Preserving Your Marriage while Building Your Family

Infertility is hard.  Especially on your marriage.  Timed intercourse, discussion on whether to start (or stop) fertility treatments, how much money to spend on said treatments, lack of communication, and even feelings of inadequacy can really wreak havoc on a marriage.  This is why I have asked Dr Carol-Peters Tanksley to guest post for me on this very topic.  She has over 25 years of experience in helping infertile couples build their families as an OB-Gyn physician, Reproductive Endocrinologist, and Doctor of Ministry. So let’s give it up {brisk clap} for Dr. Carol-Peters Tanksley and her amazing nuggets of advice to those couples seeking to preserve their marriage while also building their strong family’s. 

Preserving Your Marriage

I haven’t kept track of how many infertility couples I’ve worked with over the years. It’s been thousands. But there are two whose tragedies will always stick with me – and it had nothing to do with whether or not they became pregnant.

Shirley and Jackson[i] had both been busy with their careers for several years. Both had become quite successful, and now they felt the only thing still lacking in their lives was a child. Shirley was approaching 40, which you all know makes achieving pregnancy statistically more challenging. But being take-charge kind of people, once they decided it was time to have a child they jumped in with both feet.

A few months of ovulation inducing medications and IUIs passed quickly, and Shirley was ready to move on to IVF. Jackson came with her to almost every one of her appointments. The embryo transfer seemed to go well and Shirley’s initial pregnancy test was positive. Sadly she lost that pregnancy a couple of weeks later, and we shed some tears together.

But that wasn’t the real tragedy. Shirley came by the office a couple of months later and told me that Jackson had moved out. Their marriage was over. She was devastated.

Melindai always brought her two children with her to her appointments, but her husband was never with them. She had some nearly expired vials of medication she had saved after her last successful infertility treatment, and she wanted to try again. Why now? “My husband is threatening to leave me, but if I have another baby he will stay.” He wasn’t interested in supporting her through treatment, but she was sure he could be counted on for timed intercourse.

I talked with Melinda about how unlikely it would be that having another child would fix her troubled marriage, but she insisted she wanted to try. Melinda did not get pregnant again, and the last time I spoke with her she was still begging her husband not to leave. She daily lived with the fear and dread of being left to raise her two children alone. Another tragedy.

Those stories may not be like yours, but they illustrate something important. Not being able to have a child when you so desperately want one is heartbreaking and stressful. Others who have never struggled with infertility cannot fully understand even if you try your best to explain. It becomes all-consuming to you. And yet there are worse things than infertility. The loss of your marriage would be one of them.

If you’ve struggled with infertility you know that it can put an enormous stress on even a healthy marriage. After working with such couples for 25 years, I’d like to suggest four things that will help preserve your marriage while wrestling with infertility. You don’t want to get pregnant only to discover that your marriage – the foundation of the family you are trying so hard to build – is falling apart.

4 Keys to Preserving

  1. Separate intimacy from trying to conceive whenever you can.

For you, sex may always be bound up in the idea of getting pregnant, but it’s probably not that way for your husband. You want your husband to desire YOU, not just your body. It’s just as important that you demonstrate to your husband that you desire HIM, not just his sperm.

Obviously there may be occasions when your primary motivation for intimacy is trying to conceive. You may even need to use that as the “hook” to get your husband in the mood. But when the two of you get naked together make it as much about your togetherness as possible.

During other times during the month make sure you are just as interested in intimacy as you are during your ideal fertile period. Make the conscious choice to take a mental step toward your husband. Hold on to his eyes with your eyes when he looks at you. Kiss a little longer. Find ways to celebrate your marriage. Make sex about the two of you and not primarily about the child you wish you had.

  1. Don’t use your hormones or your infertility as an excuse for bad behavior.

Sure, you’re hormonal. You’re glued to your calendar app and counting cycle days. If you’re taking medication you may be even more irritable, weepy, or physically miserable. You may feel as though your body is your enemy. You may be tempted to see your husband as the enemy because he doesn’t feel the same way you do, and he can’t fix you.

Your worst hormonal days, your monthly disappointment, your frustration at seeing your friends or family members celebrate their children, the insensitive things others say or do around you – none of those things give you an excuse to treat your husband badly. You are still responsible for the way you speak to him. This is not all about you!

You probably won’t do this perfectly. I encourage you to pray for God’s grace to rise above your own feelings and treat your husband with love and respect. If you mess up, ask him and God for forgiveness, and get up again tomorrow. Learning to feed yourself emotionally and spiritually will also help you develop the internal resilience to grow in maturity through this journey.

  1. Invest in your marriage as much as in trying to conceive.

When you were first married you probably had no trouble talking for hours, spending time doing things together, and discovering new things about each other. Those kinds of investments can easily go by the wayside as you focus on trying for a child. It doesn’t have to be that way.

You have a certain amount of money, time, and emotional energy, and how you invest those resources does vary during different seasons of life. That’s normal. But your marriage will languish if it’s neglected. It can be easy to forget how powerful you are as a wife in setting the emotional and spiritual climate in your home and marriage. Your choices in how you invest those resources now will make a difference.

Make the conscious choice to invest some of yourself – your time, money, and energy – in your relationship with the husband God has blessed you with. Spend time talking about things other than infertility. Do things together. Pray together. Don’t wait until your infertility journey is over – whatever the outcome – before taking care of your most important relationship outside of you and God.

  1. Enjoy Today, While You Wait for Your Future

Your husband is here now. Your hoped-for and prayed-for child may or may not be coming in the future. Don’t lose what you have now in the process of trying for something you have no human guarantee about.

