Infertility is a highly stressful experience, add to that the different ways men and women communicate and you can imagine the stress level skyrocketing. Men and women are completely different when it comes to communicating with one another. What women may regard as intimacy feels suffocating and invasive to men and what men regard as masculine strength feels isolating and distant to women.
In “The Infertility Companion” by Sandra Glahn, Th.M. & William Cutrer, M.D. they say that the average woman speaks roughly twice as many words as men, men say three times as many words in public than at home and the reverse is true for women; they speak more words at home to their husband when they are alone. Men generally “report” facts when talking to other men. Women talk to build rapport with other women, they talk fact and feelings. When polled about their five greatest needs, conversation showed up at the top of the list for women, nothing requiring words showed up on the men’s list.
When there is an infertility diagnosis, it is usually the first real crisis that a couple has had to deal with. Fifty percent of infertile women who responded to one study said that their infertility was the greatest burden they had ever had to bear, fifteen percent of men said the same thing. Testing for men is relatively easy but for women it is more invasive. While women may find some relief by expressing their emotions and telling others what is happening, men typically value their privacy, particularly if their is a male factor. If you want your spouse to be on the same page as you, it would be better to ask for what you need rather than hope he will guess and get it right.
Women often respond to situations more immediatley and spontaneous where as men tend to more easily detach from their emotions. When going through fertility treatment it may be all consuming to the woman. She will go to work and be thinking about what the doctor said or the outcome of a test and a man will more likely not think about the infertility issue while he is at work. Seeing a baby or pregnant woman may make an infertile woman upset and sad while the husband doesn’t react at all. It isn’t that he is not sensitive to his spouse, he is just better able to “put away” those feelings. It may take months and years of infertility before a man becomes passionate about these issues but his passion may never appear to match his spouse.
It is these differences in communicating that need to be addressed while undergoing fertility treatments. Part of handling infertility well is understanding that the typical patterns couples experience are normal. Expecting too much from one’s marriage puts added stress on it, so couples need to look for additional sources of support. One therapist suggests that a couple should receive 30 percent of their support from their spouse. Support groups can be a great source of information and encouragement. Our support group meets on the second Wednesday of the month from 6pm till 7:30pm. If you and/or your partner are looking for a place to share and validate your feelings this is the perfect place. You will meet and talk with other people dealing with the same issues and stresses. You will find compassion and caring at these meetings and it is another place to receive the extra suppport you may need.