Relating well with others through one of the most difficult seasons of your life can be incredibly challenging… especially during the holidays with more get togethers.
Which is why we created this series to equip you with practical ways to relate well with your family, spouse and friends. We hope you can do more than simply survive your dearest relationships in one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.
Sometimes we sat in silence just holding each other. Other times, we busied ourselves with projects and tasks, but the grief washed over us both each month when I had to start my fertility app over at “cycle day 1.” And just the same, we would start our cycle of grief all over too.
The grief my husband experienced varied in many ways from my own, but we were both grieving, and in the process, we were learning what it meant to love one another well, to maintain intimacy and pleasure between us, and to endure with patience.
The road of infertility is one that can easily rob couples of pleasures, joy, and a deeper intimacy with one another and with Jesus. As we endured our own infertility, the Lord, in his kindness, used our regular grief, sadness, and disappointment to help us prize and value intimacy in our marriage and intimacy with Him.
While we struggled to love one another well, we had to learn not to idolize one another by expecting from the other what neither of us could give. We committed ourselves to the pursuit of one another in the journey, to the pursuit of pleasure in one another, to the pursuit of comfort in one another, and to the pursuit of loving Jesus Christ before one another.
Grace, Grace, Grace
Walking through infertility requires that you show your spouse, and yourself, much grace. You grieve differently, you respond differently, and you express your feelings differently. It’s like waves crashing against the cliffs – one of you might stand tall, firm, and stoic while the other crashes and breaks. That’s okay, but in the process show grace to your spouse and give him/her the space to grieve, and grieve in their own way.
How to Show Grace:
Put your spouse’s grief before your own. Talk to your spouse about how he/she processes feelings, things that happen. If you’re prone to breaking down, needing a good cry over it all, but your spouse is a quiet processor who needs a few hours of stillness, be willing to give him/her that space. If it’s the other way around, be willing to let your spouse breakdown, while you sit and listen for a little while.
Intimacy is Key
It’s important to maintain sexual Intimacy for pleasure, not just mechanics or baby-making. After years of trying to get pregnant, we both felt like we had turned love-making into something rigid. Thermometers, ovulation tests, and any awkward fertility tests your doctor may order can really turn sex into just a physical action between two people. But sex in marriage is not meant for just physical pleasure; it’s meant for emotional and spiritual pleasure as well. It’s worship too.
How to Maintain Intimacy:
Learn the ways your spouse desires to be loved. Love-making starts long before bedtime hours and intimacy happens in regular everyday life. If you don’t know the ways in which your spouse desires to be loved and cared for, talk about it and then do those things.
Read the Song of Solomon together out loud (and don’t blush!). Speak openly to one another about what you love and admire in each other. And, like the Song of Solomon, be descriptive and speak often to the things that only a spouse would know about the other person.
Be sexually intimate at times when you’re not trying to have a baby, and just for the sake of pleasure with your spouse. If you’re struggling with finding pleasure in sexual intimacy, here are a few books I and my husband have often recommended:
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat, M.D., and Gaye Wheat
Enjoy! The Gift of Sexual Pleasure for Women by Joyce J. Penner, M.N., R.N. and Clifford L. Penner, Ph.D
The Married Guy’s Guide to Great Sex by Clifford L. Penner, Ph.D and Joyce J. Penner, M.N., R.N.
The Right Hope
Place your hope in Jesus, not your spouse. Let’s be honest; this is easier said than done. But what your spouse needs from you more than anything else is for you to fix your hope steadfastly in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. As you and your spouse face the inevitable question “What if we never have a baby?”, you both must fight to find your individual hope and identities in Christ alone.
How to Hope in Christ Alone:
Great Expectations – When we’re in pain our expectations of others can rise to unhealthy and unrealistic expectations. Take a hard look – are you fulfilling those same expectations you have of your spouse? Probably not, and that’s because you can’t. Turn to Jesus for the comfort that you seek, then re-evaluate your expectations for your spouse and adjust them.
Endure with patience (Romans 8:24-25) – There are several times in scripture where we are called to move forward, to go, and to do, but there are also times where we are called to simply stand firm. There are and will be times where you feel like can’t move at all, forward or backward. In those moments, find comfort that Jesus calls you simply to stand firm. He is there with us. The Lord is purposeful in our pain and in our pleasure. He does not waste any of it! Remind yourself daily that every second of waiting, every minute of heartbreak is producing something in you that the Lord will make good (Romans 8:28).
Commit – Commit to loving the Lord first. Decide & commit to loving your spouse well: Every day asking or thinking about how to serve them, encourage and love them where they are, who they are.
My husband and I adopted our daughter almost a year ago after a four-year adoption journey and an even longer infertility journey. What we’ve found is that we must now fight just as hard not to find our hope and identity as parents, similar to how we struggled to find our hope and identity in Christ alone during our time of waiting.
The battle for rightly placed hope is a lifelong battle and in every season.
Through marriage, we have a partner to help us carry the burden and spur one another on in dependence on Christ. Let’s be patient, forgiving, faithful, and gracious to our spouses as we walk through infertility, trusting in the One who holds us and all things together.
Laura Thigpen | @laurathigpen
Laura is the wife of a pastor and an adoptive mom. She and her family live and serve in Tallahassee, FL. Laura is a contributing writer to various outlets and is passionate about issues of faith and culture, adoption, and the pro-life ethic. She holds a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Mobile and writes about her life at thigpenadoption.blogspot.com.