(By Leandie Buys)

When couples find out that their dream of building a family together may not be realised, they face a massive obstacle in the development of their relationship…

Dealing with the emotional and physical impact of infertility can have a devastating emotional effect on a relationship… or it can be something that the couple conquers together – bringing them closer than they have ever been before.

1.     Infertility is an emotional roller coaster ride

Dealing with infertility in a relationship is similar to going through the grieving process, and everyone deals with it differently. Men and women react in different ways to the crisis, and maintaining a strong bond and communication during this period is essential to the success of the relationship.

Not only does infertility affect the relationship between a couple, it can affect their relationship with their friends and family, and can even impact on their careers.

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Infertility treatment is costly, and the added financial pressure could cause a rift between the couple. The added stress could also lead to further health concerns. Infertility treatment may even result in the woman having to take a lot of time off of work – and her career could suffer as a result.

2.     Don’t withdraw from social support

Couples end up seeing their sex life as a measure of success or failure, and they may withdraw from one another as they try to cope.

When a friend announces a pregnancy, couples facing infertility may find it difficult to celebrate with them, and may withdraw from their friends and, ultimately their support group.

It is important to try to maintain strong bonds with family and friends during this difficult time. They may not know how to help you handle the situation, so it’s important to tell them what you need. Ask for support, not advice (there is nothing worse than listening to endless old wives tales about infertility cures!)

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3.     Seek counselling to help cope

Seeking counselling during this difficult time is a good way for the couple to cope with the situation. A therapist will help guide them through the infertility treatment process, and if necessary, through the grieving process.

4.     Couples need to learn to:

  • Communicate with each other about how they feel, what they need and how the situation is impacting them emotionally, physically and spiritually
  • Acknowledge each other’s feelings even if they don’t necessarily understand them
  • Make sure they continue living life. Infertility cannot become an all-consuming issue in the relationship. It must not prevent the couple from socialising and exploring their hobbies and passions
  • Learn to manage stress, and develop healthy coping skills
  • Share in the process together – tackle it as a team