Will my boyfriend stop being attracted to me if he learns I am infertile, even though he doesn't want to have more children?
March 14, 2012 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm in a relationship with someone and it's getting pretty serious. He has two kids from a previous marriage who I love (and they seem to love me, too). It's all quite great. However, I have what seems like an irrational fear that I can't seem to get out of my head and wanted some input.

Our relationship is great. The kids are great. He has an amicable relationship with his ex and I get along decently well with her, too. We've started to talk marriage. It's all exciting!

Here's the thing: I am unable to have kids of my own. I have had several benign ovarian cysts over the years, and it's been determined that I just...don't...ovulate. At all. I'm on the pill to keep my periods coming regularly, but in terms of actual birth control...don't really need it, apparently. Because there ain't no eggs coming down. Sigh.

When I learned this I didn't freak out too much - I figured that if I ever wanted to have kids, there were other avenues I could pursue to have them. Or maybe I just wouldn't have kids at all. I came to peace with this a long time ago and it doesn't bother me at all now - and now that it looks like I might become a stepmother to two awesome kids I feel like hey, this is great. It won't be the same as having biological kids, but I think I could be a really good stepmom, and I'll get to experience a version of motherhood, in a sense. And I love the kids. And of course, I love their dad. This feels right to me.

But...I have never outright told my boyfriend this detail about me not being able to have kids. I've been with him four years now and I just can't bring myself to do it for some reason. One of the things that he made clear to me very early on in our relationship (or even before that, when we were just friends) is that given his age (mid-late 40s) he wouldn't want to have another child. And in my mind, I filed that away as "OH THANK GOD we won't have this complication to deal with!" In my mind, I figured hey, if that's how he feels, then the fact that I am infertile is a good thing. So I don't think telling him this fact about me would be a dealbreaker in any sense. I just feel like he ought to know because, well, in my conception of a healthy relationship, people should be able to share these painful parts of themselves with each other, and people shouldn't keep inconsequential details secret for no reason.

My fear, though, is that this isn't inconsequential. My fear is that if I tell him this, he'll stop being attracted to me.

No seriously. That's my fear. And I know it doesn't really make logical sense in any way shape or form, but I just can't shake the feeling that if I tell him "Hey, I can't have kids because my ovaries are busted," he will not find me attractive anymore.

WHY do I feel this way? I have never, ever felt that my reproductive issues impeded my ability to feel feminine, and take joy and pleasure in my sexuality. I've never felt Not A Woman because of this fact about myself (and I've known this since I was 19). But why am I worried that this is somehow going to mean something to him? Especially since he's stated in the past that he doesn't want to be a new dad again when he's pushing fifty. So it's not like he'd be all sad that he can't procreate with me - procreating with me (or anyone) is off the table for him. So I should be able to tell him.

But I can't, because I'm just so scared that he'll be turned off by this for some reason.

Does this make any sense? Is this something to worry about? If not, then how do I get myself to get beyond this and move forward?

For the men of AskMefi, would you stop being attracted to your SO if you found out she was infertile (even if you didn't want kids)?

I guess I'm just looking to hear if anyone has experienced anything like this. Or just some perspectives/ways to reframe this (read: ways to stop freaking out that my boyfriend of 4 years who wants to marry me and have me help raise his young children would run screaming for the hills if he found out I am infertile). Unless it's true that men don't find infertile women attractive. But that's such an inflammatory statement that I cringe looking at it. But is it true? ARGH GAH HELP.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total)
You feel this way because in some way your fertility issues still matter to you. It doesn't have to be logical for you to feel this way. You're feeling it and so you need to address it. If it helps, when DH and I were struggling to have children, I remember sobbing in the shower because I was afraid he'd leave me if I couldn't ever get pregnant. He had never given me any indication that he would. It was such a primal fear for me though. So, I told him. I told him about my fear. He soothed it and we set it aside. It didn't come up again.

For you to move beyond this fear of yours, I encourage you to talk with your partner. Let him know of your fear and of the fact that you don't ovulate. He may be surprised at both and ask why you've never told him before or why you continue to take birth control. Be open to the conversation. However, given his age and his statement that he doesn't want more children, I suspect he'll be able to soothe your fears. Heck, he may be relieved because he may have had a fear of his own that you might get pregnant one day.

Talk with him. It will be ok.

Good luck.
posted by onhazier at 7:45 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Has he ever said anything to this effect? I don't want to dismiss your fears as completely irrational if you're actually getting a sense that he has some kind of hang up about it based on his past behavior or comments, but...well, it does sound completely irrational. Sorry. So much that when I read your question, I couldn't at all predict what was coming, and was left scratching my head a little bit. It seems like this would make him more attracted to you, and allow for more worry-free sex, no?

