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Marriage Makeover: Can Our Marriage Survive Infertility?

"WE CAN'T EVEN TALK ABOUT OUR FEELINGS." continued...

STEVE: "Of course I wanted it to happen just as much as Monica, and I was very disappointed when it didn't. And then I got kind of callous to it when we went through it a couple of times. I felt like, Why would it work this time when it didn't work the last time and was never explained to us? I was scared to say that to Monica because I didn't want to hurt her feelings or stress her out any more than she already was."

MONICA: "That's where the communication could have actually helped. Even if he had said, 'Monica, you look stressed — is there something I can do?' it would've consoled me. I see where he's coming from, but I want him to be that person that I can just fall into and be comforted and not have to ask for it."

STEVE: "I would do anything for Monica to help or comfort her. But when I don't know what she wants or needs, I don't mind her telling me, although she would rather not have to. It works both ways."

Monica and Steve Walking, Holding Hands

EXPERT ADVICE: The communication breakdown that the Kleins describe is extremely common for couples that experience infertility. "Monica and Steve assumed they were going to have children, and when it didn't happen, they wanted to understand why," says Waichler. "They both have really intense feelings of anger, guilt, failure, and blame, and it's become too painful for them to talk about." Gender difference throws up another communication roadblock: "Men tend to keep their emotions in check, which Steve did, because they don't want to put any additional stress on the woman who's actually going through the treatment," she says.

Waichler suggests that Monica and Steve each write down three ways that the infertility has impacted them and pick a set time each week to talk about what they've written. "Writing is a safe way to express your feelings," she explains. "You can get everything out there, uncensored." Not only will this get the Kleins talking again, but it will also help each of them understand what the other went through. "When you can't talk about the infertility, you tend to make assumptions about how your partner is feeling," says Waichler. "And if those assumptions are wrong, then they can actually drive you further apart."

The couple should also consider seeking out a group therapy session to hear other couples talk about what they've gone through. "Sometimes it's helpful to be able to ask someone else, 'Did you feel this?'" says Waichler. Steve and Monica can start by contacting their local chapter of Resolve: The National Infertility Association — its Website, resolve.org, has a nationwide list of resources.

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