An Interview with Dr. Wielenga, from The Counseling Kitchen
by Jennifer Bright Reich
It all sounded so simple in the playground song: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Mommy with a baby carriage.”
Back in those innocent days, we didn’t think about—let alone sing about—infertility. It catches us unaware, unprepared. Infertility causes stress on a person, and it causes strain on a relationship.
“Infertility is really hard on a relationship, for many reasons,” says Lateefah Wielenga, PhD, a couples communication specialist and author of The Honey Jar: Tips and tools for couples seeking ways for honest, authentic communication, in Long Beach, CA. She continues to say, “Infertility strains relationships because men and women handle the situation and the stress so differently. Infertility can cause men to feel like a failure, and it can make them want to blame someone else—likely the woman. They can become frustrated and angry.”
Women, on the other hand, tend to internalize the infertility,” adds Dr. Wielenga. Women tend to blame themselves and feel guilty. They can begin to feel frustrated and depressed.
Both men and women feel the stress and strain that infertility treatments can put on the couple’s finances, she adds.
How can a couple cope with the strain of infertility—before it causes a relationship to pull apart? Dr. Wielenga suggests this three-step approach.
1. Seek professional help. A therapist or coach can help you to learn to communicate more effectively and help you to understand that infertility isn’t anyone’s fault.
2. Express your feelings and fears honestly. Communicate in a caring and sympathetic way. That’s true intimacy: Letting a person know who you really are and how you really feel. It’s eye-to-eye, soul-to-soul communication.
3. Take a break from the “scheduled” sex that often accompanies infertility treatments. This scheduled sex is especially difficult for men. It can make them feel a loss of control and perhaps are performing “on demand.” Instead Dr. Wielenga recommends that the couple relax and be spontaneous, at least for a “little while”.
Once a couple communicates and can be authentic with each other, they begin to feel “we’re in this together,” says Dr. Wielenga. “The most important thing to remember is that love is more than a feeling. It’s a verb! Love is an action that you take.”
Next in this series: Keeping a Blended Family Together Despite Infertility
About the author: Jennifer Bright Reich is a mom of two sons, cofounder of www.mommymdguides.com, and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.