7 challenges couples face when dealing with infertility

We have expert advice on handling the emotional roller coaster of coping with infertility as a couple.


Your marriage will be put to the test when you and your spouse are trying desperately to start a family — your relationship will require even more effort and tender loving care.

Even the most solid union may not survive the strain of lost intimacy, dealing with the shame and anguish associated with being infertile, as well as the steep financial burden of getting fertility treatment.

Geraldine Tan, a principal psychologist at The Therapy Room, and Fiona Maher O’Sullivan, a couple’s counsellor at Incontact Counselling and Training Centre, advise on overcoming the following conflicts:

Challenge #1: Coming to terms with how each party deals with fertility issues

WHAT? In general, men and women react very differently to emotional issues — women tend to prefer talking about an issue and finding a solution as a couple, while men may appear withdrawn. Noting that infertility brings a couple to a very vulnerable place in the relationship, O’Sullivan explains, “Often, when men appear to be emotionally distant (‘stonewalled’), research shows their heart activity is high, so they are emotionally affected, but can’t show this.” The term stonewalling refers to a listener when he withdraws from interacting, becomes unresponsive or evasive such as by tuning out or turning away.

EXPERT’S ADVICE Tan suggests there are many other ways to communicate your love and concern for each other as a couple. “Communication doesn’t need to be words, it can be time, affection and writing little notes for each other — anything to let the other party know you are present on this journey together.”

A third person’s perspective — such as a couple’s therapist or counsellor — may help to get each party to openly discuss their feelings and perspectives.

You may also want to try talking to your friends who may be going through a similar journey or join a support group to normalise the emotions they are dealing with. O’Sullivan shares that a third person’s perspective — such as a couple’s therapist or counsellor — may help to get each party to openly discuss their feelings and perspectives.

Challenge #2: Handling the financial strain of fertility treatment

WHAT? The financial strain for getting preconception testing and treatment may spill over into a couple’s relationship, causing emotional turmoil. O’Sullivan points out that unfortunately, your insurance policies may not cover fertility treatments.

EXPERT’S ADVICE It’s important that you and your significant other sit down, plan and set limitations from the start. Taking stock of your financial status will let you both decide if fertility treatment is feasible. If so, you should also figure out how many rounds of treatment you can afford. O’Sullivan notes that keeping mum will only cause issues later on, especially when one partner decides to continue treatment and the other wants to stop. That said, fertility treatment isn’t the only option, you may want to give adoption or fostering a child some thought.