Whether it was love at first sight or you were friends for years before the spark grew into a flame…there was passionate love that drew you together. Nothing can snuff a burning flame like infertility. The spontaneity of romance is replaced with carefully orchestrated fertility procedures and privacy is replaced with a room full of onlookers. Nothing says “romantic evening” like charting cervical mucus, am I right?
But Valentine’s Day is upon us, so pull together every ounce of energy you have left, allow yourself a moment of temporary denial about the whole infertility thing, and do something fun for that hot babe in your life (pun intended.) Now, I know… when you are in the throes of infertility, there is no extra money, emotional bandwidth, or creative energy, so the following are actually REALISTIC goals for your Valentine’s Day.
1. GET OFF THE COUCH AND OUT OF YOUR PAJAMAS
Here come the excuses… I can hear them in my own head, too…but we can do this. (I’m including myself in this because I need to hear it, too.) We’re not too tired, busy, or lazy to plan something. I’m hearing another barrage of excuses: she won’t appreciate it…I have an early morning meeting… I’m on meds…we don’t have money… STOP…we can do this.
“Couples who go on dates at least once a week are 3.5 times more likely to report being happy in their marriage while couples who spend lesser quality time each week are 2.5 times more likely to get divorced than those who do.”
This step requires the most effort. If you’re feeling energetic…put on a nice outfit, shave, smell good, and paint the barn. (Southern translation: “put on makeup”) Show interest in your partner, demonstrate a desire to spend time with them, and go prepared with a few topics, not related to work or fertility, to discuss at dinner. Remind them that you were, and still are, a fun person who has other interests in life.
2. NON-SEXUAL TOUCHING
What?! Don’t you already do plenty of that? Hear me out…infertility has made sex a chore, and it’s time to give it a makeover by recreating an environment of intimacy. Studies show that a 20 second non-sexual hug, full body hugging, will increase closeness, connection, and safety between couples. Studies also show that a 20 second kiss will raise his testosterone levels and make you feel closer. A daily back rub has been proven to drastically reduce anxiety and create a positive change in attitude.
“Intimacy doesn’t have to be through direct physical touch, either. Eye contact is also very important. Many couples will go for days without looking directly into each other’s eyes. I confess that when I was in the thick of raising our twins and working many hours a week, that I neglected to notice that my husband had shaved his mustache. He didn’t mention it, waiting to see how long it would take me to notice. That was a wake-up call for me. And we work in the same office!” Dr. Susan O’Grady (source: https://ogradywellbeing.com/sex-non-sexual-touching/ )
The English comedian John Cleese said, “I’m struck by how laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance, any sense of social hierarchy when you are just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.” Laughing together can greatly improve cooperation and empathy between people while increasing the quality of their communication.
Get on the internet and arm yourself with a few corny jokes for dinner conversation. Text some funny memes to your partner prior to the date to lift their attitudes. Funny video clips are great, too.
Bonus fact: studies also show laughter reduces stress and releases endorphins which enhances fertility. Laughter is a sign of confidence – an ability to self-deprecate in the face of disaster. And confidence is a sexy weapon in the battle against infertility.
“I really do believe that humor is one of the many healthy, affordable ways to cope with all the stress,” says Alison Wilson PhD at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver. (source: http://www.conceivingconcepts.com/news/female-infertility/laughing-at-infertility )
4. TRY SOMETHING NEW
New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.
“Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. The butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment. But several experiments show that novelty — simply doing new things together as a couple — may help bring the butterflies back, recreating the chemical surges of early courtship.”
“We don’t really know what’s going on in the brain, but as you trigger and amp up this reward system in the brain that is associated with romantic love, it’s reasonable to suggest that it’s enabling you to feel more romantic love,” said the anthropologist Helen E. Fisher, of Rutgers, who has published several studies on the neural basis of romantic love. “You’re altering your brain chemistry.”
“You don’t have to swing from the chandeliers,” Dr. Fisher said. “Just go to a new part of a town, take a drive in the country or better yet, don’t make plans, and see what happens to you.” (source: NY TIMES http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/health/12well.html)
So, this Valentine’s Day, get off the couch, jot down a few new discussion topics and jokes, try a new place to eat, and experiment with non-sexual touching.
Guest Blogger: Charis Johnson