The holidays are upon us. As the song goes: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Short days. Warm clothes. Scarves. Blankets. Wood fires. Mulled cider. And, of course, “get home early honey, it’s that time of the month!” Does this make you “Frosty the Snowman?”
“When sex goes from being fun to being work, it can wreak havoc on your relationship,” says Dr. Qin Fan, noted therapist in San Francisco. In addition to having to schedule or “time” what used to be recreational sex, infertility treatments can be an emotional rollercoaster. So how do you best support each other in the face of what can be very trying times?
Dr Qin Fan offers this advice:
- Know that infertility affects every aspect of life. Intimacy, sex drive, erections, work-life balance, emotions and finances are all easily rattled.
- Remember that you are in this together. Face things together if you can by becoming informed and involved with the quest. By being more united, you’ll be stronger as a couple, and also more considerate as a partner.
- Recognize where you are. Infertility is a journey and you and your partner may have different approaches or paceswhile on it. Keep communicating along the path and remind each other of yourcommon goal of building a family.
- Talk with your partner: Sounds easy, right? You’d be amazed how often partners become “cocooned” by their own emotional anguish about infertility and clam up. Add to thisdepression, anxiety, guilt, shock and anger and you have a recipe for a marriage disaster. Speak openly about how you feel and be sure to listen to your partner’s feelings.
- Balance the need for privacy with support. What do you tell your family and friends? Isolation is known to be detrimental to a couple’s relationship during infertility treatment. However, involving family and friends can reduce stress, or it may be distressing and distancing. So, first decide what to say and to whom. Second, agree with your partner on this matter. Regardless of what you say to others, stay on the same page.
- Redefine intimacy. Maybe it used to mean sex, sex and sex. Broaden it now. Intimacy can mean great dinner conversation, cuddling under a blanket watching a favorite movie, and getting a big hug. Tell your partner when you need that hug, splurge at a bargain hotel some night, embellish each other with a sumptuous breakfast, and take time to reminisce about how you met.
- Plan sex, but more importantly, anticipate it. Remember the early days of your relationship, when you looked forward to seeing each other and what might happen? Create anticipation. Buy flowers or chocolate, bring home wine (not much!) or write a suggestive note, text or email.
- Take care of yourself. A healthy mind needs a healthy body. Set time aside regularly, say once a week to take walks, bike, get a couple’s massage, do yoga or dancing class and rejuvenate. Exercise will boost your energy at a time when you need it most.
- Seek more support. Psychotherapy, counseling, and support groups can be safe spaces for you to explore thoughts and feelings that might be otherwise difficult for you to discuss.
Take time during the holidays to slow down. Appreciate what you do have: each other, your health and some pretty important dreams. Turn that “Little Drummer Boy” into “O Holy Night!”