Tag Archives: infertility

How to Keep a Marriage Strong in the Face of Infertility

Thanks to the inspirational Stephanie Baffone for providing today’s insight and for sharing her heart and experience with infertility to help other marriages…

First I’d like to offer a warm thank-you to Lori for the opportunity to share some advice for couples dealing with infertility.  National Infertility Awareness Week is April 26-May 1, and Lori was gracious enough to extend an invitation to me to guest post on how couples effected by infertility can keep their marriages strong in the face of the emotional turmoil.  Thank you, Lori!

“You are both identical twins?! Wow! How many children do you guys have?” Expecting a staggering number, my husband’s and my response forlornly, has remained the same for 19 years. 

“None.” 

We anticipated categorically, our foray into parenthood would be a breeze. Not only are we both identical twins, we hail from Irish, Italian, Catholic prolific families.  My husband is one of 10, and I am one of five, my mother having had two sets of twins.  Yet our pursuit to hear our own children call us “Mommy” and “Daddy” was more tornado-like.  We didn’t see infertility coming, and the emotional carnage it left in its wake was catastrophic. With reckless regard for our feelings, it left my identity, in particular, desperate to conceive, birth and raise our own biological children, strewn, scattered and beyond recognition, with the only real feasible option to rebuild from the ground up. 

Infertility wreaks psychological havoc on both the men and women caught in its stranglehold. We live in a society where much of our adult identities center on being parents.  When parenthood doesn’t happen easily or at all, men and women individually experience a core sense of loss. Worse though, infertility leaves marriages vulnerable and some don’t always escape unscathed.

My identity as a woman was shattered, but thank God, my marriage was not.   For us, the experience strengthened our commitment. As a therapist who is intimately familiar with infertility personally and professionally, I see many couples who are trying to keep their marriages whole in the face of profound brokenness.

What is the ultimate prize?
I asked my husband recently, how he thinks couples can safeguard their marriages from falling victim to the fallout of infertility.  His tender response made my heart melt. “Steph,” he said, “couples have to get married because they love each other, not because they want to have a family.  Having children should be considered a bonus not the decisive prize.” He elaborated, “I married you because I love you. Independent of children, a couple’s life has to be full, because if creating a family doesn’t work out, you have to be enough for each other.”

His sentiment reminds me that marriages have to be strong from the start so in the face of despair, you can provide shelter for each other. So how do you do this?

Secret to a Happy Marriage
A few months ago, I wrote a guest post at Engaged Marriage titled, “So What’s the Secret to a Happy Marriage? In it I referenced a study that concluded the factor that has the most predictive value in determining whether or not a marriage would be successful is how a couple resolves conflict. 

Infertility can be riddled with discord. Couples don’t always agree to what extent they each are willing to go to achieve parenthood.  For us, luckily we agreed on our limits, but for other couples this isn’t always the case.

Another common issue is men and women grieve differently. Men are often (but by no means always) task grievers.  Women by and large are more emotive.  It is important for couples to understand that neither way of grieving is better than the other; they are simply different.  I often find in my practice when the couple gains a better understanding of the differences, they don’t feel so lonely and misunderstood.  

Likewise, couples going through infertility who find they are struggling with a sense of disconnect from each other, would be wise to seek professional help.  More often than not, couples dealing with infertility benefit from learning a few basic, simple techniques to help them communicate their needs and feelings more effectively.

So, how can couples experiencing infertility ride out the storm while limiting injury to their marriage?

  • Consider children a bonus not the ultimate prize
  • Be proactive and seek professional help at the fist sign of disconnect
  • Learn to communicate effectively
  • Understand that women and men grieve differently

Resources

There is a proliferation of useful information at our fingertips nowadays thanks to the Internet, but some of my most trusted resources still include timeless books like: Fighting For Your Marriage, His Needs, Her Needs,  When Men Grieve, and Grieving Beyond Gender

Couples can and do escape irreparable damage from infertility by being proactive. Reach out for help in creating your marriage’s roadmap to survival.  Infertility is hard enough on us as individuals; don’t let your marriage fall victim.

