Yesterday, when I came home from work, my husband asked me to pull up CNN.com 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.