Family life

How to take care of your relationship through infertility

Find your way through infertility together with these tips from our relationship columnist Liza Finlay.

By Liza Finlay
couple comforting one another

For many couples struggling to conceive, grief and anger can be constant companions. What do you do with the grief? Where do you put the anger?

Read more: 5 sex secrets for happy parents>

Often the relationship becomes the repository for all that pain and suffering. But it doesn’t have to. Let’s break it down and work it out.

No known cause Those are the heartbreaking words heard by many couples suffering fertility issues. The sad truth is that doctors still can’t explain why some couples fail to conceive.

The trouble is we aren’t programmed to accept “no known cause.” We don’t like limbo, we find grey areas exceedingly uncomfortable and we can’t abide no-fault (in insurance or life). Why?

Well, first because without something tangible to pin fault on, we feel powerless. (“What now?”) We have ample data to warn us that powerlessness and stress go hand in hand. The more powerless you feel, the more trapped, the greater the sense of anger and anxiety.


And secondly because, let’s face it, it feels really good to have someone to blame. It gives us a really convenient place to put our pain and anger. So, typically, we make one of two decisions. Either…

“I’m to blame”


“He’s to blame.”

With that settled we can continue to self-flagellate or use our spouse as our whipping boy. Not good.


Have you ever heard that Zen expression, “Submit to the chaos”? Well, you need to submit to the not knowing. Stop seeking someone to blame. Accept that some things truly are No Fault.

Does this leave you powerless? No. You can keep trying to conceive, or you can seek alternate solutions. That’s up to you. But the key to preventing powerlessness from consuming you is Movement (yes, that capital M is intentional). I’m going to let you in on a little secret (and perhaps even save you an expensive therapy bill). A key tool used in therapy is Movement—change the behaviour and the feelings follow. So, make calls, research, discuss, reach out. Move.

Known cause Great—now we have someone to blame, right? Wrong. The person with “the problem” isn’t deserving of our ire, but rather our compassion. You think it’s tough for you? Imagine how he/she feels. Flip the switch from anger to empathy. Think it’s not that easy? Think again. Flip. The. Switch.

Now, with that taken care of, let’s get back to first principles. You walked down the aisle together, or have made a commitment to one another, and you can get through this together, too. As a team.

First, get into solution mode. What are your options? Next steps? Use your collective strengths and resources to Move (there’s that word again) into problem solving.


Will that make all your anxiety go away? No. But it will help. And what pain and uncertainty is left can be shared. Together. These days of darkness and uncertainty can be borne — and in fact they can bring you two closer together, if you share your pain without recrimination.

Sometimes infertility occurs after a couple has already had a child. Learn more about secondary infertility.

What are we missing? Share your story by posting a comment below or emailing Liza at

How to take care of your relationship through infertility
This article was originally published on Feb 21, 2012

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