I am lucky not to have felt the Beta male affect, at least not as badly as I could have, but I know many men do. I am no David Beckham though, he is as Alpha as Alpha males get, football, four kids, endless Calvin Klein pants. In fact, I would be wise not to compare myself with him too much.
The beta male affect, as I have dubbed it, is the feeling that you are less than you should be – second best, below par, an inch too low for the rollercoaster ride, or dial-up in a broadband world.
In terms of infertility, the Beta male affect occurs when you fail to get your wife pregnant. Notice I use the word fail – this is certainly what it feels like – failure… failure to impregnate your wife, failure to procreate, failure to fulfill your duty as a man.
With the World’s population reaching 7 billion, it is hard news to take when you are unable to add to that, whatever the reason for your genitals not being forth coming with a worthy contender, there is no escaping the feeling that you would be better off in a dark room, never to cross paths with a woman again.
This Beta male feeling can chip away at a man’s pride, his self-esteem, his feeling about the natural order of things, and his place amongst his friends.
But whatever we go through as men, you can be guaranteed that the women have got the rougher end of the stick.
Straight from their teens, women prepare for children by having a menstrual cycle, pregnancy itself lasts nine months, and the weeks, months, and possibly even years after, the women’s body has to recover from the sheer shock of carrying a child and giving birth.
Add infertility into the mix, and with processes like IVF and ICSI, where hormones are unnaturally manipulated, conditions like endometriosis, and medical procedures like a laparoscopy – women undoubtedly get the raw deal.
But this post is about us men, I doff my cap to anyone who can hold it together through infertility, but women, don’t ignore us Beta males – we too experience infertility, and harbor much of the emotional burden that you do, we just carry it around in our Calvin Kleins.
The One Hand Man: Married in ‘07, sperm test in ‘08, IVF in ‘09, another sperm test in ‘10, adoption started in ‘11 – still going through the adoption process. Not had any recent sperm tests. Read more at www.theonehandman.co.uk
Even though I (wife) have the infertility issue, I’m a lawyer and my husband is a musician so he has felt like I’m the Alpha, and he’s the Beta in our relationship. It was ok when his band was going places but it stalled right around the time we found out I could not have children. The last friend in our group (who was also in the band) just announced his wife was pregnant a few days ago and he had a real emotional meltdown. I think it’s a combination of us not having children, his band not hitting it big, and feeling stuck because of both of them. He shared with me all the pain he felt when he received the news from his friend at the same time trying to reassure me and telling me he never expressed this before because he didn’t want to hurt me. I get that I just can’t figure out what to do to help him through this. If you or other men who read your blog can offer advice, I would appreciate it. I have worked through and mostly moved beyond the pain of my own infertility, but he never did and it may be he just needs to work it out for himself. However, if there is something I can do to help I would do it for him in a minute.
Maria, I can relate to your husband in many ways. I left my job to go back to graduate school for a PhD. I enjoy teaching, but haven’t found something full time and I now (in my 40s) have acquired student loans (for the first time ever). My confidence has definitely been shaken and given my finances I have become more anxious about the future. Infertility has not helped, and in a way, I think these other troubles have actually made me focus more on the missing baby… made me feel more lacking and less focused on what I do have. I know that if tomorrow I was offered a job doing something I enjoyed and having a nice regular income, I could throw myself into that. Would I still feel bad about not having kids? Probably, but I would have less time to think about it and I could make plans about other things.
In late 2003, I moved to the UK to attend graduate school. I’m not a football/soccer fan (though I do watch the World Cup). Sure, I’d heard of David Beckham and I had seen Bend It Like Beckham (so of course I’d seen David Beckham before), but I clearly was not able to identify him again, just from whatever short glimpses of him I might have caught. So, sitting at a cafe in Oxford with some friends and sipping a coke, which had a “gladiator” (I think) on the cover. I asked, “Who is that?” Of course, it was David Beckham. One of my friends actually told me she thought it refreshing that I couldn’t tell who he was.
I met and fell in love with my husband when I was just 20 years old. He was 34. He was a lecturer, and I thought him brilliant (still think so). I definitely fell for his mind and his heart. I chased after him for years. I learned very late that he could not give me biological children. I do feel let down that I never got to experience the things other couples in loving relationships get: the pregnancy announcement, having a child grow within you, watching that child’s first moments of life, nourishing that child from your own body, watching them grow, while looking for features in him/her that are yours or your beloved’s. But, I know that those experiences are things I would want to share with him, not someone else, and I know that my falling in love with him, and loving him all these years (I’m now 44) had little to do with children. I have friends who married someone they were less than in love with because they wanted to have kids. I could have done the same, but I never, ever wanted to. Once I met him, there was no one else… alpha, beta, or whatever else… are there delta or zeta males?
