: In one-third of all cases, infertility is female factor, another third of cases male factor, and in another third of cases, infertility is ‘unexplained.’ The spouse with the infertility diagnosis may feel like this is their entire fault. I’ve experienced this first hand. ‘I am the one with the brain tumor causing zero ovulation. I am the one with the issues. I am the one to blame since we can’t have a baby..’ It’s important to remember that infertility is a disease: it’s no one’s “fault.” Be accepting of that – even when it’s hard.
Listen: When your partner needs to talk, listen. When we didn’t listen to each other, we ended up arguing. When we listened, I mean really listened; we worked through these difficult feelings together.
Be Honest: Honesty is the key to surviving the ride. Once the infertility talk starts, it can be difficult to make it stop. Be honest with your partner…about what you need, what helps, what doesn’t – anything and everything. Be honest with your friends…about what you’re going through and how they can help. Be honest with yourself…about your limits.
Celebrate Each Other: As all consumed as you may be in wanting to have a baby, it’s important to celebrate what time you have left is a family of two. Take the time to celebrate each other, whether it’s a spontaneous night out to dinner and movie, a last-minute weekend getaway, or even just a relaxing night in at home. We really got away from doing any of this. I went as far as pre-planning 12 date nights and gave it to my husband for Christmas this past year. We are 4 months into these date nights, and they are going well. I can’t tell you what all they are since they are mostly a surprise until the monthly envelope is opened. But the point is, we are making an effort to spend time with each other, celebrating each others’ company.
Pray: When you pray as a couple, you are not only communicating with God, but also with each other. For a marriage to last and be happy and fulfilling, three parties need to be involved: the husband, the wife and the Lord. All marriages have problems because they are made up of two imperfect people – but if you add the presence of a perfect God, awesome things happen. I know that praying together works because I have seen its power demonstrated in my own marriage. Over the years my husband and I have struggled with many different issues, and at times I have felt that all hope was lost. Yet in those moments of despair, God intervened, and oftentimes He changed our hearts.
This is as real as I can get in deciphering what helps us survive the everyday journey of infertility.. if this can help one person out there, it will be worth the time and effort I put into this post.