Friday, May 01, 2009

For the guys and the women who live with them: hysterectomies, sexuality and old wives' tales

A hysterectomy is a daunting prospect for many men, and there are several concerns that men whose partners are facing a hyst typically have.

For some men, it's the helplessness in the face of a partner having such a severe health problem that she requires major surgery.  In American and much of other Western society, men are taught to be problem solvers, such that problems they cannot provide a solution to, situations where their encouragement and support are all they can bring to us, are very highly frustrating, and that frustration may be expressed as either unfocused anger or withdrawal of contact.

As women, we need to be aware that this response is normal and does not necessarily mean rejection of us as a partner. It means that where we can redirect the men in our lives as to how, specifically, they can help us with preparation and recovery, we may find they are more gracefully able to deal with their worries than if we silently wait for them to make a gesture of that help. And for men, it means that they need to reach for comfort with the idea that this isn't a problem they can solve, but a situation in which their support can ease that problem and truly provide what their women are needing.

 For other men, there is a concern over what a marriage may most mean to them: a ready, continuous supply of sex. Whether the relationship is a partnership or a religious one founded on the man owning the rights to the woman's body, many men are ill-equipped to deal with the notion that their spouses will be unavailable sexually to them for a period that the spouse, not they, will determine. For those whose religion only permits of procreative sex, there's that whole issue of what becomes of it when procreation is surgically eliminated. And when they tap into that delightful pool of Old Wives Tales that surround hysts and menopause, they can easily convince themselves that a hyst means the end of their (marital) sex life.

So there are some valid concerns here. Let's look at what is really involved.