Infertility can be a real test of a couple’s relationship and shake the foundation of a marriage. It can make a solid relationship stronger and weaken the core of a troubled one. Because infertility is a crisis, it is out of the realm of experience of most couples and thus challenges them to develop new strategies and coping mechanisms to deal with this life crisis. The good news is research has shown that, for most infertile couples, the experience strengthens their marriage by teaching them life-long skills to deal with problems.

For a marriage to survive the crisis of infertility, couples have to learn to continue to make “deposits” and “tend the garden.” Understanding the ways in which the stress of infertility can strain a relationship, couples must make special efforts to put positive energy into marriage during this time. If you are an infertile couple, there are steps you can take to enhance your relationship so that it grows and thrives. The following are some suggestions to help you along the way:

Work as a team. No matter who is identified as “the patient,” infertility is a couple problem. Always approach the issues as a team, working together and finding ways to share responsibility regarding treatment. Avoid finger-pointing as nobody ever wins the blame game.

Plan playtime. Since dealing with infertility can feel like a full-time job, it is important to “take time off” by consciously make time for each other. Have regular dates where you can have fun and take a break from infertility. Vacations are also playtime, and having things to look forward to that are under your control is positive.

Separate baby-making from love-making. Infertility often puts a strain on a couple’s sexual relationship and what was once the fun has now become a tedious job. You may want to designate different rooms in your house for your intimate work versus play. Remember the ways you enjoyed intimacy early in your relationship and find ways to recreate it. Plan romantic encounters at non-fertile times, such as a bubble bath together or giving a massage.

Build a support system. Couples often have an unconscious expectation that their spouse will be able to take care of all their emotional needs. This is a daunting task during infertility and an impossibility for any relationship. Infertility can be an isolating experience and put undue pressure on a partner for providing all emotional support.

Seek help before problems get too big. Infertility can put terrible strains on relationships and couples need to consider counseling as a resource of support and information to deal with problems. If you find that you are at an impasse or your usual coping strategies aren’t working in the relationship, counseling may help. Don’t wait until things get critical.