At a time when spontaneous disappears from an infertile couple’s vocabulary, they can still find ways to keep the romance alive while their love life suffers. Thoughtful gestures—a call during the day, delivering a long kiss, surprise notes in a briefcase—all contribute to strengthening both love and romance.

Besides planning special times of physical intimacy, what can couples do to keep the romance alive? Here are some suggestions for developing or strengthening that essential relational intimacy.

Keep Talking to Each Other

Go ahead and talk about anxieties, fears, frustrations, hopes, dreams, and feelings of inadequacy. The goal is oneness, which can only come from the understanding that follows honest expression.

How we communicate is as important as the fact that we communicate. Making “I” statements instead of “you” statements makes the wording of negative feelings less threatening. For example, “You don’t even care about how I feel,” could be rephrased, “I feel isolated and alone—like my feelings are unimportant.” This communicates the primary emotion while removing the accusation.

Before we can work out our differences, we have to know clearly what they are. It is normal to feel guilt, anger, envy, grief, sadness, and isolation. An important part of working through these negative emotions is having and giving the freedom to express them.

Every relationship has value beyond reproduction. So talk about what you value in your relationship, too. One husband writes, “Maybe it’s good that we fertility patients can’t always have sex when we want it—‘down’ times can force us to spend some well-deserved time talking.

Communicate by Your Actions That “We’re in This Thing Together”

Part of making this “our” problem instead of “his” or “her” problem might mean you go with your husband to “be there” during his difficult test or you escort your wife to her regularly scheduled sonogram. Showing up for doctor’s appointments alone month after month can increase feelings of isolation. Particularly during the first few inseminations, wives like to have their husbands present. As one wife said, “I don’t want my husband to be in another zip code while I’m lying on the table trying to conceive his child.” It’s also comforting to know someone will be with you or waiting for you while you undergo day surgery or a painful procedure.

As one wife said, “I don’t want my husband to be in another zip code while I’m lying on the table trying to conceive his child.

Take Periodic Breaks

Many infertility patients who would snicker at folks who use lucky rabbits’ feet or giggle when they hear about people who fear black cats hold to their own hidden superstition. It goes like this: If you take a break for one cycle, you will lose the only change you will ever have to conceive. But couples need occasional breaks to “recharge” if they’re going to endure treatment for the long haul.

In addition to taking periodic breaks from treatment, find ways to give yourself emotional mini-breaks. For example, order pizza instead of making dinner sometimes. Let the carpet stay dirty for a few more days if you’re not up to doing as much housework. Pay someone else to mow the lawn occasionally.

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Find Other Outlets for Verbal Needs

Consider joining an infertility support group as a couple, or, if your spouse prefers not to go, individually. Support group members won’t ever tell you, “Relax and you’ll get pregnant” or “You’re probably trying too hard.” Many husbands have breathed a sigh of relief when their wives have found “infertility buddies” and thus no longer depended on them alone for support.

Connecting with sensitive people at church is another possibility. Numerous references to spiritual gifts tell us that God made us to need one another and to depend on one another for encouragement.

Respect That Financial Strain Brings Enormous Stress on the Strongest of Marriages

Infertility is expensive. And we’re not talking about medium bucks here. We’re talking about serious money. In any given month, couples can spend from one hundred to multiple thousands of dollars on treatment, and adoption in many cases is a five-figure investment. Most husbands and wives have to refrain from doing some pleasurable, perfectly acceptable things to “stay the course.” It’s important when blowing through this kind of cash that both partners share the conviction to press ahead.

Bt what if you disagree? What if after communicating effectively you find yourself more upset because you discover that you feel differently about how you plan to handle the “what next”?

Refuse to Manipulate

“My husband said a definite ‘no’ to adoption that brought about our being ‘in a different place,’” writes a woman who ten years later is an adoptive mom. “We needed to talk about our feelings, our fears, how our lives would change, and what each of us was willing to give. We had to make certain that building a family was what we really wanted, not just what was expected of us. This was no overnight decision. In time I learned that my husband was trying to spare me from the disappointment of failed adoptions. For us the key was communication. Pressuring another partner into a quick decision will never work in the long run.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The apostle Paul compared the husband-wife relationship to that of Christ and the church. In the same way the church is to bring our requests and express our emotions to the Lord, every wife should know that she can graciously and freely express her feelings to her husband, even if they differ from his.

Yet husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for her. Christ’s example of selfless sacrificial love again and again demonstrates that there’s no place in the Christian home for a ruthless dictator—or even a benevolent one. In areas of differences, Christian couples should seek unity in making decisions together.

Feeling stressed out over a crisis situation is a normal response, and infertility weighs pretty heavily on the stress scale. It takes hard work, self-sacrifice, and right priorities to strengthen the marriage relationship while enduring sexual, financial, and communication crises. But many couples now look back and say, “After infertility, I feel like we can conquer anything together!”

Taken from When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden © Copyright 2010 by Sandra Glahn & William Cutrer, M.D. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.