Infertility can really put a strain on relationships. With obvious stressors like money, intimacy and fears even the strongest of marriages can suffer when experiencing infertility. But what about those other relationships that can get put to the test? How do you maintain friendships and have authentic relationships when all of your friends are having or have children?
I’m not going to lie…it is a hard line to walk with many obstacles along the way. Though we may want to have those same relationships with girlfriends that we had prior to learning about our infertility it is not always possible. People grow, they have families and priorities change. Spontaneous dinner plans and spur of the moment movie nights get pushed because they can’t get a sitter. No more late night card games because they have to get home early. But these things are just part of the problem. What about your own feelings that can get in the way of spending time with those dear friends?
People experiencing infertility can become recluses during their treatments. There are so many stresses involved with infertility and treatments that sometimes couples just want to retreat to a place that they find comfort and peace. For us this has always been our home just the two of us watching movies, football or just catching up on the DVR. They tend to avoid large social situations which can be emotional triggers such as baby showers, birthday parties and “family” type stores and restaurants. Though I don’t think anyone intends to put distance between them and their friends sometimes it is a necessity just to make it through. So what do you do to preserve those relationships?
This is a difficult question as we have had many relationships over the years that have been tested because of our infertility, miscarriages and cancer diagnosis. From the moment I learned of my cancer I withdrew from all of our friends and family. I did not want to talk about it with anyone! I wanted it to just go away and not face reality. I especially didn’t want to see kids! Our friends, being amazing as they are, still wanted to support us in any way they could. We decided to create a “Rules & Suggestions“ email that allowed us to lay out what we actually needed as far as support and what was definitely not needed. For the most part everyone was very receptive and willing to take us however they could get us. I think the email was one of the best things we could have done. It really cut down on the questions, which are more stressful, and allowed them to understand what we were going through. I can honestly say that we have not lost any friends because of our situation and some of our relationships are even stronger.
But how do you handle those situations that are not part of the “rules” like those unexpected emotional triggers that can send you downhill so quickly? I have asked my friends to be patient with me. I am more than willing to talk about their lives, their problems and their children but we have had to institute a “code word” where I can be honest and just let them know if it is not a good day for me so I can excuse myself from the situation. I feel like this allows me to still be part of our friends’ lives and not have them walking on egg shells all the time. I can’t say it is a perfect system since I never know what will trigger those feelings, but at least they still know we care!