Is your relationship with your husband suffering because you can’t get pregnant? Problems getting pregnant and fertility treatments are harder on a marriage than financial stress! That’s just my opinion, not a research-proven statistic. My husband and I spent years trying to get pregnant and learning ways to be happy through the stress and grief of fertility treatments that failed.
You are normal, and you are not alone. These marriage tips for couples who can’t get pregnant and who are coping with infertility will help you and your husband through the storm. Infertility and relationships aren’t easy to navigate. The yearning to get pregnant can take over a woman or man’s life, emotions, and thoughts. A woman’s inability to conceive a baby or a husband’s inability to get her pregnant affects how they feel about themselves and their marriage.
If you can’t get pregnant and are undergoing fertility treatments, you may also be struggling in your other relationships with family and friends. This, too, is normal. It’s difficult to sustain meaningful connections with people and have a happy marriage in the best of times, much less when you’re coping with stressful fertility treatments and the fear of not having a family together.
But take heart! It’s not time to give up on your goal of getting pregnant yet. Nor is it time to abandon hope of having a great marriage and living happily ever after without children. These tips for strengthening your marriage through the stress of fertility treatments – and even the heartbreak of knowing you can’t get pregnant – will help.
9 Tips for a Happy Marriage Without Children
My husband and I coped with infertility several years ago; our marriage is stronger than ever. This is partly because we try to understand where each other is coming from. For instance, I think I understand how difficult not getting pregnant is for him. My husband comes from a big family; he always wanted to have six children of his own. I wanted one child, but was willing to settle for two. We ended up childless and happy – which isn’t something either of us planned!
Here’s what we learned about having a happy marriage even when you can’t get pregnant.
1. Don’t assume you know what your husband thinks and feels
“I knew what I was doing,” says 36 year old Jeanette on How Do You Cope With Not Having a Baby? “I could feel myself pushing him away. I was cold, distant, and not very nice. I was the one who was infertile, barren. I couldn’t give my husband what he wanted most: a baby. At the time, I felt like I was doing the right thing – the only fair thing in an unfair situation. I was giving him a way out if he needed it.”
Later, Jeanette discovered that her husband wanted a happy marriage with her. Children were icing on the cake! She took all the blame and assumed he wanted a family more than anything. She was wrong.
“Although few people see divorce as a consequence of infertility, many couples report increased hostility and anger,” writes Iris Waichler in Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate And Inspire. “This fighting is usually about the other person’s feelings or attitude…couples argue about feelings because they make assumptions about what the other person’s feelings mean.“
2. Expect stress and anger at unexpected times
You and your husband probably won’t cope with or feel the same way about not getting pregnant. A happy marriage allows you both to cope with infertility in different ways, and even to have angry outbursts at unexpected times. Expecting life to go on as usual in your marriage is just asking for trouble. If you’re angry about not getting pregnant, remember that anger is the flip side of depression. Learn how to cope with both anger and depression; teach your husband what you are learning about yourself. If you want to have a happy marriage when you can’t get pregnant, share the pain of grief and growth as a couple.
“If necessary, couples can set aside a specific amount of time each day (10-30 minutes) to talk about feelings,” says Waichler. “Some couples may set a timer and stop when the time is over. Of course, this routine is not to be used on a day when the couple gets especially discouraging news.”
3. Allow your husband to cope with childlessness differently
“Men get depressed about infertility, too,” says Jack on How to Overcome Infertility Depression. “My wife and I have not used artificial birth control for our nearly five years of marriage. We’re having a devil of a time getting pregnant, and we’re not getting any younger. Both of us were in our 30′s when we married. So, the clock is ticking. My depression comes and goes in waves. I’m grieving the loss of never being able to participate in the creation of life that birthing a newborn would allow. I’m grieving the loss passing on the family name…I am the only son of six children. I’m grieving the loss of many, many things that comes with bringing your own biological children into this world.”
Don’t expect your husband or wife to read your mind and offer exactly the type of support you need when you need it. Do you need a hug, a little distance, a bottle of wine, a foot massage, or a vacation in Hawaii? When you’re depressed about not getting pregnant, you need to figure out what you want — and tell your spouse!
