Father’s Day is a great time to celebrate the fathers and father figures in our lives. It’s typically filled with happiness and excitement, appreciation for all the fathers.
But Father’s Day can be a very challenging experience for some men.
Men experiencing infertility on Father’s Day are faced with a struggle that often goes unnoticed, unrecognized, or misunderstood.
Chances are, you are probably sensitive to what your partner is going through because the fertility issues impact you too. But there are some issues that may be harder to understand or help him through.
Right now, he’s seeing all of his friends begin to have kids or build their families. They’re all celebrating Father’s day, maybe through cookouts, camping trips, spending time with the family. He’s noticed how his friends have changed. Their priorities are different, they talk more about their kids, they have different or more time-consuming responsibilities. As he sees their lives getting busier, he may feel pretty isolated. He hoped for those changes for himself too.
So it’s at this time, especially around Father’s Day, that he may feel even more frustration, sadness, or disappointment. Add on to that, he’s overwhelmed by commercials, advertisements, and messages everywhere about Father’s Day. Advertisements for “Best Dad Ever” coffee mugs, cards at the store filled with dad jokes, commercials with kids making breakfast for their father. Everywhere he looks, he’s haunted by the reminder of the fertility struggle, the fear that he isn’t good enough.
As he’s feeling isolated, it may be hard for him to talk about his experience. He might not feel able to share with friends what’s going on. He may not even feel ready to share with you.
So he’s left feeling faulty like infertility took a piece of him and his family away. Faulty that he needs help, that he struggles to talk about something so detrimental to him.
Even though you’re trying, it may be hard to understand his perspective.
Unfortunately, even in an ever-changing and growing society, men are still frequently pressured to “be a man”, to be the provider and the sole source of strength for their families. They still feel the expectations of decades of ideas about “manliness.” He should be strong. He should not show emotion. He should be able to give you children.
He might feel like he’s drowning under the “should’s.”
Suffocating under the weight of everyone’s expectations for who he “should” be, and lost in the fear that he won’t be able to accomplish his own goals.
Maybe there’s a part of you that gets it.
After all, this is happening to both of you. His feelings may be similar to your own experience around Mother’s Day as you see your friends celebrating with their families.
Anger, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, worry, fear.
So maybe you’ve tried to reach out to him. You’ve tried talking and supporting him. But it might have been difficult for you to know what to say, or how to help him. You want him to talk to you instead of shutting down. You want to support him and feel supported by him. Especially on Father’s Day, you want him to know you care.
It’s confusing for you because he doesn’t express his feelings in the same way you do. Maybe he doesn’t open up the way you want him to. Or maybe when he does, it’s a lot different than what you were expecting. So you’re feeling stuck and wondering what to do now to help him.
So how can you help your partner as Father’s Day comes around?
There might be many ways to support your partner as they’re experiencing infertility this Father’s Day. But don’t get overwhelmed with trying to do everything and be everything for him. Here are a few things to remember to help you help your husband as you both experience fertility issues in your relationship.
- Listen. Maybe he doesn’t seem like he wants to talk, but give him space to. Be with him in the silence if that’s what he needs. When he talks to you, accept what he says and respond to show that you’re trying to understand and that you care. Remember that infertility is hard for both of you, and he needs your help too.
- Help him find and stay engaged in activities he enjoys. When you’re going through something so difficult, it’s easy to shut down and isolate yourself. Encourage him to have a hobby. Do something fun with him. Maybe you find a fun sport to play together, or a place you enjoy going to hike or walk.
- Remember that he needs extra support too. You may have a group of friends you feel comfortable talking to about what you’re experiencing. He needs some supportive friends too. It’s easy to withdraw and not want to be around others, especially if they aren’t dealing with infertility like you are. But encourage him to find a few close friends he can talk to if he needs, who will be understanding and supportive. Maybe he could use a guys night or a fun weekend outing with some of his friends.
- Don’t push. He needs space to process his own experiences, and being pressed for distractions or interaction on the topic may only remind him of what he feels he’s missing out on all the more. As mentioned above, be there when he’s ready to talk, and provide support, but don’t push him if he’s not there, yet. Be patient as you reach out.
- Plan with him for Father’s Day. See what he wants to do on that day. Suggest a mini-vacation or weekend getaway. He might not want to spend a lot of time with family. Work together to find a way to honor and love the fathers in your lives, while still giving him the space he needs. Your relationship is about so much more than having children, and you both have so much love to give. So seek to show each other love on Father’s Day, and every day.
While reading this, if you felt like some of these suggestions may be difficult to do, or you’re having a hard time talking with each other, couples therapy may be a good way to help you both reconnect, support each other, and work through infertility together. Please feel welcome to reach out today to schedule a free consultation. Learn more about couples therapy for infertility here.