Power imbalance with known donor - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 10-27-2009, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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I mentioned an argument that KD who is also my best friend had been having in one of the other threads, but I thought I might get opinions on it here from people.

Having KD as such a close friend and also having a bit of a natural embargo on communication regarding the sperm donations the subject can at times turn into a bit of a mountain in my head. I am often worrying that every cycle I don't get pregnant he is getting more and more over doing the donations. It is a massively humbling thing to have to acknowledge that the one thing in life I want more than anything is something that he has the power to give me or take away, and that it is only through his generosity that he chooses to give.

After 4 attempts last year I sent him an email saying that I needed a break for my own mental health, and that I felt a huge power imbalance because of my vulnerability. He was surprised that I had felt this power imbalance because he hadn't. We started trying again this year after a break of about 6 months, and now are up to attempt 8 (which just failed).

Recently, during this latest argument, he sent me an email and said:

I do our stock exchanges not because I want anything in return, but because I want above everything else to make you happy. I know that you feel that my bringing this up represents an imbalance of power because of your strong feelings about it and the feelings of vulnerability that it instills in you, but I feel that you have the power over me in this instance - that if I don't say yes (a decision I know you would respect) then you will be unhappy and it will be my fault. I don't want you to think that I saying that I don't want to do it, I just want you to recognise that our perceptions of the power balance in it are disparate.

Is he out of his tree or am I just so caught up in my own experience that I can't even begin to fathom where he is coming from?
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#2 of 5 Old 10-27-2009, 01:45 PM
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Difficult situation for sure. My KD is also a very close friend. What helped us was to have a contract and talk about boundaries up front. He is also gay, so I think he understands a bit about the hoops we have to jump through to have our families. I know he wants his own family someday and will probably use a surrogate, something I'm open to doing for him actually, but whether it's me or someone else, it would be his kid. I think talking about this with him helped him realize that even though he is so close and because of that will be in my baby's life, that doesn't mean it's his child. Our contract is clear that he will not have a parental role but that he will be known to the baby and no secrets will be kept from him/her about our process. Also, know that this KD is not your ONLY option to getting pregnant. I think realizing that you have options (even if they are harder or not as convenient) will release some of the vulnerability you feel towards your KD. There are many good reasons to use a KD but there are other options out there and if it doesn't work with this person, you can walk away, maintain your friendship, and get pregnant another way. If it comes down to it, a mediator, especially a queer-specific family therapist, could be a great help to you both as you navigate ttc.

I hope that helps! You're not alone here. I know ttc can make us feel so desperate and fragile, but you are strong to even go through as many cycles as you have. Take breaks when you need to and nurture your relationship with KD outside of your tcc efforts. xo

Sarah - mama to the love of my life, Aurelia Josephine, b. June 11, 2010

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#3 of 5 Old 10-29-2009, 03:32 PM
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I've thought awhile before posting because I have no experience using a known donor to conceive. Also, not knowing the dynamics between you and your friend makes clear sight difficult. Still, I had a few thoughts come to mind, and thought I would share them.

A couple of questions first:
1. Is your friend holding his help for you over your head in any way? Using it to get his way? ("Since I am doing this for you I really want you to do for me.")
2. Is he outwardly willing, but are you sensing any angsty passive aggressive tendencies from him? ("Oh sure, I can be available the weekend of November 7th. i mean, I was kinda hoping to go on a trip with a few friends, but I guess I can stick around for you, if that is what you really need me to do. Sigh....")

I think what i am trying to ask is that do you feel he is internationally trying to use this perceived power over you?
If the answer is yes then this situation might not be the best for either of you, and you might want to consider other donor options.
If not...

I can actually see where your best friend is coming from here. If I were a donor to someone close to me, if I were giving from my heart and not because I had an agenda to push, it would be really hard for me to understand my good friend friend viewing the situation as me having a position of power over them. In fact, if that were the case it would feel like a no-win situation for me. If I don't help my friend I know i am letting them down in a big way and disappointing them. If I do help my friend I am setting myself up to be a threat in their mind, a proverbial ax hanging over their head. Unless everything went perfectly and quickly I would fear the friendship might be forever damaged. As the friend doing the favor this would be a scary position for me.

In my mind many perceptions of power are just that: perceptions. It all depends on how you look at certain situations.

