So much emphasis is placed on how to help women get through the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of infertility treatments and testing that you would think that their husbands (or partners) have no particular needs for support through these stressful procedures. True, it’s not their bodies that are undergoing these pokes and prods, invasive tests and procedures. But it’s not exactly easy on them to put up with the emotional ups and downs of treatment cycles, or their spouse’s hormonally- induced mood swings!
And through it all, they are expected to be (or think they are expected to be) strong and stoic.
It’s no wonder that husbands or partners are often ready to stop treatments long before their wives are, or that they frequently get impatient with their wives’ sadness and her withdrawal from family and friends.
Not only do they not have much sympathy or support from the people around them, but they also often lose the support of their wives—who are often hurting so much they can’t offer their husbands much of anything.
So what can you do to support your partner? Here are a few ideas:
Check in with him, non- judgmentally
Not all guys are willing to admit they might be struggling, especially if they think it’s going to be hard on you. If you let him know you can take it, he might just let you know he’s not a happy camper either and tell you why.
But when you ask him how he’s doing, don’t expect that he’s going to be feeling the same way you do. He’s probably not going to be feeling things as strongly as you are, but that doesn’t mean he has no feelings.
Encourage him to talk to friends about what he and the two of you are going through
He may not take you up on it, but if he has people in his life he can confide in about infertility who will just let him talk about it and empathize, then great. It will relieve him of feeling like he has to always be “fine”—whether he really is or not.
Make an effort to talk about and do things you both enjoyed before this struggle began
As much as it may feel like there is nothing outside of your current struggles, it’s important to try to find the common ground you had with your partner in the past. Talk politics, go for a bike ride, make plans to plant a garden or finish a house project—do anything that helps remind you both that you have a life together that you both cherish and enjoy. This will go a long way towards reassuring him that the rest of your life together is not going to be all about struggle, grief and loss.
Let him know he doesn’t always have to be strong
This is a tricky one. Being strong is part of being a guy. They are unlikely to be able to identify any emotions, especially sadness or fear, that would contradict this image. So rather than address the “strength issue” directly it’s probably better to reassure him that you’re feeling a bit better and you really want to know how he’s doing. You might even tell him that if he wants to, he can a lean on you.
The bottom line is this: as much as they may deny it, men are deeply affected by infertility struggles but are often reluctant to ask for help. Being sensitive to this, as much as you are able, will help him and you both.