My wife and I have seen infertility from many angles. Male infertility, female infertility and secondary infertility. I now work with couples to support them on their journey. I want to share with you some of the things I learnt on our journey (and since) that I believe enabled me to not just survive the fertility journey but thrive on it and also support my wife and grow closer to her through it. Lessons I am eternally grateful for as they have helped me more of the man I want to be and to be, resulting in greater peace and happiness in life.
Infertility (whether yours or your partners) can have a huge effect on many aspects of your life such as your confidence and relationships with both your partner and friends.
If you are experiencing male infertility the first do is listen to your doctor. There are lots of things you can do that may help your situation. From diet, alcohol, nutrition, cycling, mobile phone in your pocket to wearing baggy pants! Male sperm is generated every three months. Your doctor will advise you.
If life feels tough right now because of your fertility situation make space to grieve your original concepts of what a ‘family’ meant for you if you feel you need to. Also, make space to grow and learn through this, have a beginners mind to life and be open to seeing new things. Out of our deepest wounds come to our greatest gifts if we are open to it. Perhaps exploring some of the things in this article may be the first steps for that transformation for you.
This article is going to be about the stuff most people don’t talk about, talking as a man who’s been through it first with my wife’s infertility and then my own. Some of the things I learnt shocked me and I wish someone had told me sooner.
I thought I had to be the strong one for my wife. Turns out it was not the most helpful thing to do. When I was diagnosed with my infertility it was like someone had sucked my life-force out of me. I felt like a shell of a man. I wish I had known how to deal with these things at the time.
For the sake of the language in this article, I am going to refer to a male-female relationship however these points are just as relevant in any relationship as we all have male and female energy within us.
Don’t try and be ‘the strong one’ in the relationship. ‘Manning up’ and being there for our partner can often mean surpassing our emotions and being ‘strong’ for them. Burying your emotions is not good for you, your body or your relationship. That’s not what your partner wants. She wants you to share your emotions. Being truly strong involves being real. Being vulnerable. She wants to know how you feel about things. You won’t be adding to her burden, you will be helping her as counter-intuitive as that sounds. If she is the only one expressing her struggles she can be left feeling that she is an (emotional) burden. Also burying emotions can be harmful to your body and is not going to be helping the cause in any way. When you bury emotions they don’t go away, they get internalized and either come out in unhelpful ways or remain within the body as tension.
Don’t think that your fertility is a reflection of how much of a man you are. Ask any woman what makes a man a man they will not mention whether they can father children or not. What men think women want from a man what women actually want can be very different.
Don’t try and make your partner feel better. Men and women communicate differently. Men communicate when they want to share information or want help with a problem. Women communicate to be heard, to be seen, to be understood. They want to feel connected and that feeling of connection comes from being understood emotionally. She wants you to hold a space for her emotions, without judgement or trying to make her feel better. You may think her emotion is unnecessary or an over-reaction but it’s her reality in that moment. That’s what she wants you to understand. Don’t give advice unless she specifically asked for it. It’s not what they want and leaves them feeling misunderstood. That’s why when men do what they think is best from their male model of the world it tends to make it worse!
Do read The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida. If there was any time to learn what it means to be the man then it’s now. This is the fast-track manual that gets to the core of masculinity and peels away the layers of what society says a man is and helps you connected to a deeper more mature understanding of masculinity we were never taught by our fathers or society.
Do watch Tale of Two Brains. It’s short, funny but full of truths that may help you enormously. Understand the difference between men and women’s brains, it comes to the fore at times of stress. www.bit.ly/taletwobrains
Do learn to connect emotionally. Turning up at appointments doesn’t count. Women want to know how you feel about things. Learn the differences between thoughts and feelings. She wants to know how you feel about things more than what you think about it. If you are not sure start with the four primary emotions: fear, anger, sadness and guilt. It may be a flavour of one of those. Check-in with yourself, you will have feelings even if you have not consciously been aware of them. Women want their men to be strong, however, in their eyes, a strong man is a man who can feel their emotions as well as one that can be there for them.
Do watch this video on how turbo-charge your relationship. It’s times like this you need to ensure you both feel as loved as possible.
Don’t expect mates or family to understand what it’s like. It can be a lonely journey which is why it’s even more important for you and your partner to feel understood by each other.
Do remember that any tests women have to do are far more evasive, humiliating and painful than anything we have to do.
Do recognise when a woman nags it is her way of saying ‘come on, I believe in you, you are better than this, be the man I know you can be and I want you to be’. When she nags about leaving dirty laundry around the house then it’s nothing to do with that. She wants you to understand what she is feeling right now. She wants you to scoop her up in her arms and hear her/see her/feel her (emotionally not physically).
Do find ways you can switch off and have downtime. Whether it’s going for a drink with a mate, playing football or going fo a run. Nurturing yourself is really important and can be the first thing that gets dropped our of life when we get busy or stressed.
If there was just ONE thing…
If there was just ONE thing I would say do or don’t do. It is don’t try and do this alone. Don’t get all macho about it. Find someone to talk to. A friend. A family member. A counsellor. Someone you can get REAL with. If you want a chat with me I invite ANY man that reads this to contact me, no obligation, no commitment, just a real conversation with a man who’s been there. I am confident in making such a bold offer as I know that sadly not many men will take me up on it. Will you?