Bearing the inconceivable - how do relationships survive the possibility of infertility?

It's usually (though not always) something we take for granted - as a couple, we make the decision to start a family, and assume that, although it may take a while, it'll happen sooner or later (and - at least initially - it's lots of fun trying!). For some couples though, time goes on and on either without being able to conceive at all, or enduring the tragedy of unsuccessful pregnancies. It's not too surprising that for some, this may start to take a toll on their relationship. It may become hard to remember when sex didn't feel like a chore. Complicated feelings of grief can result in a tendency to blame ourselves and/or our partner for what we start to feel is a failure, to question the quality of our relationship, of our partner's or our own commitment to each other, or to becoming parents. One partner's response to that grief may be quite different from the other's (for example - I may withdraw into myself, into work or other activities in order to cope; my partner may assume that this means I'm not committed to trying to fall pregnant. Alternatively, I might become angry or irritable - an often misunderstood form of grieving - and in doing so cause my partner to feel like s/he's 'walking on eggshells' whenever s/he tries to come close).

It's vitally important to seek out additional support if you're facing the difficult journey of dealing with infertility in your relationship. Even in the strongest relationship, it's sometimes just too hard to support your partner enough, especially when trying to manage and understand your own difficult responses to the situation. Whether you seek out counselling, or simply reach out for informal support through your network of family and friends, make sure you have a place - separately as well as together - where it's OK to talk about how you're going, to be able to process ambivalent or difficult responses without feeling like you're being judged or making the listener uncomfortable.  It may also be important to have a place where it's OK NOT to talk or even think about it,  just to have some respite from the issue, however briefly!

Till next post, Vivienne

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