Emotional Health

Infertility Treatment’s Toll on Sexual Intimacy

And then there is your husband’s side of the situation. Though you didn’t share details of his emotional reaction, men who have fertility issues such as low sperm count often react psychologically with feelings of self-doubt, lowered sexual desire, guilt, or shame. Often these feelings can remain unconscious, but may result in the husband pulling away from his wife, further disrupting the couple’s intimacy. More often than not, the husband gets little attention in the drama of infertility, even if, as in your husband’s case, he is the “identified patient.” Men are typically seen as less vulnerable to the psychological wounds inflicted by these treatments, but they are rarely unaffected, even if they don’t show their dismay.

And then along comes Baby (or two). As I said earlier, the arrival of children almost always ushers in new challenges to a couple’s intimacy. Your situation was particularly at risk in this regard, since (1) you had just been through three years of fertility treatments (which began as soon as you were married); (2) you were a new mother of (boy) twins at age 42; (3) you had no extra help and your husband had limited extra time. All three of these factors have exacerbated the situation by limiting some crucial ingredients you need if you are going to repair the intimacy between you and your husband, including (but not limited to) time, energy, and good will.

They are all interconnected: Of course you are exhausted and overwhelmed! You are also probably very angry. You need to talk to your husband and change a few things as soon as possible, but I’m sure that when you and your husband have time to interact at all, it’s only to discuss practical household matters or to do a hand-off of the children. Yet there is no way to break free of this cycle without some sort of change that would give you more time for yourself and more opportunity to re-establish a bond with him. Furthermore, your husband needs to reflect on what factors contribute to his being so withdrawn and uninvolved. Ironically, it may be that he has felt cut off from you since you have been so involved with the children (yet what else could you do?); this is the kind of vicious circle that contributes to marital problems in couples with young children.

Nothing can proceed until you start communicating again, however. It may be that you need a marriage counselor, in fact. I know that money is tight, but your GP may be able to find you someone who takes your insurance. If you belong to a religious organization, you may be able to get a recommendation from someone. Short-term, focused marital counseling can sometimes break through a stalemate and reintroduce to each other the partners who have drifted apart. In your case, you and your husband have been working on this project with a common goal—building and raising a family, but you’ve just lost touch with the feeling—as many of us do—that you’re in it together. 


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