How a Sense of Humor Kept a Marriage Intact - Effing Funny Fertile Friday
Marriage. It’s a thing. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes it is a bad thing and often it has moments of everything in-between. I love and adore my husband and I still know what an absolute miracle it was that we survived infertility together. Mainly intact, and with only a few psychic wounds.
One deeply unfortunate truth about infertility is that it can make everything feel really bad.
Follow that statement with this.
One deeply fortunate truth for a lot of us infertiles, is that our sense of humor can keep us from dissolving into puddles on the ground.
And please note, the infertility version of a sense of humor can be ever so awful. Raunchy sometimes. The dark, twisty, sense of humor that emerges with the unwelcome advent of infertility was something that wasn’t familiar to me but that I recognized immediately, none the less. And that I embraced as a life raft that could save me from my own isolation.
Drum roll please.
Or Effing INFERTILITY.
Or that which shall not be named. Or mentioned. Or asked about. Or talked about at a party.
Or the I word.
Or whatever you call it.
Whatever you call it, how do you manage the feelings before they manage you?
Think about a pot of boiling water with the lid on. It’s just a matter of time until that pot lid hits the ceiling from all the pressure building up by that rapidly boiling water.
Is a dark sense of humor a way of letting some steam out so the lid doesn’t blow off?
How much energy does it take to keep a lid on it?
Maybe an even better question is, “what blows the lid off?”
You listening out there, all you fertile people?
Or what my husband needed to know to survive our infertility journey with all his limbs attached.
What Words Drive You Crazy While Combating Infertility?
In my home, in my marriage, it’s known as the “r” word. I don’t even capitalize it. I won’t give it that much power or dignity. I have been married for 35 years. Yes, that is RIGHT. Older than some of you have been alive.
There are two basic things that keep our marriage going and also keep him alive.
#1 He travels for a living.
Yes, I miss him when he’s gone but I also enjoy looking forward to him coming back home. And, yes, it’s also great when he leaves. I like my time alone, my own quiet. Shhh, don’t tell him. (Although, I suspect that getting away from me may be on his short list of what he loves about our marriage too!)
#2 We do not use the “r” word.
Or rather, he does not use the r word. Does. Not. Do. It. Another way to put it, he’s unofficially not allowed to use it. Yet another way to put it, he knows the risk to his own health and wellbeing if he does use it.
Do You Know What the R Word Is?
Talking to the fertile community now (you know, the ones who have sex with a member of the opposite sex who get pregnant– even when they don’t want to sometimes), you should know what this word is. Because you should never, I repeat, never, EVER, use it with your infertile friends. At least not in my infertile world.
The word is relax.
Such a simple word. Only two syllables.
Definition—"make or become less tense or anxious”.
Seems so innocent.
Even well meaning.
Well. It’s. Not.
It’s particularly not when it comes from my partner, who knows all about the numberless shots, doctors’ appointments, “procedures”, IUI cycles, IVF cycles and on and on and on that fertility treatment consists of.
Don't Tell Me To Relax
First of all, simple birds and bees biology basics?
Relaxing doesn’t make anyone in the universe pregnant. It’s reported that having sex with a member of the opposite sex when the female is ovulating can sometimes result in a pregnancy. (I have my doubts that really works, but ok!)
Relaxing doesn’t do it. (Especially when there’s a medical problem preventing said wanted pregnancy and medical attention is necessary.)
So how is it reasonable, sane, compassionate or just plain nice to tell someone who is frustrated, scared, disappointed and anxious to relax?
Why not relax?
Did you all think that didn’t occur to us? That we missed that memo? That we have a button somewhere that when pressed, we would relax, and we are choosing not to press that button?
That can’t be what you really think, right?
So for me, it’s the r word that blows the lid off the pot that I’m trying to keep from spewing all over the kitchen, or more specifically, my life.
I’m polite, (mainly), sane (ish), I give measured responses even when I don’t really want to, I tolerate insensitive and intrusive questions, I try to be informative about what infertility is and is not so that maybe the person listening can be more sensitive the next time around. I do all that.
The r Word? It Blows the Lid Right Off My Polite
I become impolite. Loudly, some might even say, irrationally impolite. I shriek. I speak so loudly and so quickly that most of what I say is incoherent (luckily for the listener).
If it was my husband making the suggestion, back in the day when he thought the r word was innocent, I would attack my husband’s genealogy (his mother, father and all the way up his family tree), his shoes, his choice of shirts and anything else that came to mind. Pretty much, everything was fair game except for his excellent choice in spouses ; ). When I got tired of my
own tirade, I would retreat, sulking, to build up more steam, gathering more energy and attack again. I did not apologize for my reaction. Not ever.
So mainly, even now, for the sake of the marriage and my husband surviving to celebrate another wedding anniversary, the r word is not used in my house. Not within my hearing. Unless maybe it’s associated with a tall glass of water, a book and a hammock. (Even then it’s iffy.)
My Question to You
What blows your lid off? Is it a specific word, question or comment? A look? Is it a loved (!) one bringing up infertility in the middle of a party? Is it one more piece of mail, advertising baby formula? And what’s helpful?
Here are a few things to aid you in what to say or simply to share with your well meaning friends and relatives who express themselves rather poorly about your infertility struggle:
- Of Course: Interpreted: “We Get It!”
- You Really Wanna Ruffle My Feathers?
- 3 Reasons Why “Infertiles” Make the Best Friends
Please share with us. Secure email. Anonymous. Tell me.
What makes you go from relatively sane to crazed in less than three seconds flat?
Next time, I’ll talk to you about the G word. (God)
Don’t even get me started.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.