Male Infertility and Relationship Issues
This is part two of a two-part series on "Coping with Male Infertility" Also check out our tips for men dealing with infertility.
At fertility clinics and seminars, females are taking notes, asking questions, sharing stories, and laughing and crying at will. Men are often more quiet. Females are the vast majority, if not all, of the members on popular infertility support websites, bulletin boards, and Facebook pages.
One might ask: where are the guys? Many would rather disappear into the furniture than discuss male infertility. Why are men so silent when it comes to coping with infertility?
It's a guy thing
Think about it. How often has your partner received an invasive physical exam? Coping with infertility tests and treatments may come easier for you. After all, if you've been following reproductive health guidelines, you've been poked, prodded, and examined by doctors annually. From a young age, you've probably discussed bodily changes and health issues freely with other females. Guys, on the other hand, are less likely to share (and often less comfortable discussing) details about their sexuality and health problems. Don't let this fool you. Your partner is also experiencing a range of emotions when it comes to male infertility.
Male infertility and his manhood
Females often find it helpful to discuss health changes like infertility throughout their lifespan. Men, on the other hand, seem to get by just fine without talking about these things. Here are 5 reasons why:
- Men are encouraged to be strong. He can suppress his feelings about infertility because pain and weakness are not socially acceptable.
- Men are encouraged to provide for their families. He might feel like a failure for not providing you with a child.
- Men must be in control at all times. By not fathering a child he feels like he has let you, and others, down.
- A man often wants to have descendants to carry on his genes and the family name. He is disappointed that he is not fulfilling his end of this bargain.
- Men are encouraged to be highly sexual, with virile sex organs. Infertility affects his manhood and he may worry that he is less of a man because he is infertile.
As he struggles with these beliefs, wanting to stay strong, your partner may just be less likely to talk about his feelings and seek infertility support.
This is reality
The reality television show "Giuliana & Bill" features Giuliana and Bill Rancic, two celebrities sharing their story about infertility in the public eye. In one episode, Giuliana grieves her miscarriage and failed IVF cycle. She visits with a therapist to talk about her struggles. Bill, on the other hand, pours his energy (and probably his pain) into their new home renovations. On the outside, he seems less distressed over their struggles to conceive. Later in the show, however, he does acknowledge that, like Giuliana, he is emotionally struggling with the journey. Giuliana and Bill appear to be coping with infertility in traditional male and female roles. Giuliana's emotions pour freely as she talks at length about her difficulties. She openly shares her distress and struggles to manage work, infertility treatments, and a personal life. Bill acknowledges the difficulty of infertility, while appearing to hold it all together.
Men need infertility support, too
Know that when men do experience grief and depression, they are less likely to seek help. They are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, become angry or abusive, or work long hours to escape. Reach out to your partner. If you feel that he is having trouble coping with infertility, encourage him to talk to you or an infertility counselor.
Close to 10 percent of all couples experience infertility at some point, with male infertility contributing to half of all couple's fertility problems. While men may be less likely to openly seek infertility support, they are coping with infertility too. As you continue on your fertility journey, encourage your male partner to open up, take care of his physical and emotional health, and find helpful outlets for coping with infertility.