Therapy seems appropriate and could potentially help a lot.
posted by quincunx at 7:57 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh GOD, you mean he'll have to deal with having completely safe, unprotected sex for the rest of his wonderful life with you??
posted by MangyCarface at 8:09 AM on March 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think you're freaking yourself out. This is not a deal breaker by any means.

(P.S. I am also currently not ovulating for the same reason as you. My OB/GYN told me there is a good chance that going on BC would regulate my system well enough to get things going again. I've already had 3 kids though, so obviously our situations are different.)
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:16 AM on March 14, 2012

First of all, don't ever throw away the birth control, because stranger things have happened. Reproduction is mysterious.

Second, I do think you are being irrational, but I think that in part you may be influenced by the societal message that women are only worthwhile if they have teh babies. So it is irrational, but understandable.
posted by yarly at 8:23 AM on March 14, 2012

Soooo, I'm going to maybe not be as positive a read on one hand but maybe a bit more invigoratingly positive on the other.

Downer: there are some people for whom lack of fertitility in their partner is not only a dealbreaker but permission to be dismissive of their actual humanity, and sometimes these people are capable of appearing to be loving, caring, dedicated partners prior to the moment of revelation. And there are some other people who would otherwise be fine with that who will take extreme umbrage and not having known from the very beginning.

I'm not saying your guy is like this. I just want to make sure the range of possibilities is represented, because it would be even more heartbreaking, I think, to go into this conversation boosted by a lot of "rah, rah, rah!" and have it end up "boohoohoo". I've been there. It sucks. They were jerks.

Keeping that in mind, approaching him openly and making sure he understands your reticence was caused by fear rather than any desire to keep information from him should be just fine and you guys will come out the other side of this with an even better relationship (if only because you won't be holding this tension inside you anymore).

Upper: just because you haven't ovulated up to this point doesn't mean you will never ovulate. I was in this same boat. I went 20yrs thinking I was completely infertile and had processed the grief I'd felt about it and moved through to an entirely different life plan. And then I got pregnant. I was 38. I'm now a mama. And I'm not the only one out there - there are even other mamas on MF who had a very similar experience.

An OB/GYN with up-to-date knowledge may be able to help you discover your percentage of likelihood to conceive, carry, and deliver. Or maybe not, yet the potential still exists and weirder things have happened.

Because of that, I'd encourage you to include the caveat in your conversation that while having a baby may be unlikely, it is not impossible, and to be sure he's okay with either outcome.
posted by batmonkey at 8:37 AM on March 14, 2012

I don't ovulate either....on my own. My ovaries are full of cysts too... There are drugs that can make you ovulate.... I have two beautiful children after using those drugs. You may have already been down this road, apologies if you have, but see a fertility specialist before labeling yourself infertile. And do talk to the boyfriend....that should be a first step..
posted by pearlybob at 8:55 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds like one of those fears that the rational part of your mind knows is unfounded, that your partner really will not care, while the irrational side is yammering in a corner, convinced this is the end of everything that makes you happy.

In my relationship, I had moments like this, when I knew that in my history were things that would be dealbreakers for many from my partner's background. I'd think and think and worry and worry that I'd lose him, even though I knew, rationally, that not only was my partner kind and understanding, he'd lived with me long enough to get past them.

And then, when I finally forced myself to say what seemed the unsayable, that gigantic cliff over which I feared I was flinging my relationship shrank to nothing. I realised afterwards that had I simply elided those expectations or protected him from them, we'd have been happy, but we would have been less honest.

The best thing to do is to tell your partner. It will be incredibly difficult. And the yammering irrational creature will evaporate like a puff of smoke.

I think it helps to re-frame such discussions in your mind from a bombshell to drop upon your partner, to something you can address together, as partners.

As others said, it's worth thinking if this terror is a proxy for your own mourning. I don't mean to imply that not having biological children is something to mourn, but your body may not realise it, now you're with someone who could, potentially, father your children.

Finally, it may be "unlikely" rather than "impossible" for you to become pregnant, and a perfectly legitimate way for you to phrase it when you speak to him. Or so it turned out for a close friend who was told the same by her OB/GYN, and is now on her second unexpected pregnancy.
posted by sockofdreams at 8:57 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Darling, you know how I've been taking this pill that stops me from ovulating for the past 4 years? Well, guess what, I'm not just not-ovulating because of the pill, I'm also not-ovulating because of a cyst. I'm double not-ovulating." My guess is that your partner, who has found you 'sexy-while-not-ovulating' for the past four years, will continue to find you 'sexy-while-double-not-ovulating.'

But no matter what his feelings, it seems clear that you have a wonderful, strong relationship, and all those wonderful qualities are what will help you through tough spots like this one. It also may be really worthwhile to think through the 'why' behind this fear....if it's still in your head even though you think it's irrational, maybe it's connected to a deeper fear or need. It can be very powerful to unearth things about your worldview that you didn't even know existed. And sharing those types of irrational-yet-persistent fears with your partner is one of those things that can pull you even more closely together. Good luck!
posted by Ausamor at 9:03 AM on March 14, 2012

For the men of AskMefi, would you stop being attracted to your SO if you found out she was infertile (even if you didn't want kids)?
Unless it's true that men don't find infertile women attractive

Answering the question you asked: I am a man, and I find infertile women more attractive than fertile women. Sexually. Quite a bit more.