To take an example away from baby-making.
Here is how my partner and I could view the power balances in our relationship:

My partner is the working partner in our relationship. He brings the money, the wage, to allow us to live the life we have. I am the stay-at-home partner raising our little one. This is hugely important to me, my lifelong dream of how I wanted to raise my child.
Now, I could take the point of view that my partner is in a position of power over me. Without the money he brings in I could not be a SAHP. He has the power to withdraw his support of my choice, withdraw the money, and cause me to have to reenter the work force to support our little one. It would not be the end of my universe, but it would make me very unhappy. If I chose to see it this way then he has the power over me.

And he might argue that I have power over him. The thing my partner wants most in life is my happiness and my unconditional love. Those are the two things that make his life beautiful and meaningful, according to him. If I chose to withdraw my love and support I could shatter him like glass. So I have this power, in his eyes.

I said above that this is how we COULD view the power balances in our relationship. We don't think of it this way, of course. Our relationship couldn't survive without understanding and trust, and by having power struggles and power fears we would lose a lot of that. We love, we trust as best we can that we will both do the right thing for ourselves and our partner. We do our best not to live in fear.

So back to your friend/donor and power perceptions...

Yes, your friend can withdraw his donations at any time should the situation become not good for him, and I understand that the fear in that must be huge for you. But I do not feel that this necessarily puts him in a position of power unless he is using your fear to manipulate you in some way. If he is manipulating you then you can take your own power back by choosing another donor option. (Easier said than done, I know, but there are options out there).

As he said in his letter, it also feels to him that you have power over him: your current happiness depends upon his willingness to perform, and should he need or choose to stop right now he fears your disappointment and your loss of happiness in him. Perhaps he fears that if he backs out it will destroy your friendship.

Your idea of his power may not make sense to him, and his idea of your power may not make sense to you, but you are both feeling the pull of it just the same. It is affecting your relationship, and i really think that you BOTH need to be heard, equally. You need to restore the perception of equality to your relationship in both your eyes.

If you are finding it difficult or impossible to talk about the issue with one another in person without arguing or fear then I would recommend that you both start seeing a therapist who has experience in these kind of situations, both alone and together. It sounds like you need to open up a two-way line of clear, non-aggressive communication where you can both state your true feelings and concerns and both be heard by the other. Burying these kinds of feelings can only create more tension, which is the opposite of what you both need right now.

Good luck!
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#4 of 5 Old 10-29-2009, 04:31 PM
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I have to admit, I'm a little perplexed by thinking of the relationship primarily in terms of power, and wonder if it's not just an inherently kind of damaging line of thinking to pursue. I agree with the other posters who point out that you do indeed have other options (though maybe not better), and keeping those in mind may make you feel less vulnerable in your relationship with KD. On some level, you do have to trust in the generosity of your KD to do this, unless you have good reason not to do so (in which case, you'd probably want to pursue those other options!). From personal experience, my friendships are filled with mutual generosity, and I always hope to give all I can--why wouldn't your donor feel the same way? That said, ttc is particularly trying, and wanting something so much can put you in a terribly vulnerable place--and it's true, your donor is not in that same place--but it sounds like he cares about you and has good intentions towards the relationship you have. (That said, I haven't read the argument in the other post). Maybe you would feel more comfortable if you committed to 6 months of trying at a time, and then re-evaluated.
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#5 of 5 Old 10-29-2009, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your replies. You have all pointed out things which are extremely insightful and helpful. I think I am so close to the situation that I do get blinded by it a bit. Seeing a therapist would help. Even talking and reflecting on what you have all had to say has helped so so much. I don't think KD would be up for therapy. He's one of those types where if you bring up anything emotional he sort of shuts down and retreats. It's pretty hard sometimes because I always need to talk things a lot.

In answer to the question about whether he is being manipulative or passive aggressive - he is not at all. He is being completely wonderful about the whole thing.

The idea that these were only our individual perceptions of power really resonated with me. I think that is what the problem is - not that he is lording the power I feel he has over me, and not that I am doing that to him, but that we are both aware of the possibility of what will happen if he decides to not go ahead with things. I can't deny he is right that I will be unhappy, but the happiness I find from our friendship is not contingent on him continuing to be my donor.

I think I will send him an email and let him know that I understand where he is coming from now and try to alleviate his sense of responsibility for my happiness. Although we both love each other dearly I think we have both slipped into thinking about things in terms of power because we can both be a bit insecure in regards to each other. You are right that it is a negative way of thinking, and bound to cause problems where there might not need to be any.

Man, I've received some awesome words of wisdom, thank you ladies so much for taking the time, I have really appreciated this!!
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