How do I deal with my partner’s emotions towards egg donation?
Men and women are affected by infertility in different ways. This is related to the way in which society trains and expects men and women to think, feel and act.
Women are typically seen, by others as well as themselves, as the emotional caretakers or providers of the relationship. Women typically feel responsible not only for everyone’s bad feelings, but also for anything bad that happens. When women try to repress feelings, their emotions can become more ominous until they finally feel out of control. Their emotions can become a monster about to swallow them whole.
Our experience is that a women of an infertile couple, often protects her partner from her own pain and feelings of failure and as such takes much of the responsibility for the treatments and process upon herself. Sound familiar? When it is suggested that men accompany their wives for appointments, couples get concerned about issues like income loss, use of time, etc. While these concerns are usually relevant and important, they also serve the purpose of protecting husbands from their own responsibility in the conception process and from their own feelings, which could easily be intensified by the repetitive contact with the medical team, which is part of the process.
Men are traditionally seen as the financial providers of the relationship and are responsible for protecting the family from real or imagined dangers. Men usually feel more threatened expressing themselves since they have often been conditioned to repress their emotions. They are trained to be more instructional to take charge, to make decisions and to think without being sidetracked by emotions.
Males in infertile couples often feel overwhelmed by the intensity of their partner’s emotions as well as an inability to access and express their own feelings. They tend to focus their energy back into their work, a place where they feel they can have more success.
As a result of taking responsibility for the emotional impact of the infertility, the woman experiences intense feelings, such as pain, anger, fear and frustration. This can be a very lonely time for a woman. Be aware of this and why you are feeling this way. Remind yourself of the facts that we have documented above and try and keep your feelings and the situation in perspective.
Realise and accept that this may be one of the most challenging times in your relationship with your partner. You are in an intensely emotional state and, whether he expresses it or not, so is your partner. Interactions may be strained and affection inconsistent as you each try to come to terms with the facts, options and road ahead. It is normal to feel out of control and not know how to ask for what you need from the partner you are trying hard to protect. You may yearn for an emotional connection and interaction at one moment and in the next withdraw emotionally.
For the man in this situation they may find themselves in a position where, regardless of how well they’ve been trained to solve problems, they are helpless to make this situation better for the woman. As a result they may give off messages that she is “too” emotional or sensitive, hoping that this will calm her down. The woman may interpret this as criticism rather than as an expression of her husband’s own fears.
If all you remember from this chapter is that its OK and NORMAL for infertility to challenge your relationship, you will be doing well!