Supporting Your Female Partner Through Infertility

3 Ways to Comfort and Communicate

No one is fully prepared for the emotions you feel when you’re struggling with infertility.  Every couple dealing with fertility issues or undergoing fertility treatment rides an emotional roller coaster, which may include anxiety, depression, anger or feeling out of control.  It’s not unusual to grieve if an IVF cycle fails, or to mourn for the family you fear you’ll never have.  Men and women tend to react differently to the challenges, and that can cause further strain on a relationship.

That said, a male partner can really help his female partner cope with the emotional side effects of infertility by listening, communicating and comforting.  And the female partner can aid in this by communicating more clearly herself.

Don’t Deny Your Feelings, or Hers

Men tend to compartmentalize their feelings about infertility and only deal with them when the situation forces it, such as during testing or doctor visits.  There’s still a lot of demand in our society for men to “suck it up” and “be a man,” which usually means denying or not expressing feelings.  Men shouldn’t expect a female partner to feel the same way they do or to be able to hide their emotions.  And women need to realize that not expressing emotions doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t feel them.  Give each other space to “feel your feels,” and don’t be surprised or angry if your feelings are not the same.

If either or both partners find their emotions too hard to deal with or feel their relationship is under too much stress, it might be the right time to get professional help.  Your fertility center may have a counselor or can refer you to a therapist experienced in dealing with the emotions of fertility treatment.  Sometimes it helps a lot to share what you are both feeling with someone who is impartial and can help you cope better.

Communicate More Clearly

Many people have trouble expressing what they want.  They’re hurt that their partner doesn’t “just know” what they need.  Both partners need to work at communicating better during the stresses of fertility treatment.  An easy way is to ask for what you want, in a nonjudgmental way, or to offer something you think your partner might like.  “Would a hug feel good?” or “Do you want to talk?” can open a door to comfort.

Remember to Comfort

Both women and men like kindness.  Small things can be comforting in stressful times, whether it’s a little gift of something they like (chocolate!) or talking about fun times they’ve had.  A thoughtful card, ordering dinner out, taking on extra chores around the house—small things can say a lot.  And not expecting thanks for doing that gets a guy bonus points.  Be nice to each other, be thoughtful.  A little kindness goes a long way.  Just remember, when you start that family at last, the fun—and the stress—is just beginning!  Good relationship habits now will strengthen you for all the days to come.