Most couples are aware that adding a baby to the family will change their relationship. However, when fertility issues arise, many couples find simply trying to have a baby will change it, too.

Infertility introduces an unexpected barrier between a couple and the future they envisioned. That barrier comes equipped with financial burdens, medical procedures, and emotional strain, all of which can have a tremendous impact on the sturdiest of relationships.

There is no all-encompassing path to maintaining a strong relationship through infertility. Each couple will require a different approach. However, the following points are designed to encourage couples to support one another and develop healthy practices throughout their fertility experience.

1. Learn as a Team

If you are having trouble conceiving, now is the time to prioritize education. Take this opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the entire conception process. This is particularly important if you elect to pursue fertility treatments. By developing a shared confidence in each other’s understanding of conception, medical diagnosis, and options moving forward, you are in an ideal position to work collaboratively. When faced with hard decisions, this shared experience and trust fosters strong decision-making and confidence in the choices made together.

2. Leave Room for Feelings

Give yourself, and your partner, the room to feel, judgment-free. There is no right or wrong way to feel about infertility. This goes for you and your partner. In a situation as complex as fertility, it is common to experience many emotions. Even more complicating, your partner is also attempting to manage his or her feelings, some of which you may not be able to relate to or understand. That is OK. You don’t need to interpret, understand, or agree with everything your partner feels. What is important is that both you and your partner feel heard.

3. Work Together to Develop Boundaries

You and your partner may naturally differ in how you wish to share your infertility experience with others. One of you may desire privacy, while the other craves the support of a wide network. If the two opinions conflict, it is important to work together to develop a neutral, compromising stance. By doing so, each partner is not only showing sensitivity to his or her partner’s needs, but also taking steps to avoid putting each other in an uncomfortable position.

4. Create a Support System for Yourself and Your Relationship

When it comes to support systems, there are three that should exist: one for you, one for your partner, and one for your relationship. Each system is independent of the other, based on individual needs and goals. What you benefit from, or need extra support with, will be different from what your partner needs, and what your relationship needs. While your partner is a primary source of support, and vice versa, you should each have external resources available to you.

Together, talk about an arrangement that feels best. If you need distractions, set up a regular date night or group outing with friends. If you foresee the advantage of developing coping tactics or strategies for handling stress, consider talking about counseling. If hearing the stories of others in similar situations sounds appealing, look into mediated group meetings in your area.

5. Make a Commitment to Practice Conscious Coupling

The value of maintaining loving habits throughout any fertility experience cannot be understated. To put it bluntly, this is not the time to take your eye off the relationship ball. It might be easy to let the added stress, exhaustion and financial burdens associated with infertility obstruct some of your favorite relationship rituals. However, there has never been a better time to schedule extra date nights or surprise your partner with flowers or a favorite home cooked meal. Spoiling your relationship is an effective way to remain emotionally connected and physically in tune with each other.

6. Keep Sex Sexy

One of the most challenging components of infertility is the loss of intimacy and love making in exchange for medical attempts at conceiving. Sex is a vital component of any relationship, and regular intimacy helps to maintain a healthy balance of chemistry and emotional bond. Finding a balance between sex for love and sex for conception will look different for every couple. For some, infertility offers an ideal time to test out unexplored fantasies. For others, conception sex may be restricted to a guest bed, while lovemaking happens in the bedroom. Other suggestions include reserving intercourse for conception sex, and exploring other sexual activities or scheduling date nights to coincide with scheduled conception sex.

7.Rewrite Your Story,Together

Infertility undeniably changes the process of conception. While it may be challenging to let go of the vision you expected, or the timeline you hoped for, it is important to recognize that there is nothing more powerful than your own experience. It may not be the story you hoped for, but it is yours. Choosing to embrace your reality instead of holding onto the past is a way to be truly kind to yourself and your relationship.

Navigating infertility can be an exasperating path where many elements are beyond your control. Developing healthy practices to cope with the experience together can minimize the impact of at least one barrier - the unintended strain on your relationship.