This year, there are many potential reasons why you may not feel ready to embrace the season of love and romance.
Last Valentine’s Day, the reality of the pandemic hadn’t completely sunk in yet in the U.S. By now, though, we’re essentially a full year into the stress, lockdowns, and anxiety of living through a deadly pandemic alongside political and social upheaval.
Though we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re exhausted - collectively and individually.
And for couples fighting infertility, the financial and emotional stress of treatment likely feels even heavier this year than it might have before.
Despite all of this, a strong, healthy relationship is still important for both your current mental health and the future family you’re creating. But like anything truly worthwhile in life, it takes work to keep that spark lit and burning bright.
Following are a few ideas to help you keep the romance alive as you weather infertility (and, well, everything else).
Establish daily rituals that bring you together.
We've all had adjustments to make to our daily routines in some way or another over the past year. Many of us are working from home and seeing our partners even more than we ever did before!
But quantity doesn’t equal quality. When the lines between work and home blend together with no real boundaries, an entire day — or days! — can slip by without even noticing that you haven’t really connected with your partner. Stuck at home in isolation, you may even start to feel more like roommates than romantic partners.
That’s why it’s important to have consistent routines and rituals in place that force you to stop and be present with your partner.
Maybe every morning, you have a non-negotiable coffee date, with phones away, to chat and discuss your day. And every evening, you mark the end of a workday by sitting on the sofa together for a short conversation.
Or, maybe you decide you’ll always take your lunch break together. For some couples, it can be taking a post-dinner walk, or working out together, especially if it’s an exercise that requires two people.
You might even come up with a new date night idea that doesn't require a lot of effort, like putting together a fancy cheese board and discovering new flavors together. You could even create a new profile on Netflix called "Date Night" to save the shows and movies you like to watch together.
Even if you’re not lucky enough to both have jobs that let you work from home, or for some reason you don’t see your partner as often as before, you can still find ways to check in or connect from afar.
Keep the lines of communication open by texting or calling at the same time every day just to check in. Leave small, sweet notes for your partner to find as a surprise.
Then, make your in-person time together sacred and non-negotiable.
No matter what rituals you adopt, the key is deciding together what you’ll regularly do to connect, putting it on the calendar, and then making sure you stick to it instead of letting the day slip by.
Then, be truly present with your partner during your time together.
The goal of these rituals is to connect with your partner so you can confidently present a united front against everything you're battling, including infertility.
But this is not just a “nice-to-have.” Couples undergoing treatment often fail to get pregnant not because the treatments can’t or won’t work, but because it can take multiple tries to be successful — yet the emotional toll of early setbacks can sometimes be too great to continue.
These rituals provide an opportunity to dream together about your future family and help you both keep your hope alive, which could make all the difference in accomplishing your goals.
Lighten up in the bedroom.
Sex can quickly start to feel like a chore when you're having difficulty conceiving. What was once fun actually has a functional purpose, for one thing! Mentally, this shift alone can drain your energy and desire.
But there's also a tendency among couples to start regulating how often, and when, they have sex to optimize their chances of getting pregnant. Some even believe the myth that too much sex can negatively impact a man's sperm count. This simply isn't true.
Any fertility doctor will tell you that the best thing you can do is have as much vaginal intercourse as possible, especially around the middle of the cycle, but not so strictly that you avoid sex on any particular day.
Why? Healthy sperm can survive inside the woman’s body for several days, so it’s not so much a matter of timing as it is the frequency of opportunity that sperm have to make contact with an egg.
So, don't over-regulate when or how often you have sex. Instead, focus on making sex exciting and fun so you're both inspired to do it as often as possible! How you spice things up is your call, as long as you're both enjoying it.
Go on an exciting adventure together.
Obviously, our ability to safely travel is still fairly limited. But adventures don’t have to involve a distant destination.
Research shows that when couples experience something thrilling, exciting, or even frightening together, that rush of adrenaline can actually spark romantic feelings and sexual attraction.
Going through something unique or unusual together can also make you feel closer to each other.
Maybe you stretch your limits by trying a new activity together you don’t think you’ll be able to do, or one you’re nervous about trying.
It’s best if it’s a physical activity — like trying rock climbing for the first time, for example — but anything new and different will do.
Even an afternoon of riding roller coasters together can give your connection a little boost if you’re not feeling particularly creative!
And if you can safely get away, a change in scenery could be just the ticket. Consider renting an Airbnb for the weekend, and go on a socially distanced road trip to a nearby town.
There’s also probably no better time to go camping (or glamping, if that’s more your style!), since you’ll have plenty more than 6 feet of space as you experience the wilderness and beauty of our state and national parks.
(And if you, like many, have adopted a pandemic puppy, your pet is probably itching to explore new terrain, too!)
The key is novelty. Whatever adventure you choose, make sure it gets your blood pumping with excitement, nerves, or the rush of a new experience.
And if you need any more motivation to give this a try, just consider how little time or energy you’ll have for fun experiences or weekend getaways once you have a little one to care for!
These past few months may have been the most intense test of your relationship yet. Surely, if you survived 2020 with your relationship intact, you can weather any storm together.
But we need more than security and fortitude in our relationships. We all want to thrive, not just survive.
Fortunately, romantic partnerships are strengthened not just by the heavier experiences we endure, but by the lighter moments we share, and the fun, laughter, excitment, and emotional connections we nurture.
By learning how to keep the romance alive now, you’ll build a lifelong habit that will carry you and your growing family for years to come, through whatever life throws your way.