God built into you the desire to be a mother, and that’s a good thing. But be sure you don’t neglect living along the way. If you don’t learn to be happy while trying to conceive, you’ll never be happy once you get pregnant.

And I pray God’s blessing on your heart, your infertility journey, and your marriage.

________________________

[i] Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

 

Dr Carol-Peters Tanksley is an OB-Gyn physician, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Doctor of Ministry, author and speaker. She has over 25 years of experience in helping infertile couples build their families. Her latest book Dr Carol’s Guide to Women’s Health brings together medical science, Dr Carol’s practical experience, and a faith perspective. An extensive chapter on infertility is included, but other chapters you may also find interesting include those on abnormal bleeding and PCOS, healthy eating and weight management, and finding healthy ways to deal with stress. Dr Carol invites you to join her on her website www.drcarolministries.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

 

 

 


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17 thoughts on “Preserving Your Marriage while Building Your Family

  1. I love reading your posts, Elisha. I understand exactly what Shirley went through. I had 3 miscarriages with my ex-Husband, it affected our marriage deeply and there was no coming back from it. He blamed me for all the losses, it was my body that was the problem. He grew to resent me for them. Infertility can be terrible on a marriage if you let it.
    I’m with a very understanding man now, we recently suffered a miscarriage, and he has been nothing short of amazing through the whole process. He understands how much I’ve been through and how hard I’ve worked to become a mother(still waiting for my baby bird) and all of the pain that I’ve suffered with each loss. He’s supportive and kind and I’m so happy I found a man that doesn’t blame me for the losses. We worked through our pain together and came out stronger. I know my journey has been and will continue to be a long one before I get my rainbow baby, but I know everything I’ve experienced will be worth it to finally hold my baby in my arms ❤

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  2. So just a thought… In the initial two stories that were told the husbands left. You didn’t divulge on why and maybe because you didn’t know, but from the sounds of it (especially with the second one) it sounds like the husbands were the ones giving up and leaving.

    Now my issue with the solutions are they are all based FOR the women. Being married means being partners, it means not giving up because we forget to “make sex fun” or we are hormonal, or we are heavily invested and consumed with TTC. While that must suck for the husbands to endure, imagine how hard it is the women!

    While we are the primary person who endures the brunt of TTC treatments and appointments, it is something that affects the marriage, the future possibility of a family, etc. If the husbands are truly in it, truly ready to stand by your side through it all, then is he even ready for a baby? Is he ready for the ups and downs of pregnancy hormones, the birth, the midnight cries and feedings, the poop?!

    I have been extremely lucky. Infertility at times turned me into the worst version of myself. But my husband never asked me to change, or to make it about him, or to “fix” myself. He supported me. He helped more around the house, made me dinner or planned a date night when things were stressful. If he wanted “non TTC” sex he would pursue it, and he would make it fun. He loved me unconditionally through it all. He never threatened to leave, he never pursued someone else, he never made me feel less than.

    I think it’s one of the biggest issues not just in TTC but in the world today. We all give up too easily. We give up on marriages, friendships, people we care about because it isn’t easy. So sure, if my husband tried everything, every little thing to make things better, and I was still making him miserable because of TTC, then could/should he leave….maybe…but it has been my experience, that if they truly never give up, you eventually find yourself on the other side.

    I don’t think it’s fair to lay extra guilt on women who are TTC and giving them ways to help keep their marriage strong by pleasing their husbands. If you and your husband are truly ready for a baby, a family, and everything that comes with it. He will stand by your side. Regardless of how hard it gets. Self care and therapy are always great ways to help keep yourself healthy and strong through this sometimes horrible journey.

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    • Hey girl! Such good and valid questions and points! I will let the author of the guest post respond but i did want to point out that possibly she geared the suggestions for women since almost 90 percent of my followers are women. And so perhaps she was wanting to offer up tips and suggestions for them since they are the only people they can truly control. Maybe another guest post could be geared more toward the men? Or as a couple together? I think that would also be beneficial.

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      • Thanks for your thoughtful response and questions! And I’m so happy for you that your husband has been there with you through everything. You are SO SO right that a marriage is a partnership. You don’t leave when things get tough!
        The two stories I began this post with were just to illustrate how traumatic to relationships the TTC journey can be – not to suggest that leaving is necessary, or the right thing to do.
        Elisha is right: I tailored this article to wives because that’s who Elisha’s readers are. And if I’m asked, I could have a whole lot of things to say to husbands!
        In light of all that, I believe you’ve hit on the central issue for couples in this or any significant struggle. If a couple blames each other and sees each other as the enemy, you are going to face serious problems. If a couple can see the PROBLEM – such as TTC – as something outside themselves that both husband and wife are working together to solve, then they can overcome almost anything, especially with God’s help. You’re not fighting each other; you’re fighting along side each other to accomplish the same thing. That’s a recipe for success.
        There’s nothing to be gained by dissolving into guilt. But you cannot change anyone else, including your husband. What you and I can do as women is look honestly at ourselves, see where we need to do our best, and then ask for, seek out, and accept help when we need it – from our husbands or from a professional if needed.
        Blessings to you as you and your husband continue your journey together.

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  3. Thank you so much for this post. My husband is so strong, and I often fault him because he doesn’t “feel” what I feel. I’ve been crabby, and irritable, and just down right mean. I needed to be hit between the eyes with this post. He is my biggest supporter and the closest one to understanding what is going on. I need to invest more in him and treat him better. I feel like I’ve just been awful! I know it’s normal, but you are right! I need to invest on the miracle that God gave me with my husband. That was a blessing beyond what I deserved.

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