Tag Archives: Marriage

Role Reversal

For the past 14 months my wife has been there for me as best as she can. She has listen to me open up as to how I am hurting. She has been there to comfort me. She has been there to let me know she’ll be there for me no matter what. It has not been easy for her putting up with me while at the same time dealing with her own grief from our infertility and what will never be.

But now there are more pressing issues in our life and especially her life. Over the Thanksgiving holiday my MIL was diagnosed with cancer. She had it removed but now is beginning Chemo. The prognosis is good but the chemo treatments are not going to be pleasant. My wife is very close to my MIL. This woman is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. She is the typical Italian mother who is sweet and with a great heart. Needless to stay my wife is struggling with the situation. Anyone in her position would.

What our roles were the last 14 months have now switched. As my wife was there for me, I need to be there for her. That’s the way it’s always been for us. One of us has always been there for the other in our times of need. Be it her being there for me when I had a dead end job or me being there for her when we found out her father had cancer it’s helped us navigate through the tough times in our lives.

It’s a weird place to be in right now. With the exception of this situation I’m in a good place and pursuing adoption and remaining childless forever is the last thing on my mind. But make no mistake about it this is a very serious matter that brings us down. The only thing to do is be there for my family because that’s what families do. They’re there for one another on their time of need whether there is a biological connection or not.

Tips for Husbands with Infertile Wives by Baby Hopeful

Back in December I did a piece “Tips for Wives with Infertile Husbands“, it was one of my better pieces that I am hopeful people found beneficial.  As a follow up I thought it would be great to do a follow up piece on the other side of things, what can a husband do to help his infertile wife.  Unfortunately I don’t have the biological make up to do a piece like that so I had to seek out help.

One of the many great people I’ve connected with over the last year in the infertility community is a woman who runs a website called Baby Hopeful.  She and her husband have been going through infertility for over three years.  They’ve dealt with miscarriages, treatments and a whole lot of heart ache.  It’s a truly heartbreaking story to follow.  But they are people the infertility community looks up to for their courage, resolve and sharing so that other couples going through similar experiences can understand that they aren’t alone.  It’s a great website and blog that I highly recommend people check out as well as follow her on twitter at @babyhopeful.

It is with great pleasure that I present to you her piece geared towards Husbands who have infertile wives and what they can do to be there for their wives as they navigate their infertility journey.  I hope that those men who have infertile wives find this piece helpful and hope that infertile wives can share this piece with their husbands.  I can’t thank her enough for her putting this AWESOME piece together and for all of the work she does through her website.

Tips for Husbands with Infertile Wives

As an infertile wife I am often so self consumed with my own woes, that everything is about me.  I admit, there have been times when it hasn’t even cross my mind how hard it is for a husband to deal with an infertile wife.  So I have put together a few tips based on my experiences for husbands who have infertile wives.

1.) Put yourself in their shoes

Try to imagine how you would feel if you were the reason you and your wife couldn’t have a baby.  Would that make you feel like a failure?  Make you feel like you were letting her down?  Make you wonder if they even want to stay married to you (after all they might be able to have children with someone else)?  Well, imagine that for a moment… That is exactly how she is feeling.

You need to reassure your wife that she isn’t a failure and she isn’t letting you down.  Most importantly, reassure her that you will not leave her because she can’t have your children.  This has crossed my mind more than once, and my husband always tells me that “he wants children with me, not anyone else.  He doesn’t want to be married to someone else and that if we never have children, he will still have me and that’s the most important thing.”  This is the right thing to say!

 2.) Recognize the emotional and physical effects

I have had test after test; blood tests, surgery and internal investigations that have inflicted pain and have taken away my dignity.  In comparison, my husband has had two blood tests and two sperm tests.  I have had three miscarriages which have been painful and left me run down, tired with messed up hormones to boot. If your wife is dealing with all this, accept that she will be emotionally and physically tired.  What should you do?  Ask her if she is ok (often), spoil her (surprise her with flowers or a get well card, take her shopping), look after her (breakfast in bed), make her feel loved (hug her and tell her you love her… a lot).  She will be feeling pretty pathetic and will need it.

2.) Think about the biological differences 

I know how much men want children and I don’t want to offend men reading this (I apologize if I do), but don’t underestimate a woman’s internal desire to carry a baby; to give birth and to nurture a baby as a mother.  It is the strongest, most overpowering, consuming feeling I have ever known.  My biological clock (which I never knew I had until 3 years ago) has been ticking louder and louder over the last few years and I have become desperate to become a mother.  I think the key for the husband is to try and understand that the desire for a child is not a completely conscious decision; it is coming from the “mother within”.  There is not a lot you will be able to say to make this ok.  But you need to say that you understand (even if you don’t), reassure her that you still have lots of time, but also make sure she knows you are on her side and want this baby as soon as possible too.

