Valentines Day may be the only hallmark day that couples enjoy celebrating when they are in treatment for infertility. It’s not about getting together with family or friends who are pregnant. It’s about honoring your sacred relationship with your partner. It’s about taking time to tell each other how much you cherish one another. It’s remembering you chose to be together because of the special connection you share. You did not choose each other just to have a baby and parent together.
I saw a couple today, John and Mimi (not their real names), who have been married for twelve years. I saw them for counseling a few years ago when they were in treatment for infertility. She was in her late thirties, and her egg quality was poor. They decided that adoption or donor eggs was not right for them, so they stopped medical treatments and chose child free living. Now, years later, they are about 80% at peace with their child free decision, even though the yearning to be a parent still surfaces on occasion.
Mimi talked about how she blamed herself for them not being able to have a baby. She gained weight on fertility drugs and was no longer feeling feminine and sexy. This led to her distancing from her husband and avoiding sex. The more she distanced, the more he immersed himself in work. Today they came to see me because they love each other very much. They have become so detached from one another that she has been talking about leaving the marriage. She is not happy with herself or with John. She does not want to leave this man she loves, but she is lonely and sad. She wants him to pay attention to her and spend time with her. He wants her to listen to him and support him through the difficult financial times he is having at work.
They started telling me the reasons they chose to marry each other and the many qualities they love in one another. I asked them to look at one another and say these compliments to each other rather than to me. It was magical how they immediately started smiling and their body postures released the physical tension they were holding.
I suggested they turn off all electronics each evening for one hour and spend time connecting with one another–discussing an interesting topic, playing a game, going for a walk, or making love. John and Mimi agreed to this and were reminded of how much time and attention they gave each other when they were dating. Over the years with the stresses of infertility and of life, they detached from nurturing and caring for one another, and they realized how simple it is to tune in and reconnect.
Mimi was brilliant in acknowledging that John was not responsible for how she loves and cares for herself. She said that loving herself only comes from within, and she was interested in gently learning to reconnect with and care for herself. John does not want this wonderful and devoted wife to ever leave him, and he is willing to step up his efforts to give her attention and help her feel safe. I was looking out my window as they were leaving my office building. They were holding hands, walking close to each other, and laughing. I deeply appreciate the moments when I have the privilege of witnessing couples reconnect and remember why they chose to spend their lives growing old together.