By Melanie Mikkelsen MSW, LICSW, SRM Counselor
Men and women both have feelings surrounding infertility, but they often cope and express them in different ways. The emotional toll of infertility treatment may not be the same for men, but they experience feelings just as deep as women.
Because men are often ignored by media coverage of infertility, they don’t have as many online outlets for support (such as Facebook, infertility blogs, and infertility support groups. They typically don’t have people offer them “babydust and hope” the same way women do.
Here are some tips to help men and women communicate better and thrive throughout the infertility journey… together.
Remember that you are both on the same team.
You are distinct individuals who will disagree, so try to find common ground. It is ok to have totally different reactions to the same problem.
Ask your partner what he needs rather than assume.
How much and how often does he want to talk about infertility. Who does he want to share your story with outside the relationship?
Tell him what you need, which may change with each cycle.
Identify two things prior to the cycle that each partner feels would be supportive to them during the process. This may include being physically present at appointments, being included on calls and emails from the clinic, scheduling a weekend away as a couple, attending fertility counseling together.
40% of infertility is male factor.
This can lead a man to question his masculinity, self-image, and ability to be a problem solver. Avoid blame, work as a team, and be each other’s strength when dealing with family and friends. Getting online support may feel more comfortable than talking about it with someone in person.
Recognize the psychological and emotional differences between men and women.
Men tend to process their emotions through activity like sports, projects, and work. Give your partner space to do what he needs to do to manage the stress.
Female reproductive systems and fertility terminology can be confusing.
Your partner might not understand the medical information in the same way as you. Encourage him to participate in appointments to get his questions answered.
No marriage or relationship is left untouched by infertility. You have the power within you to make your communication and relationship stronger during this journey!
Some suggested readings written by men, for men and their partners:
“How to Make Love to a Plastic Cup,” by Greg Wolfe
“What He Can Expect When She’s Not Expecting,” by Marc Sedaka
“Swimming In Circles,” by Michael C. Barr
“Shooting Blanks,” by Jonathan Bolt and Steve Ruiz
SRM is proud to offer fertility counseling and support groups to our patients. For more information and to make a counseling appointment or join a support group, please visit Fertility Counseling & Support Groups.
Photo: Hannah Morgan