It is often said that parents need to make sure they take time as a couple to keep the spark in their relationship alive. I think that married couples without children need to do this just as much. Having difficulty conceiving particularly requires couples to make time to appreciate each other.
When we started trying to conceive, we were so thrilled. This was a bigger decision than we'd ever made before; we wanted to bring new life into the world! And we would be doing it together! Making love took on a whole new dimension –instead of waiting until I was sure I wasn't fertile, we started aiming directly for that time. We were flushed with love for each other; there was so much joy in our hearts.
But when the months went by, and the stick just wasn't turning pink, I wondered whether something was wrong and the thoughts started piling up in my head. Why is it taking so long? Is there something not working in me, in him? Why do most other people not have problems with this? Is God telling us that there's something wrong with our relationship, that we're not good enough to be parents? Oh Lord, are we doing this sex thing all wrong?
All of those thoughts started to overwhelm me recently. My anxiety made everything less fun, and it made my husband and me irritated and upset with each other, even over little things. Even making love felt less about, well, making love. Where was our spark of joy, our romantic glow? I realized that it was time to take a step back and not just focus on trying to have a baby. I had something in my life already that I needed to nurture so it could grow, and that was my marriage.
My husband's job is very demanding of his time; in addition to the daily hours, he travels for work several months out of the year. As a result, my job is both my regular job and the majority of household chores. My husband is a night owl and I am a morning person. There are many things standing in the way of our spending time together as a couple; sometimes we start to drift apart, just because we haven't seen each other in a week. Well-meaning people occasionally remark to me that our married life will change when we have children, so I should value all of our "just us" time now. The question I ask myself when they say that is "What 'just us' time?" All of this is to say that even though we don't have children, we still have to intentionally plan to spend time together.
So, we've started making a point to spoil ourselves on the weekends by cooking big breakfasts or having Saturday lunch dates. We walk in our neighborhood and take drives to new places nearby. We went through training to become extraordinary ministers of communion, and now we get to share a greater connection to Jesus in the Eucharist, our parish, and each other by serving in the Mass.
I told my husband last night that a few months ago I had decided to start acting as if we were newlyweds again, showing him more tenderness and affection. He told me that he had noticed the difference!
This doesn't mean that everything is perfect; in fact, this weekend he and I had one of our not-so-infrequent discussions about remembering to put our relationship ahead of the above-mentioned, demanding job. What it does mean is that we have recognized that we can't ignore our relationship and think that couple time is only for those whose families are bigger than two people. We have to act to keep the love alive, and it will multiply in our hearts, even if it isn't multiplying the size of our family just yet.