Wednesday, May 18, 2011

my partner in crime

Yesterday, when I came home from work, my husband asked me to pull up and read an article he thought I would appreciate.

The article was an interview with Marc Sedaka, based on his book, What He Can Expect When She's Not Expecting. If the book is anything like the article I read yesterday, it's something that every man should read. But this is also an area that we, as women (I'm assuming that I have no male readers here beyond my husband - my apologies if I do), need to recognize our role in.

Let me try and explain this without royally pissing off my fellow feminists:

People sometimes say things to me like, "your marriage is perfect." Well, I have news for you: it's not. My marriage is not perfect. Joey and I fight. We sometimes go to bed angry. He doesn't always get what I'm trying to say, and I don't always get what he's saying. Marriage is hard, and when you add infertility to the mix, it gets harder. You don't hear me talk about it and you don't see me write about it, because it's none of your business. I don't air my dirty marriage laundry for all to see, and there's a reason for that. I LOVE my husband. I respect my husband. Therefore, I don't share his little annoyances . . . like not pushing in his chair at the table. And, thankfully, he doesn't share my faults . . . like sometimes not washing the coffee pot before I leave for work. :)

When we were first struggling with infertility, Joey wasn't the most understanding husband. He often didn't know the right words to say or what to do. I used to question whether he actually cared, and I did it to his face. I would ask, "WHY don't you understand?" But the truth is, I didn't always try to get him to understand. I didn't make it easy for him. I didn't try to explain myself or put things into terms that he would understand. I often went to bed in silence, not knowing how best to describe how I was feeling.

I made the mistake of saying “I” instead of “we.” I would say “me” instead of “us.” I still do sometimes. It’s not intentional (though sometimes it is because I want to speak for only myself – rather than anyone else - if what I'm saying is controversial). It’s not meant to be hurtful or alienating. We’ve all done it.

In short, I took ownership of our problems and bottled them up. Unless, of course, I was spewing it out on Twitter or in the blogosphere (which, I found out later, hurt him - "How can you talk to other people about this and not me?"). I did it because I felt like talking to him was burdening him. I felt like a broken record. I thought he would get angry or sad. I had all of these preconceived notions about how he would react to things. I didn't even try. As a result, the more closed off I became, the more closed off he would get.

Finally, I asked him to go to a RESOLVE meeting with me. It took a little bit of arm twisting, but he went. And he TALKED. He talked so much, I couldn't get him to shut up.

That's when I realized: I was enabling this behavior. I was helping to promote this environment of silence, this lack of communication. I was creating this barrier that he didn't know whether he could break through. It wasn't just him.

It was me, too.

I'm not saying that it's this easy for everyone. That all it takes it to get your husband to go to a support group meeting or start rambling about every little thing that upsets you about infertility, expecting that he magically "gets it." I know it isn't that simple. Some marriages don't survive infertility. The lines of communication get broken. People grow apart. They stop understanding each other or trying to understand each other. They get these ideas in their heads about what their partner is thinking or feeling and let their imagination run. They create a forcefield of anger and sadness around them to prevent themselves from getting hurt.

Yes - some of the conversations did and still do hurt. We don't see eye to eye on everything when it comes to each other's feelings. He still can't understand why I get upset when someone announces their pregnancy. I still can't understand why he thinks I SHOULDN'T be upset.

But THAT'S OKAY. At least I talk about it now, and so does he. Even if we don't agree on everything, it still comes out onto the kitchen table - out in the open. It has to. Because if it doesn't, we can't have a child together. Why should I have a child with someone I can't even talk to about my feelings, and vice versa? It's doing a disservice to each other and to our future child.

Reading the article on CNN reminded me of how grateful I am for my husband, but also how grateful I am to myself for realizing what I was doing wrong. Trust me, I LOVE to be right. If there's a person who wears the pants in the relationship and who always wants to win an argument, it's me. I don't bow down to my husband, and he doesn't expect me to. But we need the tips from this article as much as they do. We need to consider why they are reacting the way they do. We need to share the burden with them. We need to put our estrogen aside and realize that we don't have to take all of this on by ourselves.

We don't have to take it on alone.


S said...

Great post, Katie.

As my husband and I have been dealing with infertility, we have always talked openly about our feelings. . . but I have often felt that I was the one doing the lion's share of the hard work.

And I don't just mean the physical parts of fertility treatment, which by their very nature place a greater burden on the woman. No, I also mean I've done more research on options, more coordinating of appointments, prescriptions & travel, more emotional "work" about which path we should take.

Ultimately I ended up seeing a counselor to deal with my grief at never having a biological child of my own. After a few sessions, my husband agreed to come in for a joint session with me.

After that session, I realized that (duh!) my husband has many of the same feelings related to our infertility that I have. . . he just deals with them differently. His coping mechanism has been to think as little about our infertility as possible, which precluded active participation in researching treatment options and all the other minutiae that go along with this stuff. (My coping mechanisms are educating myself and trying to "control" as much as possible.)

I guess I always knew intellectually that he and I were different, but talking about it with an objective third party made me realize WHY he was (in my mind) making me do all the work.

Since that session, though I still do more than my share out of necessity or convenience, my husband has made a real effort to be more involved in every aspect of what I'm going through. Even though the balance is still not 50/50, I appreciate his effort.

serenity said...

We fell into this trap too. J has never talked about it, and I haven't talked to HIM about it either.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't affect him , and we sholdn't talk about it. And over the years, we've gotten better about talking about it and trying to understand each other.

