Women and men generally cope very differently with infertility. Women are usually ahead of men in terms of admitting there may be a problem and wanting to seek medical evaluation and treatment. Women also tend to want to move forward sooner than men with more invasive procedures like IVF. Women seek social support with friends and family to cope. Men tend to distract themselves with work and do not confide in other men or family members. In addition, when women turn to their husbands for emotional support, men tend to withdraw. Men hate to see their wives in emotional pain, and rush to "fix" the problem rather than listen. The result of these differences is that both spouses feel misunderstood by their partner.
Break This Cycle
How can you break this cycle? For women, try to understand that men are not trying to be insensitive jerks. Men typically do not cope by sharing their feelings. Men are action oriented and cope by doing. They cannot "do" anything to fix the infertility problem, and this makes them feel very incompetent as husbands. For men, try to resist the urge to take away your wife's pain. Practice saying things that validate her feelings and make her feel heard. For example, here is a phrase that communicates empathy and understanding: "I can see that you are really hurting. It hurts me to see you in so much pain and distress. We will get through this together."
Although the above information was written for partners in a heterosexual union, I have seen the same dynamics played out in same-sex partnerships. One partner more freely expresses thoughts and emotions while the other partner acts as the "strong" one who is focused on solving the problem and relieving the emotional pain of his/her partner. The same tips for improving communication and reducing stress in the relationship still apply.
*At CARE, our psychologist, Dr. McBride, is available do offer couples counseling to make sure your marriage stays strong during treatment. Call 817-540-1157 today to schedule a consultation.