How to talk to your husband about a vasectomy

So you’ve officially reached the point in your life where you know you don’t want any more children (or any more). In order to continue having a healthy sex life with your partner, you must rely on some form of birth control. If you don’t want to continue taking hormonal contraceptives like the pill and don’t want to rely on condoms, then asking your partner for a vasectomy seems like the obvious solution. And in all honesty, it is! But even though a vasectomy is a simple and reversible operation, asking your partner to have one can be difficult.

There’s no getting away from the fact that asking your partner for a vasectomy will be an emotional conversation. A vasectomy, which involves cutting off the supply of sperm to semen so that one person can no longer impregnate another, is a touchy subject for many people. But it’s also an effective form of birth control: it’s a simple procedure, there are almost no side effects, and it can even be reversed if you change your mind.

In fact, it can seem like such an obvious solution that you may resent your partner being tired of it, especially if you’ve had trouble taking hormonal birth control pills. It’s understandable, but at the end of the day, your partner has to make that decision about their body. As her partner, it’s important that you support her feelings and approach the conversation gently. If both of you are willing to listen to each other and understand each other’s feelings, you can have a mature discussion that will hopefully lead to a solution that everyone is happy with.

Here’s how to approach the subject of vasectomy with your partner

Before you discuss a vasectomy with your partner, make sure you know exactly what you’re going to say. Kimberly Panganibon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper that it’s crucial to do some self-improvement before the actual conversation. “By that I mean finding out where you feel about the topic, why it’s important to you and what you need,” she explains. “After sorting out your own thoughts, feelings, and needs, the best thing to do is let your partner know you have something important to discuss with them and ask them when would be a good time to talk.”

Timing is everything here. “Gently bring the conversation up at a time when you can focus on the conversation,” Panganibon says. It’s best to talk about it in the privacy of your own home, when neither of you are busy or around your children. Panganibon suggests finding a time when neither of you are stressed or in a bad mood, and when you are the least likely to be interrupted.

Enter the conversation with an open mind and don’t feel like, “This will happen whether he likes it or not.” This should be a discussion, not an argument. “Be willing to listen to your partner and validate their feelings, even if they differ from your own,” Panganibon says. “It’s important that you both feel heard and understood before you even start talking about what you’re actually going to do.”

So, how do you gently say, “I want you to have a vasectomy”? Panganibon recommends the “soft start,” an approach pioneered by the Gottman Institute. “The Gentle Start-Up follows these steps: (1) I feel… (2) About what… (3) I need…” explains Panganibon. “Once you have identified your feelings and needs, it should be a relatively easy process. For example, you can say, “I’m concerned about the possibility of accidentally becoming pregnant and I want us to talk about how to prevent it.”

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How to talk about a vasectomy when your partner is closing

Your partner will likely respond in one of three ways: they will be open and accept the idea, they will be insecure, or they will be upset and somehow shut you out. If they say no to a vasectomy right away, but are also willing to listen, don’t be afraid to ask for a little more. “Share why this is important to you and what it would mean for your partner to be open to it,” Panganibon says. “Then be curious about their feelings and needs and help them feel heard too.”

If your partner gets angry, shuts down, and refuses to talk about it, an argument may start. In this case, Panganibon recommends giving them some space to think before bringing it up again, rather than trying to continue the conversation. “During this time, work on identifying what your core need is in that situation — ie why this is so important – and identify if there are other ways to meet your core needs,” she says.

After giving them time, bring it up again. Panganibon says that in the next discussion we should aim more at understanding each other rather than trying to persuade them into something. “Stay away from problem-solving a bit and move with curiosity and understanding,” she says. Be patient and really try to get to the bottom of the problem. Don’t put off the problem or try to rush it. In time, you’ll probably be able to figure something out.

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