He doesn't get why I think it's MY failure. I don't get how he can be done, just like that, when we haven't gotten the family we dreamed about.

But we're talking about it. Which is something.

Thanks for the post.


A said...

great post!!! i am going to have to look into that book- that is awesome that a guy (or anyone, really) wrote one like that!

AL said...

Great post, Katie.

I think it's so hard to find your footing with communication about infertility and all the pain as couple. For me, I always felt like I was a very rational, calm person and I felt like IF brought out so many other sides of me that I was so afraid my husband would be ashamed of or wouldn't understand. Thankfully, after figuring out what was going on in my head and talking with all the lovely ladies in the blogosphere, I felt like my feelings made sense and I could explain myself. Before that, I couldn't bring myself to talk to him for fear he think I'd turned into a different person.

someday-soon said...

IF tends to bind people together or divide them. So happy you and Joey have been able to share your feelings and your journey. Your future child(ren) will be all the better for it =)

amiracle4us said...

This is a great post. I bought the book a few weeks ago and we still haven't read it!! This guy his been everywhere from articles to interviews.
You are right, marriage is hard and throw in IF and it's even harder. When we had our first RE appt we were told 50% of couples don't make it through the battle. It calms my heart seeing so many that do make it. One thing that has helped C and I was infertility counseling. I pulled (and still do) the 'it's happening to me', 'its my fault' and they helped me see he really did see it as 'our problem' despite him checking out. It made us see a little more the whys we felt certain ways. It made us realize and accept we will feel our own ways and don't need the other to agree, but to accept and support how the other is feeling.
Communication is key. xo

Alice said...

Thanks for this post. It's such an important issue and I am glad to hear about this book - wishing it was available when we were in the depths of IF. I'm glad you guys have the lines of communication open - that's super important.

Waiting Lisa said...

This a great post. I sometimes think Adam reading my blog was the best thing that ever could have happened to us. I can say things on there that I wouldn't be great at explaining to him in person. In person I am more likely to keep thoughts in my head. Or assume he already knows them.

Baby Hopes said...

Amazing post... amazing. Right down to the difficulties of communication and the way that IF can bring barriers into a marriage. Thank you for sharing this. It's so very true. I think the honesty of the ways that IF can strain our relationships and especially our marriages is so important. I myself have hesitated sharing about it at times, but it's so very fundamental to what we experience and face. Thank you for sharing...

Aramelle said...

The first thing I thought of when I first heard of this book was how badly I'd wished for something like this while we were going through treatments.

We still struggle with communicating, even now that our IF is "resolved." For him, it was far easier to move on to parenting after IF and to just put all of that behind us. I've had a much more difficult time doing so. For a LONG time, I bottled that all up because I felt so guilty for how I was feeling. And, honestly, his ease in moving past it made me feel even more guilty for my inability to. It's been especially difficult because, whereas with the IF treatments he could at least kind of understand what I was thinking, I feel now like he just doesn't get it. But I have been working to open up. Because I do know that one thing remains the same: he doesn't judge me for any of the thoughts or feelings that I have.

In some ways, I think that it affects my husband in an even more draining way that it does me. Because he's dealing with all of his own emotions, as well as the feeling of needing to pick me up and take care of me.

mommyodyssey said...

Great post! I feel really lucky that my relationship with my hubby is amazing through all of our struggles, because we were always big believers in open communication. But on the same token, I still need to sometimes push him to express his feelings sometimes. At the end of the day all we can do is do our best to leave space for both sides to talk. It seems like you're doing that, which is amazing, and a great example for everyone who reads your blog!

Kandid Kelli said...

Great post Katie. I know its different but I kept my feelings about both my miscarriages to myself. I did not tell the father how I felt, I cried alone. I felt like it was my fault. Looking back I wish I would have talked about it/ through it.

Thank you for this wonderful, as always, post!


manymanymoons said...

Great post. I almost feel sometimes like my husband doesn't even realize how sad he is. He protects his feelings by not even going thee in his mind and therefore refusing sometimes to even talk about it. Sometimes I think that's a good thing for him, but sometimes you just want someone there in the trenches with you what can cry beside you. Honestly, it's a good thing he isn't like me or we'd be a crying mess! Poor guy can't win with me. :)

Jessica said...

I totally agree and also feel very lucky to have a husband that talks about his feelings. I still feel like I am the one that does all the crying. We react to IF differently while still keeping that open line of communication.

EBC said...

very well put!! we do have to at least try to set them up for success.

Logical Libby said...

It's hard to forget your in it together, because you feel like they are giving up something for you. What I eventually realized was my husband wanted me more than he could ever want biological kids.

I actually think our marriage is better now.

Trisha said...

So, so true! I think communication is key with anything relating to infertility. You have to be on the same page or someone's going to end up hurt in the end. Isn't great to have such a supportive spouse!

Jen Has A Pen said...

I completely understand where you are coming from. My husband and I haven't had any real problems spurred by infertility, but I want so badly for him to understand the hormonal side of it all that makes me more emotional at some times more than others. I think not knowing if today I will be happy, or sad, or hopeful, or pessimistic is really hard for him. And when I'm riding the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster, it can be difficult to explain when in the midst, and then once I'm out, I don't wanna bring it up and go back "there".

I will most definitely go check out the CNN piece.

As always, thank you for your honesty and beautiful words.

Emms said...

This is the first time I've stopped by your blog and have to say this was a feet post. I am one that almost lost my marriage due to IF and if hurts to think of all we did wrong back then. It's fixes now thankfully. This post may help a lot of people and it area as a great reminder to me as we prepare to face treatments again.