Is there strife in your marriage? Disagreement? Has dealing with infertility divided your hearts, your decisions, and even your love for each other? Maybe you’re confident a specific medical technique could increase your likelihood of conception, but your husband is uncomfortable with the idea. Or maybe you long to build your family through adoption, but your wife is persistent about having a biological child. Whatever has alienated and divided your hearts as a result of your childless condition, I believe there are three essentials for adding harmony and enrichment back to your marriage:
Make Your Partner Your Priority When Dealing with Infertility
My conversations with my husband were consistently tainted with my dissatisfaction of not being able to have children. Every day it was the same thing. Days turned into months and months turned into years. Not only had I struggled with infertility for 16 years, but I had lost six babies to ectopic pregnancy, as well as two failed adoptions. I felt I had every reason to bemoan my circumstances, but the more I talked about it, the more frustrated Bob became. My unhealthy fixation with having a baby translated to my husband that he wasn’t as important.
I found the best solution to my unhappiness and his frustration was deliberately putting his needs before mine…like the times I laid aside my agenda to organize the garage, wash his truck, or show interest in his woodworking hobby. It wasn’t long before the tension subsided and my husband reciprocated with his love and appreciation.
Investing in Spouse
Putting Bob’s needs first has reaped a huge return on my investment. Instead of depleting my marriage, it has built lasting intimacy. Instead of feeling robbed of my “right” to motherhood, it has caused me to see my spouse as a gift from God. He is my family (as well as my two stepsons). Having children would be merely an extension of that family. Just as children are a part of me, my husband is a part of me. “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23)
When we feel deprived of a family, we have forgotten the gift God has already given in our spouse. Don’t let infertility rob you of this realization. Moreover, don’t let it forfeit a deeper relationship with your spouse or your Creator. Instead, acknowledge your gratitude to God for this special gift by laying aside your agenda for them. In time, you will reap a precious return on your investment.
Reserve Time For Mutual Prayer
If you carve out a specific time in the day when the two of you can meet God together, you will experience some of the richest, most intimate times of fellowship and communication. In fact, you will actually look forward to it. We do! Unfortunately, it took sever hardship before Bob and I realized the need for mutual prayer. But an amazing change took place in our marriage when we made that daily commitment every morning. We were less tense with each other and about our circumstances, and more in sync with God’s will for our lives. Prayer continues to knit our hearts closer in spiritual intimacy.
Prayer is not only a time to commune with God, but to be open with each other. Prayer is a forum that allows us the opportunity to be real and honest before the Lord and our spouse. In their book, Night Light: A Devotional for Couples James and Shirley Dobson talk about prayer’s effect on their marriage.
It creates a spiritual connection, accountability, and a holy bond that brings strength and stability to the relationship. It can even allow you to communicate about sensitive issues that might otherwise never come out —issues that can be discussed and prayer over in a spirit of humility and purity of motive.
Prayer will also give you the privilege of witnessing God’s dramatic answers. I have seen it in my own life. God honors the couple that is steadfast in prayer. As you see God’s faithfulness in the little things, you will be moved to trust more deeply for the bigger, more impossible things. You will conclude that if God cares about the insignificant details of your life, surely He will take the utmost care concerning the deeper issues —like your infertility. Together as a couple you will discover a simple, childlike faith that leads to a deeper level of trust in the Lord, and each other.
Bob always seemed to have a spontaneous streak that had a way of quickly raising my spirits. I remember the time he carefully planned my surprise trip to the Grand Canyon! One November afternoon, I had lunch with a close friend who later asked if I wouldn’t mind helping her deliver flowers to a client at the airport. No problem, I thought. After all, what are friends for?
So there I was as naive as could be —helping my friend, who was in on the surprise. Lo and behold, there was my husband! For a split second, I thought, what in the world is he doing at the airport? Then it dawned on me! Bob’s laughter echoed through the terminal while I ran to embrace him. Then my friend proceeded to hand over the flowers to me. The card inside read, “Are you surprised? Love, Bob.”
Every discouraging thought about my infertility quickly dismissed itself that week at the Grand Canyon. Bob’s thoughtful, caring ways carried me through, and sparked a new sense of appreciation for the gift God gave me in my spouse. I’ve reasoned that if small children were there that season of my life, quite possibly I would never have experienced such fun-filled adventures and sublime spontaneity in my marriage. Moreover, because we’ve been free to enjoy each other through the years, there is a richness to our relationship, and a zest that comes from spending quality time together.
Spending Time Together
It’s important that we don’t allow a busy schedule to cloud these special times with our spouse. And you don’t have to spend a bundle to have fun together. Sometimes at the spur of the moment, Bob and I will leave work, and take a pleasant drive through the Smoky Mountains to our cabin, or through the Cherohala Skyway. Other times, we might play a game of Scrabble, or watch a good movie together. The key is spending time together, and going out of your way to make that time special. Here are some practical ways you can add spontaneity to your marriage, even when infertility is dragging you down.
• Send a love letter, card, or e-mail at work expressing your love, gratitude, appreciation, and praise.
• Make it a point to compliment your spouse at least once every day, especially in front of others. Maybe you could mention how well he handled a difficult situation, or applaud him on a new accomplishment. Maybe you could tell her how beautiful she looks in that new dress —or better yet, buy her one! Either way, a compliment goes a long way.
• Plan a little weekend trip for just the two of you —something that would be special and within your financial reach.
• Rekindle the romance in your marriage by preparing your husband’s favorite meal complete with candlelight, wine, and soft music. Husbands, you could do the same for your wife and really surprise her!
• If you are undergoing treatment, take a break from it. Set aside a designated time to just enjoy your marriage. Choose intimacy for romance, not for the sole purpose of pregnancy.
• Bring back your fondest memories by looking together at photo albums of your childhood, of while you were still dating, or from your first year of marriage. Designate a date when you could relive happier times by revisiting the places you did before. For Bob and me, it was Maui, Hawaii, where we spent our honeymoon. Going back refreshed and revived us from the doldrums of hardship, while creating new memories.
• Get involved in a joint outreach.
Bob and I work together with our church youth group. It is comprised of more than 250 kids. This has truly added spice to our relationship. Not only does it make us feel young again, but together we are making a lasting difference in the lives of these kids. Ministry gives you an incredible sense of meaning and purpose. Without a doubt, it has unified, strengthened, and blessed our marriage beyond measure.
Don’t let your childless condition rob you of the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). And don’t let it squelch a healthy, happy, vibrant marriage. If you will set in motion these practical, yet biblical principles, you will be simply amazed by the harmony and enrichment it adds to your relationship, even when children are a distant dream. Don’t wait until that dream is fulfilled; start now by loving the family God has already given you in your spouse.
This article was written by Roxanne Griswold. It was previously posted on the Bethany.org web site (and hope they will again). Bethany brings together new families and helps strengthen existing ones. Their goal is for every child to have a strong, loving family. Some of the ways they minister is through working with couples in the areas of Counseling, Pregnancy, Post Adoption, and Infertility. They are also involved in ministry work in Adoption, including U.S Infant Adoption, and Foster Care. They also work with International Foster Care Adoption, Temporary Care, Training, and Foster Care, as well as other aspects of bringing families together. You can contact them at: Bethany.org.