The following was reprinted with permission from A Few Pieces Missing from Normalcy
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.