It's Alright to Cry - Men and Infertility
Most people will identify with, and want to comfort, a woman who is infertile. They understand what she is going through, or can imagine what she is experiencing. During this process, however, many people forget that there is also a man involved - and he is also in pain! This is particularly true if the man is the cause of the infertility. He will experience many emotions, and it is important to validate these feelings and to think of ways to help him to cope.
Certainly, most men who find that they are the origin of the fertility issues will wrestle with a feeling of inadequacy. Although these are not correlated in truth, many men tie together their manliness and their ability to get their wives pregnant. If you've ever seen a man boast about his three strapping sons, you can easily see the correlation. This feeling of inadequacy gets exacerbated when the man is asked to masturbate into a cup and is poked and prodded to figure out what is wrong. It is important to be there for him at this time, and to try to make him understand that his masculinity is not in question here.
Out of Control
Certainly, there is a lack of control over your own body when you discover that you have fertility issues. Many men like to be in control, and like to believe that they are in control. When they suddenly see that they are not in control of fertility, and that they need to turn to others for help, this can be quite disconcerting and humbling.
A Need for Boys
Through the ages, men have wanted to have male heirs. Why? Because traditionally, this was how the family line and the family name was passed on. This is still true in many cultures today, and it may be hard for a man to wrestle with lost dreams. If he questions whether or not he'll ever have children, then he must face the fact that his name might not be carried on - and that he might not have an heir. Certainly, he should be made to see that adoption is possible, as is surrogacy, and perhaps fertility treatments.
A Guilty Spouse
Many men feel guilt if they are infertile - because they know that their wives want a child and they are the stumbling block in front of this process. Of course, logically, it is not their fault and no one is to blame. But, this doesn't always help to alleviate the feelings tied to infertility. It is very important to try to be there for your partner as much as possible and to help him to see that this is a process that you are going through together.
It is very important for an infertile man to seek out the emotional assistance that he may need. While he may feel that he doesn't really need to talk to anyone - it will, undoubtedly, help to do so. He can go to counseling, join a support group, open up to a friend, visit a priest or rabbi, or find another avenue through which to express his feelings. It is also a good idea to channel some of the feelings and energy into exercise. This will be good for the body, for the mind and for the stress. Seek out yoga, running, water sports, or any other activity that allows a mental reprieve and a chance to burn off some of the physical angst.
Remember that this is a journey that will, hopefully, end with a pregnancy or an adoptive child. Along the way, it's very important for the couple to keep the channels of communication open with each other and to try to allow these difficulties to strengthen their relationship, rather than to break them apart.