Fertility struggles are a tremendous stressor, both individually and as a member of a couple. My fertility counseling with couples centers on the following five areas. Which areas we focus on depends on you – some couples want help with all five, while others find that there is really just one or two that they need to focus on. If any of the following rings true for you and your partner, counseling may help.
How infertility affects interactions with the outside world: Infertility is often very isolating. Friends and family often say the wrong thing, asking intrusive questions or minimizing the problem with comments like, “Just relax!” or “there’s always next month!” Sometimes couples want help strategizing how to support each other in dealing with the outside world. Sometimes they find they have real differences of style around this issue, with one partner wanting to be very open and the other desiring much more privacy.
How infertility affects interactions with each other: Fertility issues can take an enormous toll within a relationship. Sex becomes less spontaneous and sometimes can be tinged with anxiety or grief. One partner may become quite depressed and the other partner doesn’t know how to help, or may feel inadequate or resentful. This can lead to a feeling of isolation within the couple – isolation from the one other person whom we feel “should” understand what we’re going through.
Thinking through the emotional and developmental implications of decisions we make on the fertility journey: Fertility interventions require us to make big life decisions that we (1) have no expertise in and (2) have really, really big emotions about – never a great decision-making combo! Often we need help putting ourselves in another person’s shoes, whether that person is our partner, our future child, or someone helping us achieve our dream of a family by donating an egg or sperm, becoming a surrogate, or placing a child for adoption. Often we need help explaining our feelings to people we love. For example, a couple may find themselves at odds when one person’s religious convictions prohibit certain fertility procedures, causing the other person to feel he or she is being deprived of the best possible medical care. A woman using a donor egg may be terrified of telling her child about the donor, believing that it will impede her relationship with her child and cause the child to favor the father, not thinking about what a secret will do to the relationship.
Fertility issues have caused old wounds in the relationship to surface, causing a generalized level of distress in every day interactions and at times making it feel like the partnership is at risk. At these times, fertility issues like boundaries and decision-making can feel like lit matches in a room filled with gasoline. But believe it or not, it’s possible to work through significant relationship issues and fertility issues together. Using EFT as our guide, we can help you regain the sense of trust and teamwork necessary to face life’s challenges.