There are few things in life as fragile as the male ego. Men like to think they are strong and virile…and what bigger attack on their virility is any suggestion of infertility. This is absolutely unheard of and unacceptable to most of them. But alas, for many couples, this is the reality.
I remember the tug of war it took to get my husband to go for a semen analysis examination. It was all fine and good when I was the one submitting myself for one test after the other, but after a while, I could no longer hold it off. My initial tactic was confrontational. I came down hard on him to at least participate in our quest to know why we were finding it difficult to conceive. Epic fail.
That yielded absolutely no result. Then I tried the guilt trip. Constantly in tears, asking him why he was intent on making me an object of riddle. He was touched enough to console me and assure me this wasn’t so, but he wasn’t moved enough to subject himself for any examination. It wasn’t until I finally realized that I had to massage his ego that I finally got him to the hospital. I had to master the art of toasting. I filled his ears and head with sweet nothings of how virile he was, how I was sure there was absolutely nothing wrong with him, how this was merely something to get off the checklist, etc., before he eventually decided to do it. Thank God his results came out fine.
I thought I was the only one who had this problem, until my friends in the same situation shared their own experience. Almost all of them had to fight hell and high water to get their men to just get checked already! For those whose husband’s results weren’t good, most of them had to deal with the additional task of patching shattered egos. Their husbands spiraled into a wave of irrational behavior, some of them went into denial, some demanded 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th opinions, and some just resorted to direct attacks on their spouses. It was usually at this point that the wives would hear about how many women their husbands had supposedly impregnated in the past, so how could it possibly be them? Without a doubt, from the cases I have seen, male infertility is an even bigger threat to a marriage than female infertility.
I know too many couples that, when the general belief was that their infertility was the female partner’s fault, the male partner would be all sugar and cream, supportive and stoic. But the minute the finger of blame was turned the other way, Prince Charming would turn to a raging, defensive beast, vicious, attacking, and even philandering…anything to prove to the world that he was still as virile as any man could be.
But there are always some exceptions to the rule. I know a couple whom, upon receiving the news of the male partner’s low sperm count and motility, after a brief period of grieving over this news, the husband became even more proactive than his wife, overhauling his lifestyle by cutting out smoking, drinking, exercising more, taking necessary vitamins, researching all their options, etc. From being a passive partner in the fertility quest, he became the more aggressive one. Thankfully it paid off for them.
I think women are just stronger, and built to absorb a lot more. Whilst we might be physically weaker (though not in all cases ☺), we can definitely withstand much more. How many men can take the monthly heartbreak of a failed cycle, go through the invasive rigors of fertility tests and treatment, not to mention the psychological torment from some friends and family? Not many. Their egg like egos would shatter at the very first crack.
That said, I also know some women who have been downright mean about it. A friend of mine, who used to cry endlessly when she thought the fault was hers, started using her husband’s infertility as a missile every time they had an argument. This same person, who almost obsessively craved her husband’s support when the cause of their infertility was unknown, became the partner that thought she could do better. Many-a-time, she mused loudly about whether she should leave the relationship, as she was still young and fruitful. And to save her own face, she made sure everyone knew who the root cause of their infertility was. Needless to say, their marriage did not last.
But let’s not write men off completely. They sure know how to rise to the occasion when the need arises. There’s no better cheerleader than a good husband. Even though we women carry the weight of the cross, a good spouse sure knows how to help ease the load. And when the battle is over, and you are blessed with a pregnancy, you can’t get better foot rubs and massages than from the proud Daddy-to-be.
As women, we just need to be aware of these fragile egos, and know how best to stroke them. That has proven to the best way to keep peace in the home, and to make the (in)fertility journey more bearable.
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