Learn to communicate with each other about infertility.
Recognize that infertility, whether it’s a temporary situation or a definitive diagnosis, is something to be grieved, and that men and women process it differently. Wherever you are on the path of infertility, it’s important to recognize the differences in how you feel about infertility, and respect the way each of you expresses those feelings. Rather than making assumptions or jumping to conclusions (for example, assuming your husband isn’t affected by infertility because he doesn’t cry or talk about it), communicate with each other. Share honestly about how you’re feeling, and if you don’t know how your spouse feels, ask! Check in with each other regularly, and talk about the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of infertility on you and your marriage. Be honest with each other, and if you are actively trying to conceive, be open about when you might need to take a break (for example, from charting, medicated cycles, or from the pressure to conceive in general).
Grow in marital intimacy by learning about your spouse.
By its very nature, marriage is an “intimate communion of life and love,” and “God himself is the author of marriage” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1603). God Himself is the author of your marriage, and He means for it to bring you joy, happiness, and security; and to be a place of healing for you and your spouse. A season of infertility can be an opportunity to grow in intimacy by learning more about your spouse. For example, you could seek to understand your own and your spouse’s temperament (Recommended Book: The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett), or learn about the way your spouse prefers to give and receive love (Recommended Book: The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman). If your partner’s primary love language is not one that comes naturally to you, consider setting a goal for yourself, like expressing love to your spouse in their own love language at least once a day.
Acknowledge that you and your spouse are a family.
The Church recognizes that husband and wife are a family now: “The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1661). Focus on building up the unity of your marriage. Enjoy your time together, plan vacations alone and with friends and extended family, start family traditions, have family photos taken. Make your home a domestic church, a place where God dwells through love, hospitality and your delight in each other as “helpmates.” (Genesis 2:20, 23)
Sharing our bodies with each other as husband and wife is a deeply bonding privilege of marriage and a sign of the covenant of love given in our wedding vows. Prayer is an act that also creates intimacy between husband, wife and God. In prayer we are vulnerable, opening our heart’s desires to God, and when we pray as a couple, we open our hearts to each other. Set aside time to pray together, and use it as an opportunity to ask God for what you need and want. But make your prayer time primarily about drawing closer to God, asking Him to strengthen your marriage and help you to love each other more deeply and generously. Don’t be afraid to speak your intentions out loud, and remember to pray for your in-laws, your spouse’s work and projects, and other things that are important to him or her!
Find fruitfulness now.
Whether or not you are actively trying to conceive, fruitfulness is not something that is “on hold” until there is a baby. Your marriage is fruitful already, through the love you share with each other, and the ways you reach out to others. Nurturing your relationship as a couple, cooking, gardening and keeping your home are all ways your love bears fruit. You give life to others when you exercise hospitality, perform works of charity, and even in how you do your job. There are so many ways your marriage witnesses to God’s love for the world, and countless opportunities to be a source of life, encouragement and support to others. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where He needs you.
Commit to weekly date nights.
Get dressed up for a night on the town, or dress down for a night of pub food and games, see a movie or just hang out and reconnect with each other. Stay-at-home dates, like ordering takeout and playing a board game or reading a book together, can be fun too. You might even form a “mini-book club” with your spouse, which can be a great way to communicate with and learn from each other. The point is to look for ways to intentionally build intimacy in your marriage, and get back to the fun you had together when your relationship was new.
Find a community with other couples experiencing infertility.
Springs in the Desert offers resources, a podcast, Lenten virtual small groups, and in-person small group curricula for women experiencing infertility. Through these groups, you can grow in relationship with others who understand and who are also seeking hope and healing themselves. When we share our struggles with each other, our burdens become just a bit lighter, and we show each other that it is possible to find healing in Jesus and new life in our marriages. If you’d like to start a pilot small group in your diocese or parish, email us at email@example.com and we’ll help you get started!