My husband and I have technically been trying to conceive (TTC) for over five years. In fact, at this point I think we've lost track of how many years we've actually been at it. When we started looking into why our TTC wasn't resulting in any success, we were well aware that infertility can often drive couples apart. However, thankfully and over the last five years, there are so many ways TTC actually made me closer to my partner.
I can see how TTC — especially when it lasts for an extended period of time or at least longer than you initially expected it to — can drive couples apart. It's emotionally exhausting, intense, and, for most of us, the first time we're really out of control of what's happening in our lives. But I do believe that being aware of what could happen when you're TTC is the first step toward not allowing that to wedge to drive itself into the middle of your relationship. Every minute of the last five years hasn't been filled with rainbows and unicorns in our marriage, but overall, we have both remarked that we're grateful the situation brought us closer together rather than tore us apart.
Our marriage isn't bulletproof by any means. In fact, our TTC journey indirectly led us to (really helpful) marriage counseling after several failed adoptions. Of course, I don't think any marriage is immune from trials and tribulations. Instead, marriage is what you make it, and sometimes that means making as much lemonade from the seemingly endless years of lemons as you can.
It Meant We Were Having Sex Regularly
Early in our fertility journey, a doctor recommended we literally try to conceive every other day, as long as I didn't have my period.
Five years later, we still (for the most part) keep that up, and that means we have literally been closer than we would have been otherwise. While trying to make a baby for so long and so often can sometimes make sex feel more like like a business transaction than a romantic encounter, it's hard to grow apart when you have to be that close that often.
It Felt Like It Was Us Against The World
Since our multiple attempts at trying to conceive involved infertility questions and issues, especially when just about every one of our friends and family were getting pregnant, we leaned into each other in the face of pregnancy and birth announcements. In a lot of ways, we built and protected our family unit more than we ever had in order to protect ourselves when staring so much personal disappointment in the face. It absolutely made us stronger as a couple, to feel like we had to rely on each other for comfort on a near-daily basis.
It Forced Us To Cope By Spending Time Together
My husband and I figured that if we were trying for a baby and it wasn't working yet, we'd make the absolute most of our time as a couple before we became a family of three. We traveled so much around Europe while we were living there, and took day trips as often as we could. We were as spontaneous as we could be and tried to continually be appreciative for the lives we were living, even while we were anxious to not be able to be so spontaneous already.
It Gave Us More Compassion For Each Other
Because our TTC journey has involved less of the conceive part and more of the trying part, we've developed so much compassion for each other than we likely would have otherwise. While my partner is quite stoic, there have been times when I could see his heart was just breaking that we weren't having any success getting pregnant. Likewise, I think he knew on a weekly basis how much I was struggling. Because we were in such a tough situation together, we are now much more compassionate toward.
It Made Us Protective Of Each Other's Feelings In Public
There's arguably nothing worse than someone making a joke about how long it's taking you to start your family when you're TTC.
At a party one night, one of my husband's teammates joked that we were taking too long to start our family, completely unaware that we'd been trying for several years. I think my husband nearly decked him when he saw that I was about to fall apart in front of a whole group of people. Trying to conceive, for us, meant we became very protective of each other in public situations.
It Made Us So Grateful For Each Other
We went through a stretch where it seemed every direction we turned, someone was announcing their pregnancy. In retrospect, it was a little comical that we had so many pregnancies so close to us, but at the time it gave me social anxiety. I remember literally clinging to my husband at a party, terrified that someone would announce they were pregnant and I'd burst into uncontrollable tears. In that moment, and many that followed, I was so grateful that he was by my side.
It Pushed Us Out Of Our Comfort Zone
Our TTC journey led us to decide to shake up our entire lives. My husband and I decided that fertility treatments weren't for us, at least not yet, and instead made the decision to move 4,000 miles away in order to adopt.
That's when we really had to rely on each other as we uprooted ourselves and started life all over again in a new place. In the first few weeks in our new city, I remember thinking how wonderful it was that I really only needed my partner. Months later, I really needed some girlfriends, but overall it was nice to feel like we were out of our comfort zone but that wherever we were together was still home.
It Continues To Help Us Realize When We're Not On The Right Track
One of the biggest benefits of our ongoing TTC journey has been that we do know when we're not on the right track. Earlier this year, when we decided to go to counseling to try to get ourselves back on track, that was one of the best things we could have done for our marriage. Knowing what close felt like made figuring out what being driven apart felt like, too, and pushed us to work to get back to being close again.