You have fertility issues. You want a child, but your partner doesn’t. As a mental health nurse, I am presented with this dilemma more than you might think. Common advice to this problem is: communicate better.
However, there is little advice on:
- How to communicate effectively
- What to do practically about this very real issue that is silently plaguing so many couples.
Fertility problems can be devastating. They can leave a question mark hanging over our heads about our futures and this uncertainty can lead to stress and anxiety. When you are in such a situation, it is natural to want the unconditional support of your other half. The problem arises when your partner is a large part of the reason why you are feeling stuck. If this is something you are going through, there are some practical things you can do to work through the mechanics of this.
1. Having “The Talk"
Know Your ‘Why’
Do you really want children? Why? Is it because of societal pressure? Is it part of a wider belief and value system? Do you feel it will solidify commitments within your relationship? Do you truly have a desire to carry, birth and raise a child? Knowing your ‘why’ is the foundation for any decision you will go on to make.
When To Have “The Talk”
This will be unique to every relationship, however, if you are nervous about having “The Talk”, then consider raising the topic whilst doing another low-stress activity, like going for a walk, which may just take the pressure off a little bit. To add to this, I will suggest to avoid having the conversation:
- during an argument
- after sex
- when either of you are hungry, tired or stressed.
You both need a fair opportunity to think clearly and rationally, free from influence of any external biases.
How To Approach “The Talk”
When it comes to having “The Talk”, avoid confrontation, opting instead for a non-judgmental approach. Discuss things from a place of genuine intrigue, trying to understand what influences have led them to feel this way, and look for opportunities to provide assurances wherever you can.
Remember, however, that the conversation is not all about them. You have emotional and practical needs too. If during the conversation, you need support and reassurance, then communicate this, so that your interaction is balanced.
What To Consider
Why don’t they want children? Is it something they don’t want now or something they never want? Is this a preference or are they adamantly against it? How deeply is this embedded into their values? What anxieties do they have? Can any of these be worked on with support and commitment?
There are usually underlying reasons for resistance and sometimes the person does not know what they are. During the course of your discussions, if you can identify these and commit to working on them, this could be greatly beneficial to both of you.
Carrying on with impartiality, consider if there are any alternative ways of getting what you want. Are there any compromises that you feel comfortable making? Is fostering an option? Adoption? Talk in detail about your life with and without children, and consider how both of these options make you feel. Often times, men can forget that there is a time pressure women face that cannot be ignored, so it may be helpful to remind him of this, and how it may be influencing your perspective.
After “The Talk"
Take time to think things through, and decide between you what feels like a reasonable amount of time within which to check-in with each other. You may even want to consider a timeframe for when a decision should be made. It is essential that you are on the same page with the things that you have control over. Agree to not pressure each other in this time, but allow yourselves to be open and available for non-judgmental communication along the way.
2. Actions For Fertility Issues
In this time, whilst reflecting on the next chapter of your lives, prepare yourself by getting fertility assessments done. You need to be fully informed before you take any steps, as whichever direction you choose to take, the decision will be life-changing.
The first thing you should do is speak to your GP. It would be helpful if you have some details about your history at hand, e.g. date of last cycle, average length and regularity of cycle, any significant features of your periods. You will then be given advice on current management, or referred on for physical examinations. Make sure to voice any questions and concerns you have along the way.
In the meantime, work on maintaining optimum health. Weight can become an obstacle if you are not within a healthy BMI range, and this can delay fertility treatments. So consider all aspects of your physical health, including exercise and diet, and see if there are any changes that you can start implementing now.
3. Take Time To Reflect
Give yourselves time and space during each process and use this time to reflect on whether your goals and what you want from life are still aligned. Ultimately, the foundations of a relationship need to be right for it to be successful. If what you both want is in direct conflict, ask yourself honestly whether you will be able to live with the restriction of your partner’s decision, without truly feeling any resentment.
Don’t be angry if they do not want the same things as you. You do not have to agree on everything, and it will most likely not be resolved in one conversation. However, if they are adamant that they never want children, and you still feel strongly about it, then avoid spending any time passively hoping that one day this will change. Make your decisions as though ‘no’ means ‘no forever’, even if it involves facing some tough realities about what this means for the future of your relationship.
Therapy is underrated when it comes to such issues. It can support in communicating on a deeper level and ask questions from an unbiased perspective. This can help you both to consider an alternative viewpoint, and allow you to express your emotions in a way that is non-destructive and conducive towards a healthy relationship. It can help you to identify possible compromises, or it may even help you to accept that there aren’t any. Either way, it can support you through the process of this too.
Therapy can also help you to manage the layers of complex thoughts and emotions you may experience as a result of having fertility issues. Remember that there are many things going on simultaneously, and tackling them head on can help you to get to the best place that you can be.
5. Face The Reality
Just like with any life change, if you are unable to get on board with each other or come to an agreement, and you know that this is not something either of you will be able to make peace with - then it maybe time to accept that this chapter of your life might be coming to a close.
Life is tough, relationships are not static, and some challenges you might not be able to overcome together. You only get one chance at life, and whatever decision you make, you will need to make peace with, as it is a decision you will need to live with for the rest of your life. If what you desperately want is a child, then do not allow yourself to be robbed of the opportunity of fulfilling something this important to you. Resentment can and often does lead to problems further down the line, so do not feel pressured into making a choice against what your heart is telling you.
More often than not, if the previous steps are followed, it does not need to come to this. However, if ultimately you are unable to come to a resolution, then take assurance in knowing that some of life’s toughest decisions, can lead to life’s biggest rewards.
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