3.) Patience

There have been times when I have cried my heart out literally every day; when I have been so angry I have slammed doors, stormed out of the house and thrown out insults like an obnoxious ungrateful teenager; when I haven’t laughed or smiled for weeks; when I have been a shadow of the woman my husband married.  Allow your wife to let these feelings out.  Be there for her, hug her, let her cry, be patient.  The wife you know and love will return, even if only for brief moments at first.

4.) Don’t take it personally

Know that it’s not you your wife is angry at, it’s infertility.  Anything your wife throws at you, don’t take it personally.  The harsh comments aren’t directed at you (even though it will often sound like they are).  We all take things out on those closest to us and in this instance the poor husband gets the short straw.  The only advice I can give on this one is don’t fight back with insults or harsher comments.  Bite your tongue, try to ignore what has been said, and know that your wife doesn’t mean it.  I know it’s hard and it’s allowing her to take no responsibility for her words or actions.  But don’t worry, she will realize this for herself and will usually apologize when she has calmed down.  Deep down she will know she was wrong to act like that/say those things.

5.) Talk, but get the balance right

Women (in general) talk more than men, it’s the way they rationalize thoughts and deal with problems.  An infertile wife will go over and over the same problems with her husband, trying to come up with a solution.  However, with infertility the conversation may never end because there’s no quick fix.  Of course a husband must listen and talk, but get the balance right and know when to have a break.  On more than one occasion my husband has said to me “We’re on holiday, let’s not talk about babies for now.” Or “Let’s enjoy our meal and talk about that tomorrow”.  At first this used to annoy me (because I wanted to talk about it there and then), but I soon realized that this was the best thing he could say.  It meant my brain was having a rest, that we could go back to just being a normal man and wife for a while (not “man and infertile wife”).  Arrange to do things you enjoy and don’t talk about babies/infertility while you do it.  Believe me, distraction is a good thing, even if only temporary.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps any men out there dealing with infertile wives.  You could even ask your wives to read it too, see if they agree.  They might have some more advice of their own to add.

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Infertility’s Impact on Marriage

I thought about writing about the impact infertility can have on a marriage using my own as an example but held back until I saw an article earlier today (thanks for sharing Fran). The article discussed the impact infertility has on a marriage. After reading it got me thinking that maybe it’s time that I shared how infertility has impacted my marriage.

I’ve talked on this blog about how I spent seven months in 2013 in therapy. What I haven’t mentioned is that my wife and I have been in marriage counseling since last March. We’ve had many screaming matches and many nights that either I’ve slept in the guest room or K has slept on the couch. It hasn’t been pretty. The cause of our stress isn’t always because of infertility directly but indirectly.

You see K has worked the same miserable job since three weeks after we got married which will be seven years ago in September. She had been looking to find a new job but held off when we started to try to have a child. The 18 months we wasted trying to have a child she could have been looking for a new job. The guilt I have from that because of my spermless nuts kills me. Because of them K is stuck at her miserable job and that kills me.

Adding that stress she’s had on top of the my bitchy infertility grief has caused us to take it out on one another. I’ve said things I wish I never said and she’s fought back. When we fight I don’t fight fair. Usually she’ll back me into a corner with something I have nothing to come back with and then I’ll go for the jugular. I’ve accused her of not wanting children because she isn’t ready to look into adoption and she’s accused me of her not being enough for me. There have been times when I’ve thought she would leave me. But she hasn’t by some miracle.

Things have gotten better though. We are communicating better and the fights we have are not lasting days as they did last year. But we still have a long way to go. We can’t move on until K lands a new job and I have worked through my grief to the point where I can be around babies and not hurt when I hear that someone I know is pregnant.

