The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

Infertility And Its Impact on Marriage

Sept. 26, 2018

Infertility is the inability to conceive a child after at least 1 year of trying. Turns out about 10% of US couples experience infertility, and of those, about half will eventually conceive while the other half remain permanently infertile[i]. That’s actually a pretty high number: 1 in 10 couples struggle with this issue, 1 in 20 permanently face it. Challenges of Infertility As anyone who is going through this themselves will know, infertility can be a hard thing to live with. I want to begin by normalizing some of the strain that infertility puts on marriages[ii]: Meaning. Many couples see having children as a natural part of marriage, and being unexpectedly unable to do so affects their sense of meaning and purpose in life. Expectations. Similarly, much of society sees having children as the norm, so being unable may lead to disapproval from family and friends, and high levels of pressure to conceive. 83% of couples feel some form of pressure to conceive, most commonly from their spouse or parents, or from friends and other family members. Blame and guilt. The spouse who is experiencing the infertility problems may feel high levels of guilt and shame at the distress they are causing to their spouse Physical. Taking treatment for infertility can be physically demanding and can also lead to sexual performance problems. Financial. Seeking help from doctors can take up a lot of time and also cost a lot. These are real issues. But as far as your marriage goes, it is how you deal with these challenges that determines whether or not infertility will affect your marriage, and the quality of your life overall. Research shows that infertility can negatively impact marriage, but can also bring unexpected positives. 25% of women and 21% of men reported that their marriage had become stronger and they had been drawn closer together as a result of the infertility, and over half of couples can identify at least some benefits to their marriage as a result[iii]. This is the kind of thing that really gets me excited about marriage because here’s pretty much a major life blow and yet it’s in the context of a loving marriage that it can be reframed into some positives. We are going to talk about how to be sure that it turns out to be a positive in your marriage, despite the grief and loss associated with it. However, let’s talk about a couple of the negative consequences first just so we’re aware of some potential pitfalls. Possible Negative Consequences of Infertility Primarily we need to pay attention to the impact on marital and/or sexual satisfaction. Marital Satisfaction and Infertility Infertility sometimes has a negative impact on marital quality. This effect is strongest for women but can also impact men[iv]. Stress caused by infertility can increase marital conflict, reduce self-esteem, and reduce overall happiness and quality of life. Why is this negative effect stronger for women? A study in 1992[v] looked into this and found that for men, the stress of infertility was no different to other forms of marital stress and conflict. But for women, infertility created a different kind of stress that was more rooted in the woman's sense of identity and self-efficacy. Often women have a stronger desire to have children than their husbands, and hold motherhood as a strong part of their identity. So for men, infertility can be a stress that creates conflict and other burdens, but it often impacts women on a deeper level. Researchers also note that stress and marital discord become more likely the longer the infertility problems go on[vi], which is understandable. Staying Strong During Infertility Once again we’ve created a bonus discussion guide for our much-appreciated supporters who are facing infertility. This guide will help you begin to talk through this challenge that you’re facing. Often it can be hard to talk about these things because it’s so sensitive. But having a discussion guide in hand gives you som... neither hosts nor alters podcast files. All content © its respective owners.