The impact infertility plays in life is tremendous. When faced with delayed dreams to start or grow a family, personal relationships are inevitably altered, in both good ways and bad.
But how? To gather a variety of experiences on this topic, I did what any other normal millennial would do - I turned to social media. There, a community of women who have dealt with or are dealing with infertility, began to share and the words poured in:
It definitely affected my relationship with everyone in my life. I was so sad, angry and wanted nothing to do with anyone.
My family is supportive but they don’t fully realize how much of your daily life changes. I feel like they think I obsess over it.
It has strengthened my relationship with my husband, but it has been very trying.
I have drifted quite far from my best friend after I felt she was being insensitive and downplayed our struggle.
Infertility puts a strain on your relationship with friends and family when they completely ignore what’s going on.
It strengthened my marriage and relationship with my son. It taught me to be grateful for every moment.
It has caused tension and discontent in our marriage. There’s nothing like being told when you can and cannot be intimate.
My friends became uncomfortable around me when they became pregnant or the topic of children came up.
The words continue, but the themes are clear – infertility can change everything. And with data showing that stress levels of women with infertility are nearly equal to women with cancer, heart disease, or recovering from a heart attack,1 it’s no surprise that the stress would affect relationships.
On your marriage
Medical bills. Invasive treatments. Timed intercourse. Hormones. Mood swings. All of these things can contribute to stress in a marriage. Many shared that infertility brought their marriage closer, only when communication was made a top priority, grace was given in hard times, and each spouse supported one another. Additionally, it was noted that having a similar foundation in faith motivated couples to not allow infertility to ruin their marriage, but it wasn’t easy or without tears.
Sadly, not every relationship makes it. Disagreements on when to stop pursuing a family, difficulties with coping after a miscarriage, and overall resentment can occur.
My husband ended up asking for a divorce … It was then I knew I was about to lose what mattered the most to me so I went to get help. After therapy, our relationship is now based off of love, friendship, communication, support and health, not just getting pregnant.
In your friendships
Infertility tends to make or break friendships, primarily due to the response that occurs once sharing happens. The fear of saying the wrong thing can create a silence that becomes unbearable, resulting in feelings of isolation. Friendships are tested when others around them become pregnant and emotions of guilt seep in.
One friend stopped talking to me when she found out she was pregnant because she thought I wasn’t happy enough for her.
Couples struggling with infertility may begin to avoid social interactions with others that have kids due to anxiety, incompatibility, or feelings that their struggles are minimized. It can be difficult to navigate jealously, bitterness, and resentment and without intentionality and investment, friendships can fizzle.
On the flip side, many friends respond with love, sympathy and care.
You begin to learn who your real friends are.
New friendships evolve, based on similar experiences. Friends that simply listen and don’t attempt to offer suggestions are treasured. It was consistently shared that validation of the struggle was an underlying component to a friendship surviving.
With your family
Infertility creates vulnerability and an opportunity for families to grow closer together. Relationships with parents and siblings can be strained when flippant comments are made, however, for many, it provides an opportunity to share openly, honestly, and be supported. Tension can occur when a set of parents give more attention to siblings with children and unspoken frustrations occur.
Preparing our family for our treatments opened up communication that I didn't have with them before. Their support was invaluable!
In it all, an underlying theme is many relationships will survive the hardship of infertility when a simple question is asked: “How can I support you during this?” When care, compassion, and validation are given, the growth is remarkable and relationships are strengthened for a lifetime.
The psychological impact of infertility and its treatment. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/The-psychological-impact-of-infertility-and-its-treatment