In any case you have to talk to him about this. Not because it will or will not be a big deal to him -- we can't really predict that beyond a hunch and what you've said here -- but because it's currently a big deal to you. It's eating you up. That eating-up, anxiety, hiding and shame is going to hurt your connection with this man.
posted by ead at 9:04 AM on March 14, 2012

As a man, this would not affect my view of you or your attractiveness. It might even give me more comfort that you would appreciate your step kids even more because they are all you are having.

Also, I am usually a big proponent of telling all, but not sure I would ever bring this up with him unless it came up naturally.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the men of AskMefi, would you stop being attracted to your SO if you found out she was infertile (even if you didn't want kids)?

posted by valkyryn at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2012

Look, here's the thing. If you and he did want to have biological children together, you guys could probably make it happen somehow through the miracle of IVF and donor eggs and what-not. But you don't. So you're just quibbling about whether you should tell him exactly how complicated it would be for the two of you to have the biological children together that neither of you want in the first place, right?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2012

I just can't see how this would be a problem if you felt secure in your relationship. I'm thinking it's a manifestation of your anxiety about him. Do you feel like you have to be "perfect" for him?

You shouldn't be having this much fear about telling him this. I compare it to a scar I have from surgery I had as a result of mild and mostly harmless, but embarassing congenital defect; I use it as a barometer of how "safe" I feel in an SO's company, how much I trust them. If I truly feel accepted by them, the whole story comes out no problem. If I'm afraid they'll see me as inhuman and irrevocably flawed because of it, I know there's something wrong. Either they're a judgemental, kind of insecure or controlling person, or we're just not a good fit, or something.

I don't want to speculate wildly, because you say your relationship is good, but I have to wonder if you have trouble communicating about other important things, as well?
posted by quincunx at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the men of AskMefi, would you stop being attracted to your SO if you found out she was infertile (even if you didn't want kids)?

No. Absolutely not. In fact, I think I would be insulted by the mere suggestion of it. You take your SO as is, with all the positives and negatives. Facing things together is what makes that person your SO.

Would you walk out on him if the roles were reversed?
posted by Flood at 10:40 AM on March 14, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
Hey all. I appreciate all of the responses...you've all given me some good things to try to unpack with my therapist now. :) Thanks guys! it's helped me feel a little less deranged about how I feel (even and especially the responses that say "yup, this is irrational"). I've also appreciated the input from the menfolk. I think this is a situation where I've built this up in my mind to an epic degree - and it's in retrospect not surprising that this fear is coming up in the context of me looking at some dramatic life changes (including joining a family/building a new family). I think that it's correct that this might be a "proxy for [my] own mourning". as sockofdreams put it. I think I came to peace with this part of myself - or thought I did - but now that I'm in a good relationship with someone there might be a second half of the coming-to-peace process.

Thanks all for the encouraging words that all hope might not be lost for my ovaries - though not quite what I was expecting in terms of responses, it was sweet. :)

To respond to quincunx's last comment - we're good at communicating about important issues, and I don't feel the need to be "perfect" for him...and if I did, man, I failed on that front AGES ago. He knows me, warts and all. He knows more about me than anybody else on this earth. The thing is, I have NEVER EVER spoken about this ovulation thing ever outside of a doctor's office. Ever. Ever ever. Nobody in my family aside from my parents (I'm an only child) knows - and while it's not something they make me feel bad about, it's also not something we talk about (I've distanced myself from them in the past few years due to unrelated family BS, so we don't really talk that often). My friends don't know - not even my best friend. Writing this AskMe was the first time I have ever spoken a word about this to someone who is not my doctor or my immediate family. The more I think about that, the sadder it seems, because it makes me wonder if I've been carrying shame about this without realizing it. I don't know why it feels like something that I can't talk about to anyone (and as I said, I don't really talk about it with my parents, either). I've felt for so long that shame is such a huge part of the reason why women who really want children who struggle with infertility feel so alone, and as a member of the Probably Infertile Club I wanted so much for this not to be the case. I'm kind of embarrassed to suddenly realize that I bought into the shame, too, even while thinking that I'd risen above it somehow and made my peace. This makes me feel more determined that I should tell him - because he's going to be my family (hell, he already is), and because I don't think keeping quiet about this stuff helps anyone. Not that I'm going to lay this all on him in an OMGIAMPOLITICAL! way, but...I think I have enough here that allows me to put aside the fear, or at least swallow it enough to not have it be This Huge Thing.

Thanks again guys. :)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:57 AM on March 14, 2012

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