This is for the ladies reading, however I would value hearing what the male readers think of this as well, I suspect the fact you have even subscribed to this means this may not apply to you so much.
“You can’t say your not comparing infertility to a game of football because you just have!” a natural fertility colleague told me. I am proud of being called “the professional who understands” – does this mean I am losing my touch?! I can assure you no. Let me explain…
I was talking to this colleague about some of the differences between men and women on the fertility journey particularly when it comes to sharing emotions. I have talked before about my experience of not being in tune with my emotions on our journey whilst my wife was going through the emotional rollercoaster that is infertility.
I don’t think this is just a male thing although I do think more men generally struggle to be in tune with their emotions than women. Some people, this applies to men and women, are more in tune with their emotions than others so it is not all men. Some people are more thinkers than feelers, some more visual than feelers. Regardless of this my colleague and I were agreeing that we still do often hear women saying how their male partners do not really understand the emotional rollercoaster they are going through.
We were wondering whether we could come up with a way for men to understand more the exhausting emotional turmoil the their partner is experiencing. I think there are a number of reasons why men don’t necessarily engage emotionally which can prevent a sense of unity and emotional togetherness on the journey. These include (and it is often a combination of these):
- Like me a lot of men think they need to play the role of the strong one on the journey thinking it would help their partner most.
- A lot of men say they just aren’t aware of their emotions, which again I can relate to until I was diagnosed with infertility 8 years in to our journey which was the wake up call I needed to stop burying my feelings and stop running from them.
- Some me actually believe they don’t have feelings, in which case they must be dead! Everyone has feelings, they just may not be in tune with them.
So back to our idea. We want to devise a way for men to start to recognise they have emotions and start to be aware of some of the emotions their partner may be going through.
Do you think this might be useful for you if you are a man, or to your partner if you are female?
If you think your partner is not engaging emotionally with your fertility journey as a couple here are some tips that might help you:
- Men are typically problem solvers! Make it clear you don’t want them to solve things for you or try and make you feel better and that you just want them to understand how you are feeling.
- Have a ‘speaking stage’ and ‘listening chair’. The speaker only gives up the stage when they are ready to, so the one listening cannot interrupt without the speaker agreeing. I would allow the listener to ask questions for understanding or clarification only from the chair.
- To stop them interrupting whilst you are talking, they often think they have heard enough to understand (or solve your problem!), you may want to write down how you feel so they can read it without interrupting and then ask them to read it again listening for the feelings.
- Tell them they cannot tell you ‘they understand’, only you can say they understand when they have demonstrated they understand!
- Tell them it’s lonely on the journey without them and you want them to be real with how they feel more than a brick for a husband.
So, ladies, do you think your men could do with something to help them understand what it is like for you on this journey? Would you like to feel more emotionally connected and together? Comment below and tell me.
….and of course infertility is nothing like a game of football, the only similarity is that a football match is one of the few places men show a range of emotions…and even cry! (I think I can say that having played amateur football for many years!).