Stephanie also wrote a post about how to reach out to friends who have infertility

Stephanie “Aunt Steph” Baffone, LPCMH, NCC is a licensed, board certified mental health therapist and writer whose guiding principle is if you have wisdom from which others might benefit you are obligated to pass it on.  She is in private practice and specializes in grief and loss, couples counseling and issues related to infertility. By relation, 39 nieces and nephews call Stephanie “Aunt Steph” a role in which she takes pure delight. She writes a bi-monthly column at Savvy Auntie and blogs about love, loss and life at Stephanie’s Stories. The consummate, Italian hostess, she loves to have visitors, so stop by and say, “Hello!”  You can also find her on Twitter at @Sbaffone or email her at sbaffone@me.com.

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Marriage Often Follows the Unplanned Route

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

 

A young, married blogger friend has written eloquently and honestly about her recent struggle to become pregnant, and her search for her current marriage identity as she awaits their desired child. It called to mind so many interviews with wise couples who have walked the unplanned path in marriage. Kathleen graciously offered me a guest post so I could share these thoughts with her readers. The wisdom I learned from these couples may be able to give insight to other struggles you may face.

The following post was published Feb. 3rd at www.ProjectMonline.com.

During the last two years, I’ve interviewed happily married couples who improved their marriage through adversity. If you ask around, you’ll find nearly every marriage eventually faces adversity. All are changed by it. Some marriages use it as a catalyst for unity or growth, and some are so devastated they do not survive.

Their stories convey that life does not always (or even usually) go as planned. They all had a vision for how their life would go, and the vision was far easier than the reality. That is not to say that having a plan didn’t help some of them get back on track, but we don’t control when life veers us off our planned route.

When these couples got married—some more than a few decades ago—they didn’t plan on having a child with autism, or learning their husband was addicted to drugs. They didn’t plan on having a miscarriage or struggling for 12 years with infertility. They didn’t plan on being separated for three years during a war, or suffering from depression or cancer. They didn’t plan on periods where the passion leaked out of their relationship. They didn’t plan on overcoming infidelity or recovering from stranger rape. They didn’t plan on losing their bank accounts and real estate assets in a financial crisis. They didn’t plan on their parents not supporting their marriage because of the color of their spouse’s skin. They didn’t plan on having their own baby die in their arms.

The couples I interviewed experienced all of these things. They didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of resilience and hope. I share their stories, their failings, and their near failures, because I think we doubt we could survive given the same obstacles. We think they must be somehow better than us. When we follow their stories, we learn how success is possible.

Thankfully, most of us (we hope) will not experience the level of crisis many of them did. But don’t kid yourself into thinking your marriage will be easy and bump-free, that there will be no valleys next to the hills. Even when things do go right eventually, they often don’t go right in our perfect timing.

For many of these couples, the depth of the valleys only heightened their hilltop experiences. For example, the couple who was infertile for 12 years now has three children (one adopted, two born naturally). They don’t take any minute of time with their children for granted, and they created a ministry to support other couples struggling with infertility. The couple who overcame infidelity now teaches other couples how to affair-proof their marriages. They completely rebuilt their marriage into something much stronger than before and have a love and passion most would envy.  Even the couples who lost children said the painful lessons in their lives have taught them immeasurable lessons—and that they wouldn’t go back and remove the pain if it removed what they had learned. I was truly amazed by the grace shown by them.

Another lesson coming out of this: When you are tempted to be jealous of an especially unified or loving couple, be aware that they have probably traveled some rough roads together to get there. You have no idea of their journey, so don’t be envious of their destination. You also don’t know the pain they may be hiding.

All these couples did plan to spend their lives together. That’s one plan that worked out—as a result of their commitment, love and hard work. While they didn’t always come together initially, they did become more unified by learning their spouse understood their suffering better than anyone else. Their bonds were strengthened; their love was heightened.

If you are facing difficulty in your life, share your sorrows and challenges with your mate so he or she can walk through it with you. Consider that this valley, while you would never choose it, may be something that makes you stronger as a person and as a couple.

Lori Lowe is writing a narrative nonfiction book called First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: How to Improve Your  Marriage through Adversity. She also blogs at www.LifeGems4Marriage.com. Lori has been happily married to her husband, Ming, for 14 years. They live in Indianapolis with their two children, a crazy cat and two aquatic frogs.