Infertility in Marriage – 6 Tips for Supporting Your Husband or Wife
Not being able to get pregnant can be stressful for a marriage, and can even lead to separation or divorce. These research-based tips for supporting your husband or wife in infertility may help strengthen your marriage while you figure out what your future family will look like…
Before the tips, a quip from celebrity Cindy Margolis about infertility:
“We were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility,’ which sounds good in one respect, but on the other hand you almost want something wrong so there is a problem so you can fix it.”
Even if you know the possible Living With Infertility, there’s no guarantee that fertility treatments, medications, or surgeries can fix it! This type of stress can harm your marriage, which is why supporting your husband or wife in infertility is so important.
Click Infertility: Holding and Healing Yourself and Your Marriage for help with infertility in marriage, and read on for some interesting research-based ways to support your husband or wife…
Can You Be Too Supportive When Dealing With Infertility in Marriage?
Surprisingly, an overly supportive husband or wife can actually have a detrimental effect on a marriage relationship! A series of University of Iowa studies shows that too much support – or the wrong kind of support – can be bad for a marriage.
“The idea that simply being more supportive is better for your marriage is a myth,” Erika Lawrence, associate professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Often husbands and wives think, ‘If my partner really knows me and loves me, he or she will know I’m upset and will know how to help me.’ However, that’s not the best way to approach your marriage. Your partner shouldn’t have to be a mind reader. Couples will be happier if they learn how to say, ‘This is how I’m feeling, and this is how you can help me.'”
In one study, Lawrence and colleagues discovered that receiving more support than desired is a greater risk factor for marital decline than not being there for a spouse. “If you don’t get enough support, you can make up for that with family and friends — especially women, who tend to have multiple sources of support,” she said. “When you receive too much support, there’s no way to adjust for that.”
6 Tips for Supporting Your Husband or Wife in Infertility
1. Understand the ways your spouse feels supported. Just like there are different ways of giving and receiving love in relationships, there are different ways of giving and receiving support in marriage. For instance, your husband may feel most supported when you share different types of research or information about fertility, such as foods that increase sperm count (but be careful — see tip #4 about offering too much fertility information!). Or your wife may feel supported when you discuss what to say to people who keep asking if you’re pregnant. To keep your marriage strong in infertility, find out how your spouse gives and receives support.
2. Learn about the different types of support in marriage. In Lawrence’s study, four kinds of support were identified: physical comfort and emotional support (listening and empathizing, taking your spouse’s hand, giving your spouse a hug), esteem support (expressing confidence in your partner, providing encouragement), informational support (giving advice, gathering information), and tangible support (taking on responsibilities so your spouse can deal with a problem, helping to brainstorm solutions to a problem).
3. Don’t assume that your spouse needs a particular type of support. “The assumption is that men just want to be left alone and women want to be held and listened to,” Lawrence said. “In reality, different men want different kinds of support, and different women want different kinds of support.” Instead of assuming that your husband or wife needs hugs or hand-holding, talk about how he or she would feel most supported.
4. Avoid giving too much “informational support.” The results of one of the University of Iowa studies showed that too much informational support – usually in the form of unwanted advice-giving – is the most detrimental. Lawrence says husbands and wives can’t go wrong with esteem support.
5. Remember that it’s the effort that counts. Don’t give up if you’re not successful at supporting your spouse. “Both parties are more satisfied if the husband gets the right kind of support, and if the wife feels like she’s supported,” Lawrence said. “Husbands shouldn’t throw their hands up if they’re not sure what to do. They need to stay in there and keep trying, because we found that women appreciate the effort.”
6. Ask for the type of support you need. Talking about not getting pregnant and how infertility affects marriages is key. If you need support, ask for it – and be specific about the type of support you need from your husband or wife. If you want to provide support, ask how you can help, and don’t assume you know what to do. Afterward, talk about what worked and what didn’t, and adjust accordingly.
If you need help, relationship counselor Mort Fertel has free advice on turning your marriage around.
And if you have any thoughts or questions on infertility in marriage, please comment below…
Source: This research study, called “Couples Can Overdo Being Supportive”, was published in the journal Personal Relationships. Lawrence was the lead author, with co-authors from the University of Iowa, CIGNA Health Solutions, Santa Clara University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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