Valentine’s Day is a time to put your relationship front and centre – but if you’re having a tough fertility journey, that might be easier said than done. No one knows the challenges that come with fertility issues better than our community, so we’ve rounded up the best relationship advice from five guys who know exactly what you’re going through.
Ciaran Hannington – Fertility Health & Fitness Coach
One of the biggest challenges of any fertility journey is dealing with the unknown. It’s incredibly difficult to deal with any situation you have little to no control over. All fertility journeys are challenging and some are more difficult than others. I distinctly remember the emotional stress and heartache each failed cycle had on me and my wife. These emotions and stress put extreme pressure on our relationship, which was partly our own fault. Until you experience the ‘fertility rollercoaster’, you don’t know how you will feel, you don’t know what will happen and you don’t know how your relationship will cope.
My advice to couples facing the challenges of a fertility journey is to talk and be honest with each other, don’t be afraid to say you are struggling – and even if your partner doesn’t say it, look out for the signs that they might be too.
Make time for each other, and do the things you used to do before the worries of fertility came along. Go out for dinner, book a spontaneous trip away or whatever else that might make you smile. One of the biggest things I learnt was that it’s okay not to know what to do all the time, it’s ok to not know what to say. Sometimes a simple hug is all it takes to say ‘I’m here.’
Russell Davies – Fertility Mindset Coach
During our fertility journey, my wife said she felt lonely. Our biggest challenge was that I lived in my head. She knew what I thought but not how I felt about things. I was very disconnected from my feelings. I also thought I had to be the strong one for her, but it was not what she wanted. Women want to feel emotionally connected to their men, and that’s what was lacking for us at that time.
My advice would be for men facing a tough fertility journey is to learn to get comfortable with emotions. Learning to express how they feel, not what they think, and also to hold space for their partner’s emotion without trying to fix it or taking it personally – whilst keeping your heart open. Emotional understanding is the glue in a relationship. It helps a couple feel united and a team, whatever is going on in life. A book I often recommend is The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida.
Alex – Pursuing Fatherhood
Grieving infertility as a couple is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. It feels like an impossible task to overcome your own pain while also supporting your partner through theirs. I also felt a massive sense of guilt, seeing my wife going through such heartache, and feeling like it was my fault.
Communication is key to working through infertility grief. Just expressing the emotions of it all, and being able to sort through them together. I process emotions more internally, but opening up with a therapist and each other really helped us to connect and feel more peace about our situation. We finally started to believe that, even if we were never able to become parents, we would still be ok because we had each other.
Shaun Greenaway – Knackered Knackers
Lack of communication was our biggest problem during our fertility journey. I went inside myself, I wasn’t talking and I was struggling with who I was as a man and even though my wife was there too. I was pushing her away, going insular and that lack of communication is not good for any relationship.
My advice to anyone going through the same thing is to communicate. Don’t shut your other half out, as they are going through it with you and are in just as much pain as you are – regardless of who is dealing with infertility itself. When we started to communicate properly and started to deal with it as a team, that’s what started to shortcut our road to healing.
Also remember to still do the things you love together, don’t let infertility dictate your life. Fill your relationship cup because you need that mental break from it and it brings you closer together. Be that partnership and try to live your life to the full. As hard as it may seem – there are still smiles, laughter and love to be had.
Ian Stones – Director of TestHim
When I support couples through their fertility journey, some of the biggest relationship challenges I see are around pressure, time and communication. There are external pressures, work pressures, time pressures as well as bedroom and relationship pressures. Often I see that the woman typically takes on a lot of the research to ensure she’s doing all she can. On the other side, the man ends up worrying about his partner and the finances of treatment, as well as feeling the need to stay strong, which can mean he finds it hard to share his feelings.
Communication is key to overcoming these challenges. Make sure you talk to each other – and that’s especially important if you’re a man. Trying to stay strong and avoid talking about your emotions just makes it harder for your partner. Making a baby is a joint venture so try to research and share things together – don’t leave it all up to one person,
It’s also important to make sure you find time for each other that isn’t about fertility. Have some date nights, find a hobby you can enjoy together but equally find something you can each do to let off steam. If you’re really struggling, couples counselling or individual counselling can be an absolute godsend.