“Only you can determine what kind of support you need and when and from whom you need it. Likewise, feeling responsible for taking away a spouse’s pain is fruitless,” writes Waichler. “One can only listen and be supportive.”
4. Don’t let your family interfere in your marriage and fertility choices
Some families – parents and in-laws – can change the direction of a marriage by imposing their views and wishes. Set boundaries for people outside your marriage. For instance, my mom wanted me to adopt children. I finally had to firmly tell her, “I value your opinion, but when it comes to this I have to chose what I want to do. If I want to adopt in time I will, but for now I want to do pursue having my own child.”
5. Give yourself time to adjust to other ways of starting a family
“My husband and I adopted a eight year old boy from foster care,” says Angie in an email. “It was the hardest thing I ever did personally and it caused problems in our marriage. Adopting was more heartache than I’d care to admit, but in the end we and our boy got through it. We’re now finally starting to thrive with each other. Sure, I still want another child, but we have a good life. We had long, angry, tearful discussions about infertility. We argued and cried but above all tried to be open minded and fair. Without fighting fair, your marriage will disintegrate!”
6. Accept that having a happy marriage is a lifelong process
Grieving childlessness and coping with infertility are lifelong processes, too. So is learning how to have a happy marriage. Accepting a life as a childless couple can take years, even decades. Couples don’t grieve infertility once, and then let it go. Like any loss, it takes time and patience.
Having a happy marriage is also a lifelong process. Whether or not you have kids, you’ll have to work hard at living happily ever after with your husband. Keeping your marriage strong in infertility involves the realization that your sadness may be a constant companion. The saddest situation is when a husband or wife never gets over it. It’s painful to live in constant grief and resistance, instead of accepting the fact that childlessness is simply your reality.
7. Widen your marriage support system
“Couples must share with others and ask for what they need from them,” writes Waichler in Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster. “They must widen support systems and broaden their bases of information.”
My husband and I couldn’t get pregnant, and we never joined an infertility support group. I wish we had, because I think we would’ve gotten a lot out of it. I suppose it’s never too late, even though we made peace with never having children. I think it’s particularly important to have adventures and takes risks as a couple. Include others in your life by volunteering (my husband and I were mentors with Big Sisters and Big Brothers), adopt a dog, go on weekend trips, explore your spirituality as a couple, and take deep sea diving lessons. Find what brings you alive as a couple.
“Learn to live for what is present and not for what is missing in your marriage,” says Waichler. She recommends going on dates and talking about the love you feel for each other. “Having fun and creating a balance between the stress of infertility and the joy of being married lessens the burden.”
8. Decide together if you should pursue a family or be childless
Some couples cope with unexplained infertility, which means they don’t know why they can’t get pregnant. Does unexplained fertility put more stress on a marriage than known fertility issues? It depends on the couple. Unanswered questions may be more stressful than knowing you can’t get pregnant because of endometriosis, fibroids, or sperm health problems.
Knowing why you can’t get pregnant doesn’t mean that fertility treatments, infertility drugs, or surgeries can fix the cause of the problem. In fact, knowing that your husband has azoospermia or you can’t conceive because of endometriosis might cause guilt or shame. Those aren’t emotions that create happy marriage!
If you and your husband are hoping to explore options for infertile couples, read How Much Money Do You Need for Fertility Treatments?
9. Learn your husband’s “love language”
Just like there are different ways of giving and receiving love in relationships, there are different ways of giving and receiving support in marriage. An example of a love language is verbal affirmations. I feel most loved when my husband actually says, “I love you.” Other women may feel most loved and supported when their husbands perform acts of service such as doing the dishes or making the bed in the morning.
What is your love language? Read Examples of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages.
Share your honest feelings, wishes, needs, and hopes with your husband. He loves you but he can’t read your mind. And he doesn’t know what you need for a happy marriage unless you tell him. If you need to take a few months off of talking about fertility treatments, tell him. If you need more cuddling and less trying to get pregnant, speak up. Unexpressed emotions and needs can ruin a happy marriage.
What do you think? Feel free to share your comments – big and little – below.