By Rebecca Glavin
People struggling with infertility often tell me that they have no interest in sex; they do not want to have it, and it is not like it used to be. Many patients express to me that their fertility treatments have taken away sex’s intimacy and that it has become another item on their to-do lists rather than something that is shared between two partners. Unfortunately, sex being spontaneous and passionate is a distant memory for many going through infertility. Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, read on for a few of my top tips on how to help you and your partner regain connection and intimacy.
• Practice Self-Compassion. Tell yourself that it is OK that you do not feel like having sex. Tell yourself that it is OK that you are frustrated with and tired of fertility treatments. Now, believe it. Infertility is trying not only for your body and psychological well-being but also for your relationship. Accept that you might have different feelings toward sex now, in the midst of treatment, than you did before your pregnancy journey began. Do not judge yourself for this. Instead, practice self-compassion for yourself and for this change.
• Appreciate the Time You Have. At one point in your life, sex was likely something you shared with someone you loved. It was an intimate act. Now, sex might feel like a necessary step in the process of pregnancy, a means to an end. Remember that during fertility treatment, you have a team working to get you pregnant. Try to let your team worry about making a baby so that you can focus on your time with your partner. If you can appreciate the time you have with your partner, sex can begin to resemble what it used to for you and be about more than a baby.
• Forgive Your Body. Regardless of the reason for fertility treatments, know that it is not your, your body or your partner’s body’s fault. Your body is going through a lot to try to get pregnant: blood tests, ultrasounds, hormone therapies, etc. Many patients report feeling bloated, uncomfortable and not like themselves. Forgiving yourself for what you cannot control or change will help you to accept your current physical realities and, hopefully, see past them. Wanting your body to be different in the future, accepting it for how it is now, and forgiving yourself for your current experiences can all exist simultaneously. Don’t wait until you feel better to connect with your partner (your body will hopefully be changing significantly over the next 9 months); forgive your body so that you can be intimate now.
• Focus on Your Relationship. While you likely have fertility shots and ultrasounds scheduled, do you have time set aside on your calendar for date nights or other one-on-one activities with your partner? Try to schedule a time once a week that the two of you do something together, whether it’s going out to dinner, taking a walk, planting in your garden or listening to music. During this time, try not to talk about fertility or a baby. Focus on the activity and your shared experience. Be in the moment and not thinking about the future or the ifs-thens of your current treatment plan. Practicing being in the moment with your partner will help the two of you to connect more deeply.
• Just Do It. For better or worse, the more sex that you have, the more sex you want to have. Because sex begets sex, one of the best things you can do to foster a greater desire to have sex is to do it. Please know, I do not say this lightly. I understand that initiating and having sex can be an overwhelming emotional experience. In the beginning, sex may be an item on your to-do list. However, the more you are able to experience intimacy with your partner, the more likely sex will become something special and shared again.
• Kiss. Kissing is a very intimate and special encounter that you can share with your partner. Often, kissing your partner can become a chore or is forgotten altogether. Do you settle for pecks on the cheek when you walk in the door after a long day at work? You do not have to re-live your teenage years of kissing for hours, but maybe try to remember how much fun ‘making out’ can be. Our lips are full of neurons, and kissing helps us to get ready for sex by initiating our sense of touch. Even if sex does not follow your kiss and embrace, a shared physical moment between you and your partner can only help the two of you to feel more connected and intimate.
Struggling with infertility is difficult enough, losing intimacy with your significant other only makes it worse. Try practicing some of these tips in order to bring attention and awareness to your relationship with your partner. Feeling emotionally and physically close with your partner can only help you feel supported as you travel this difficult journey.
Rebecca Glavin focuses her work with individuals on wellness, both professional and personal. Rebecca’s expertise in mental health as well as professional / business skills allows her to take a comprehensive and integrated look at people’s lives and help them to make long term behavior changes. Rebecca is a Boston-native but now resides in Davidson, NC with her family. Learn more about Rebecca at www.rebeccaglavin.com