How Can You and Your Partner Stay Strong While Dealing With Infertility? Therapists Weigh In

How Can You and Your Partner Stay Strong While Dealing With Infertility? Therapists Weigh In

The Real Housewives of Orange County's Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley are trying for a baby.

By Marianne Garvey

Gretchen Rossi and her fiancé Slade Smiley are spending the summer continuing their journey with IVF.

“We’re focused on having a baby. That’s our summer plans," she recently told Us Weekly. "It’s a very arduous, hard thing to go through. I’m so thankful I have an amazing partner to go through it with. We are pushing through it, and hopefully we will have an announcement that we are pregnant…Truthfully it’s a partnership. We have an amazing doctor, and that makes a difference. It’s a very confusing, hard, difficult process. It takes a lot of good people around you.”

The Real Housewives of Orange County alum is planning to undergo a second round of IVF, following a surgery she had in May.

Slade has said of their struggles: "It is such a hard, difficult process. A lot of the burden falls on the woman going through the IVF process, and not only has she embraced that challenge but she’s using that to be an advocate for other women who are struggling with IVF and can’t get pregnant. I’m so impressed how she jumped right in [and] became a voice for every woman. I’m very proud of her.”

RHOC's Meghan King Edmonds also struggled with getting pregnant, turning to IVF twice, for her twins and to conceive Aspen King Edmonds. She called the process an “emotional roller coaster” which gave her depression the first time around. She credits her husband, Jim Edmonds, with helping her through the journey. Of the second round she said: ”Opposite of my first experience with IVF, this time I was anxious for the emotional toll while knowing I could handle the physical repercussions. Additionally I had reliable companionship this time around with Jimmy by my side, my trusty furry companion Girly Girl and of course baby Aspen.”

IVF is a difficult process for any couple to go through. It’s expensive, time consuming, and messes with your hormones — and your relationship. The pressure to have a baby when you want one and can’t conceive easily takes its toll. There are even guides online you can refer to with steps to help you and your partner handle the process in a healthy way. One, called Give This Guide to Your Husband During Fertility Treatment, details how your partner can assist you with every day things, like chores, to help take the pressure off. “Most of the time they need some help, some carefully placed hints, to get them to see the full picture and meet you halfway,” the guide says.

You have to keep communicating with your partner.

New York City therapist Emily Rosen helps couples with infertility problems and helps people who are looking to adopt a child. She tells Personal Space that things get hard for couples going through the IVF process when their communication breaks down.

“If communication stops or breaks down and if the cycle has been going on a while it gets exacerbated, so some of it is just slowing down and trying to communicate more effectively, listening and making sure the other person knows your intention,” she says.

Depending on where you are in the process and what’s happening in the moment, one, or both of you, are going to feel attacked.

“Start talks when you’re feeling less vulnerable and defensive,” she says.

Know it’s hard on a couple when the future is unknown.

“One of the things I ask people when they are trying to decide if adoption is right is, ‘do you want to be parents or do you want to have children that look like you?’ There are many ways to become parents these days, it doesn’t have to be over. If they have weather the storm of infertility together, it may help to talk to someone because the fantasy and idea of what your relationship was has changed.”

Redefining the relationship is key.

“If you don’t have biological kids or are unsure [of what will happen with IVF] but you want the relationship to continue, you need to to grow but redefine your future together,” she says.

And if it does turn out you can’t have a biological baby, understand it’s like a death and you need to go through the acceptance process.

“Grieve the loss of the fantasy, of being parents biologically,” Rosen says. “It’s like a death and it’s important to grieve that loss and move forward. Until a couple is able to do that it’s impossible to think about some other way of expanding your family.”

When there is still hope, and you find you want to go through the IVF process one (or more) times, there are little ways you can stay close while the future is uncertain.

“The husband can give his wife injections, he’s also seeing sometimes her personality changes due to her hormones and many men do seem to be more protective of the wife, and say, ‘I don’t want to keep putting her through this,’” Rosen says.

As for the inevitable hard times, just try to understand where your partner is coming from, “a place of hurt, fear, worry, or frustration,” says Rosen, and really understand that the process is hard and both people become vulnerable.

“It’s helpful to be self aware so you don’t take it out on yourself and your partner. Many women [struggling with infertility] think they’re not good enough, it feels very vulnerable to share that part of yourself.”

There are others out there going through it.

Psychologist Carrie Gottlieb, who specializes in relationship issues, says to remember you are not alone.

"There are vast communities of other people who are currently in your shoes or who have been there in the past. Find someone to talk to. is a great resource for information, online communities, and support groups," she says.

Whatever happens, it's temporary.

"Hormones and other fertility medications can magnify emotions in real ways. Women often feel like they are just not ‘themselves.' Labeling this as the result of the medication, allows you to recognize that this is a temporary response to the medication that will pass and not a permanent change in personality," Gottlieb says.

Ask for — and accept — help.

"For instance, going along to doctor’s appointments so that women have some company, learning how to help or perform injections especially if your partner is afraid to do them herself, letting her vent or talk when needed are just some examples of ways to help. Since support can look different for everybody, even just asking 'how can I help you or what do you need' can be useful," says Gottlieb.

Know IVF is expensive and not many insurance companies cover the cost.

"This can be tricky as money can be a hot button topic among couples anyway. However, a frank and honest conversation can be helpful about both how much a specific treatment might cost out of pocket and, also, what you are willing to spend overall, should multiple treatment cycles become necessary," Gottlieb says. "While of course this may be a moving target in some ways, it is good to know a roughly where your partner stands at the onset of treatment. Checking in about money as you move along may also help to keep a you on the same page financially as your partner."

Remember it's not all about a baby.

"Infertility can become all encompassing," says Gottlieb. "It is important for couples to recognize that they are about more than just infertility. Plan a date night or a couples-only vacation. Make sure you are talking about other topics in addition to infertility. However, it is also important to recognize that infertility is an incredibly stressful and can often be experienced as a life crisis. Individual and couples' therapy sessions, with a therapist who has experience working with infertility, can be very helpful to provide a safe space to discuss these issues."

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