This is the perfect time to work on being your best self in your relationship.

Are you and your partner experiencing fertility issues? You’re not alone. Nearly one in six U.S. couples has trouble conceiving. As a marriage counselor, I often work with people struggling with fertility and, unfortunately, what I often see is that by the time the couple is done conceiving, they’re also done with each other.

This doesn’t have to be the case. By recognizing the immense stress fertility struggles place on a relationship and working to manage it, couples can come through the process not just intact, but stronger than ever.

Fertility Challenges Add Stress to Individuals and Relationships

For the woman struggling with fertility issues, time slows to a crawl. The normal ups and downs of daily life become exaggerated and often very painful, as she either waits for the next pregnancy test to be positive or recovers from the last negative test.

For the man, there are different challenges. He often experiences strong feelings of helplessness as he watches his partner struggle with the ups and downs described above. Then there is his own grief to tend to, and the tiring cycle of hope and disappointment repeated on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily basis.

Hopeful parents watch as their friends enjoy seemingly easy, successful pregnancies and birth. The pain of this can be excruciating—prompting them to pull away from these friendships, deepening their isolation even further.

Practice Reaching Out, As Well As Within

While it may feel as though fertility issues can take over entirely, there is an important area wherein both partners can and should retain control: over the health and happiness of their relationship. This is the perfect time to work on being your best self in your relationship. To find the good in each day and in your partner and tell them what you see. To hone those communication skills so they are well practiced when you need them most: when you have a child together.

Use this time to build habits and rituals that will serve you later:

• Create a date night. This may sound silly, but it’s not. Couples who set aside and maintain an evening a week, just for each other, fare far better in long-term relationships.

• Enlist the help of a skilled couples counselor; preferably one with experience in fertility issues.

• Make time for yourself. This is key to reducing your stress level and maintaining your sanity once you are a parent. Whether it’s a spin class, yoga, trail running, coffee or beer with a friend, or reading a good book at a cafe—you need this. Start now.

• Find a blog to support your efforts along the way. Better yet, start your own.

• Join a support group for people experiencing fertility issues.

While the struggle to conceive can be very difficult, it also presents a unique opportunity. It’s your chance to intentionally work on the skills that will make you better partners and parents. This will set the stage for your eventually becoming a stable and happy mom or dad—which is a gift you will give your child over and over again.

Abby Per Lee, MFT

Abby has been practicing psychotherapy for more than ten years. Her approach is interactive and goal oriented, and couples will leave their first session with her armed with practical skills to help alleviate tension. From there, the objective is to help each partner feel safe, valued, and loved so that the couple can move forward into a happy and healthy relationship.