That’s just what my husband said about me. I had to have a hysterectomy a couple of years ago, and I told my husband that he could leave me and have children with someone else. I knew how much he wanted a family and I felt I had ruined his life. He said if he was going to have children, he only wanted them with me because I was the one he loved. I sometimes think it’s worse for the partner who isn’t infertile. They must feel really short changed, and I can understand why it must break up a lot of marriages.
I think that when the primary cause for infertility is your own, you probably feel that the other person has choices that they are bypassing. I don’t know how accurate that is. It took a long time for my husband to take the plunge, so to speak. During that time I had plenty of opportunities to go for someone else, if marriage and children, (without the level of love I felt for him) were what I really wanted. As I mentioned, I have several friends that married for that precise purpose. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine that kind of life. One of my friends, who went through infertility, but adopted two little girls, opened up to me once and told me that if she had married the love of her life, maybe she would have been alright not having kids. I have friends who have happy marriages, and quite a few who don’t seem to. Most of my friends have children, and in quite a few cases, I’m so glad my spouse is nothing like theirs. I have a friend whose husband left her for another woman while she was pregnant; a friend whose husband made a derisive remark about his cousin not being pregnant, “probably because her husband was shooting blanks.” Another, who married her high school sweetheart, a man she had practically grown up with, her best friend, and father of her two children, who left her for a new model after 20 years of marriage. I feel very grateful for my hubby, and I’m sure your husband is glad he got you. I have quite a few single friends as well; wonderful women that deserve kind, intelligent men, they just haven’t found one.
I am so glad you posted this. I think I understand the feeling of being a beta male. I’ve heard people say to my husband “c’mon, show us you’re a real man, get your wife pregnant” and cringed. As if a successful sperm is the only judge of what a real man is. And of course, I also feel (or have felt) like a beta female – not good enough, not a “real woman,” all those stereotypes that we only become a real woman when you’re a mother, etc etc. I do think it is difficult for men, because you don’t talk about your feelings in the same way that we do, and perhaps don’t have the same supportive networks, or the ability to express yourself (simply because men are taught not to show their emotions, that is is seen – incorrectly in my view – as a weakness).
From a wife’s perspective though, I certainly haven’t seen my husband as a beta male. After all, I’ve seen the fathers who aren’t there for their children, or effectively let their wives act as single parents, who have, by their actions, undermined their families, their relationships, their own integrity. And as far as I’m concerned, they are the lesser men. I’ve also seen a number of husbands in an infertile couple (regardless of who actually had the specific medical problem) who have, in my opinion, really proved themselves as alpha men by being supportive and protective of their wives through this process, who have been honest about their own grief and sadness and loss. Men who can face up to the worst things in life and still continue to be supportive and loving men. Real men. Alpha males.
I am a woman who’s long-term relationship broke up during TCC and I still can’t tell what the real reason was. There are things he said and did though that make me wonder if it wasn’t his incapability to even face infertility (which was on his side) = admit to being the beta male. Get me right he was by no means any kind of macho man, quite the contrary – so probably not getting me pregnant added to a beta-male kind of feeling. Thing is he wasn’t even able to talk about it – not even when I asked him outright if infertility made him feel bad: He simply and explicitly denied that.
So I am not really sure about this article. I wonder if there is not some basic misunderstanding between men and women. Guys: We KNOW that infertility makes you feel bad, too. There is no need to remind us. We (would) understand (if you cared to talk about it). I think it’s rather your fellow men who need to be reminded that, yes, infertility sucks big time, and the only way to save your marriage/relationship is to ADMIT to that and then go through the grief together with your wife. It’s no use repeating to yourself that it’s “her that gets the bad end of the stick”. I even wonder if your enumeration of what a girl/woman is going through related to her fertility means somehow to tell us that she is more prepared to handle INfertility problems? That we women do NOT feel like “beta-females” when infertility hits? Believe me, we do. But it’s no use for you men to think you need to protect us or “be the strong one”. As you say yourself, the feeling’s bad on your side too, so there’s nothing for it but facing it together.
Just my personal perspective.