Infertility: Your Husband As Your Support System
Infertility: Your Husband As Your Greatest Support System
Are you and your husband experiencing infertility? The diagnosis of infertility can be painful and traumatic. You may be experiencing emotions that may include sadness, grief, loss, anger, guilt, and loneliness. Infertility may have caught you and your husband off-guard, making you feel ill prepared to face this journey together as a couple. You need support and you need it now. How else are you going to survive?
You may wonder how you start to prepare your relationship for the journey of infertility? There are some things that you want to beware of as you and your husband face infertility head on. The most important thing to remember is that your husband is YOUR built in support network. An effective support network needs to have a strong foundation. Below you will find some suggestions to help you and your husband build a strong foundation that will help to protect you against your infertility diagnosis.
Your husband is walking by your side while you navigate the infertility treatment, emotions, and conversations. This does not mean it will always be easy. You and your husband will need to revisit your conversations and discussions around infertility on an on-going basis. Understand that each of you may experience a number of emotions during your struggle with infertility. Often because you both possess a unique lens that you view your world through, and this lens will cause you and your partner to experience different emotions throughout this journey. You may be caught off-guard by your own reaction and feel you may not be equipped to handle the emotional intensity of your experiences. This is what happens to many couples when they find out they are experiencing infertility. The fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness, grief, and isolation around the diagnosis can lead people to make decisions that are not good for the joint needs of the relationship, because they have had no time to prepare their relationship for a diagnosis of infertility.
I suggest that you share with your husband the type of support that makes you feel best and makes you feel worst. For instance, you may let him know how you feel about the support he is already offering you. You may say:
“It feels really good when you give me a hug after we finish an appointment with our doctor.”
“Sometimes you try and make me laugh during our fertility treatment. I really appreciate you trying to put a smile on my face and I know you are doing it to make me happy during this painful experience of infertility, but I think I would find it most helpful if you made me laugh after our appointments are over. Is that okay?”
It is not healthy to assume your husband knows how to support you or that you know how to support him. Think about what types of support have felt good from your husband in the past. Think about whether that support will help you through your struggle with infertility. Verbalize this to him. Let him know what type of support you would like from him in the future. For example, you may tell your husband:
“Sometimes I just need to talk about how I feel. I have so many feelings and emotions running through my head all the time. I would really like for you to just be there to listen to me. I do not even need you to say anything. By talking with you about my emotions I always seem to feel better.”
You will also want to think about times when your husband tried to support you, but you did not feel effectively supported. Sometimes your husband may try and support you and you do not interpret his behavior as supportive. Your interpretation was just an interpretation. You want to let your husband know that the type of support he is providing you may not be helpful. In order to do this effectively you should:
Always use “I” statements.
Tell your husband you appreciate his efforts to support you. Be specific in your praise about what made you know he was putting forth effort.
Let him know the type of support that you are looking for.
Provide positive feedback when he has done something you like. Let him know the story as to why or how his behavior was meaningful to you.
Ask your husband what type of support he needs.
For example, you may say:
“I really appreciate you trying to support me by buying me a small gift each month when we discover that we are not pregnant. What I like about that kind of support is that it makes me feel you are thinking about me and anticipating my needs. I just wanted you to know that it would be even more helpful if we just sat down and talked about the experience. Knowing that you are there for me means a lot. As a child I never had a parent who was available to listen to me. I truly value our ability to dialogue about upsetting events. Right now I am feeling vulnerable about our infertility and I need a lot of support. I am also wondering what type of support you would like from me.”
Here are some tips to help you and your husband be the best support system for each other during this time. These tips are a starting point to help you establish a safe and supportive relationship.
1. Be CURIOUS about your husband’s experience and ASK QUESTIONS!
Find out what your husband is experiencing. Does he have to undergo any medical procedures? What is it like for him to see you taking hormones or injecting yourself with medicine? What has been the most difficult part of infertility for your husband?
2. Share your personal experience.
Let your husband in to your own personal journey. Let him know about your own infertility experience. Your husband may be unsure of what an infertility diagnosis feels like for you. Do you feel like he just doesn’t understand how miserable you feel when you take the prescribed hormones? Tell him what it is like taking hormones. Let him understand that you do not always feel like yourself anymore.
3. Remind your husband that you are here for him.
The conversations may not always be easy, but they will help you better understand how to support your partner. Reassure him. Remind him that you love and support him. Tell him how much you want to be his support system.
4. Agree on a safe word.
There will be moments during your infertility journey when it becomes too difficult to have discussions. It is just important to know how to safely stop a conversation as it is to safely start a conversation. I recommend that you and your husband decide on a safe word. This can be any word you decide. You just both have to be aware that when one of you says the word it means that you will need to table the conversation for another time.
After you decide on a safe word, you must decide on the rules of the safe word. You cannot expect for the conversation to never happen again. You and your husband need to decide how to come back to that discussion. You will want to think about these questions when discussing the rules of the safe word.
When will you resume the difficult conversation?
How will you resume the conversation?
How will you stop the conversation when one of you decides to use the safe word?
Will you be able to respect your husband’s attempts to stop a conversation when it becomes too difficult?
How will you handle your frustration in a healthy way when your husband decides to use the safe word?
Are there any limits to using the safe word?
How will you know when you have to renegotiate the rules of the safe word?
What do you do when you feel like your husband is overusing the safe word?
These tips are the basic building blocks to the foundation of mutually supportive relationship between you and your husband as you deal with an the intense emotions of an infertility diagnosis. It is important to share with him what you have learned. These will be the first steps in preparing you and your husband for the battle against infertility.
If you find yourself really struggling with establishing a support system with your husband during your experience with infertility, and are too overwhelmed with the idea of starting this support system on your own, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation. Each of our therapists is trained in helping clients develop the skills to help couples through their experiences with infertility. To contact a sex therapist at The Center for Growth / Sex Therapy in Philadelphia call 267 324 9564.