I’ve read stories of couples who don’t survive infertility and I understand why. In a lot of cases people put their lives on hold to have children. The stress that it causes when things don’t work out is something that is hard to describe unless you’ve been through it. Though I think if a couple can survive getting through infertility that their relationship can last forever. Because as the saying goes what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Tips for Wives with Infertile Husbands

I recently connected with a woman on the resolve message boards whose husband is dealing with infertility. Like anyone dealing with infertility he has not dealt with it well. She has had a hard time connecting with him, which is natural given the circumstances. Just as men are going to have a hard time understanding what their infertile wives are going through, it’s going to be the same situation when roles are reversed. So I thought it might be helpful to put together a piece for women who have husbands who are infertile. Below are some tips for these women:

1) Be patient. As a couple you’ve likely been trying to have children for at least a year, it’s natural to want to rush into third-party reproduction or adoption so you can become parents ASAP. But the grieving your husband is going through is a process and he might not be prepared to go through those processes right away. In my case, I actually wanted to rush into these processes because I wanted to become a dad so bad. I’m actually glad we’ve waited because I wasn’t ready to parent a child that wasn’t biologically mine. It wouldn’t have been fair to the child.

2) Your husband’s anger has nothing to do with you.  People are angry for a reason.  It isn’t because they want to be angry.  It’s because a person is going through some type of hurt, anxiety or frustration.  Anger is a reaction to those feelings.  In the case of a man who is dealing with infertility the anger that he is feeling is not necessarily because of his wife.  It’s because there is a lot of hurt inside of him.  Some men may feel that because they are unable to get their wives pregnant that they are less of a man.  I didn’t identify with these feelings but there are a lot of men out there that do.  Feelings of disappointment and frustration of being the reason his wife is unable to get pregnant can drive that anger infertile men come out with.  It’s important for women to recognize that they have nothing to do with why their husband hurts.

3) Ensure your husband that it’s ok to feel the way he does.  The worst thing a wife can do to their husband is tell them they are wrong and that they aren’t less of a man or that they shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to get their wives pregnant.  All that does is tell the husband that he is crazy and that he shouldn’t feel that way.  It makes a bad situation worse by him questioning himself.  The best thing a wife can do is console their infertile husband and tell them that it’s ok to have those feelings.  No matter how crazy it may sound to you on your end, never tell your infertile husband that he is wrong.  He may say some stupid things that don’t make any sense (I’ve been guilty of this many times).  While you may think you are just encouraging your husband to feel down, in reality you are helping him work through his grief.

4) Don’t force your husband to express his feelings.  Not every man is going to be as open with their infertility as I am.  Everyone processes things differently and just because I am open with my infertility doesn’t mean it’s correct that every man should be open.  How I’ve dealt with my infertility is not how every man should.  In fact I’ve made so many mistakes in dealing with my infertility over the last year that I am the last one to tell another man how to deal with his infertility.  It may take your husband some time to express his feelings about his infertility.  But never assume just because he isn’t being open that he doesn’t hurt.  You should ask him about it on occasion but never press him too hard where he becomes like a cornered animal and snaps.  Going back to my first point, wives need to be patient with their infertile husband’s grieving.  He may never come out and openly talk about it.  You can suggest he go and see a therapist to talk about it but don’t force it on him either.  Let it come naturally rather than force it.  Forcing him to come out about it is short-term thinking when you both should be in it for the long haul.

5) Include him in every decision you make.  The natural tendency is for women to jump the gun and come out to friends and family about their struggles to have a child.  I know it’s hard to not say anything when depending upon how old you are and how long you’ve been married for friends and family to ask you when you are having kids.  You want to tell them what you are going through just so they stop asking (though coming out could open up the door to unwanted annoying advice).  But you need to keep in mind that your couples infertility story not only impacts you it impacts your husband as well.  If you tell someone who your husband is not comfortable with them knowing then you could open the door to many issues.  The other natural tendency is for a wife to pursue a treatment or pursue adopting when their husband isn’t completely on board because they want a baby so bad.  I understand especially on the treatment end that your body is going to be going through the bulk of the work.  But you need your husband there with you every step of the way.  Remember the goal and the reason you married your husband is because you love him, wanted to spend the rest of your life with him and wanted to start a family with him.  If a wife pushes a husband into something he isn’t comfortable with and it leads to issues that end up in a separation and divorce then instead of your dreams of becoming a married couple with children turns into a reality of being a single parent.  That’s not what you want.

It’s so easy for any woman with an infertile husband to make unintentional mistakes in working through their infertility.  Infertility messes with couples heads and relationships.  Couples will become disconnected at times.  There are couples that never survive it because of how powerful a blow infertility is.  It’s important to remember that you are a team and have to work through it together.  There are times you will need to check your ego at the door and put your couple’s best interest ahead of yours (as any strong marriage does).

I hope the women that read this piece find these tips helpful, the men who read this piece can identify with these things and hope that they make a difference in your relationship.  I am interested to see your feedback and if you have any stories you’d like to share.

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