At a recent family gathering, my younger sister asked me for help. She and her husband have been trying to conceive a child but have been unsuccessful. After going to a fertility doctor, they got the recommendation for her husband to switch from briefs to boxer shorts.

She said it took some effort to convince her husband to follow the doctor's recommendation. After getting the doctor's recommendation, her husband started wearing boxer shorts all the time. However, after two or three days he suddenly told her that he thinks the doctor was a "quack". This was only after two or three days of wearing boxer shorts. He even told her he liked the "cool breeze" and helped pick out this doctor. She got mad saying he knows him and that is not him talking. She thinks he's hiding his true reason(s). Therefore, he said he will wear the boxer shorts for her but only under certain conditions.

Her husband is sort of wearing boxer shorts but only in 2 situations. The first situation is the hours between coming home from work and before leaving home to go back to work. The second situation is he will only wear boxer shorts outside the home if he is wearing jeans.

She doesn't know what to do. The doctor recommended him to wear boxer shorts completely not in just these odd situations. She has asked me to help to talk to her husband to convince him to switch to boxer shorts all time. Since she is my little sister and I'm the big brother, I agreed to help.

Now, I need help on how to plan out the conversation with her husband. I'm not a total stranger to him but I'm also not close friends with him. We're more like acquaintances. He's 24 and I'm 25 so we both come from the same generation and have topics in common to talk about.

Some of the issues I'm having trouble with the upcoming conversation are the following:

  1. How should I approach the subject without embarrassing him or making him go on the defensive? I can't just say "My sister told me you can't have a baby until you switch to boxer shorts. Please switch to boxer shorts." His low sperm count might be embarrassing. Also, it sounds like he partially switched to boxer shorts.

  2. How do I convince him to completely switch to boxer shorts? I can't figure out why he doesn't want to switch to boxer shorts all the time. I guess I'm at a disadvantage here. My parents started me off with boxer shorts as underwear and I have never worn any other type of underwear. I don't see any issues switching from briefs to boxer shorts. Maybe, because I didn't switch from briefs to boxer shorts that I have not experienced what he's going through. It's really hard for me to put myself in his shoes.

If I can figure out why he doesn't want to wear boxer shorts all the time then I can plan out my bullet points carefully.

I want to make an honest effort to help my sister. I want to have a niece or nephew. Even though I might not be successful at convincing him I want to be able to at least tell her "I tried."

  • 8
    Are you (or your sister) aware of the extent or importance of this recommendation? For example "you have only a 1% chance of conceiving with your current underwear, but if you wear boxers all the time, it will be 75%"? Or is it more like 30% goes up to 32%? I know it seems like anything that would make even a tiny difference should be tried, but your brother in law has shown you clearly that there is a cost to him (even if neither you nor your sister know what it is) to wear them. What is the benefit? Jul 24 '20 at 20:33
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    I’m voting to close this question because, no matter who they are, it's shouldn't be someone else's business what my underwear are. It's too much of a personal choice and should not be opened for discussion or argument.
    – OldPadawan
    Jul 24 '20 at 20:50
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    I’m voting to close this question because his choice of underwear is none of OP's business. Jul 24 '20 at 22:58
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    I'm voting to keep this question open because "it's none of your business" is a viable answer, but not a viable close reason. This question might be unconventional, but is otherwise well-formulated and meets the sites requirements. Just closing it because you don't like it doesn't help anyone.
    – Elmy
    Jul 25 '20 at 8:53
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    I’m voting to close this question because it's his body his choice.
    – Tfish
    Jul 31 '20 at 11:58

This is a VERY delicate situation. Under normal circumstances, what kind of underwear a person wears is absolutely none of anyone's business. You wouldn't take a coworker aside and tell them their underwear was too sexy for the office, for example. I am sure that before this you had absolutely no idea what kind of underwear your brother in law wore, and that you preferred it that way, too. And then your reason for wanting to discuss it -- so you can overcome your fertility problems -- is even more private and personal than the underwear.

While it is true that underwear choice has some bearing on male fertility, it's one of those things doctors recommend as a "can't hurt" kind of thing. It might not help, but what the heck, and this way you feel like you're doing something. Most men have no problem at all doing that, but your brother in law clearly does. And your sister appears to think their only salvation is his underwear choice so it's a big deal to her. He's not taking the doctor's advice! Maybe he's not as committed to this whole thing as he claims to be!

I've faced this sort of thing in the past, where you want to tell someone to do something (or stop doing something) but you can't. Maybe because you're not supposed to know, maybe because the topic is too sensitive and embarrassing to discuss directly, various reasons. What I do is move up a level of abstraction. If it's ok to discuss the fertility situation, for example, you could chit chat about how that's going. Sympathetically, like

I guess this parenthood trip is going to be a bit more difficult for you and [sister], huh?

Offer some understanding thoughts about having to go to doctor appointments, worrying how long it will all take, and so on. Then ask if there are any things that will increase their chances short of actual medical interventions like IVF. He may mention (perhaps in a negative way) the underwear. He probably won't tell you if they've been asked to have sex more often, or less often, or in atypical positions -- this is your sister, after all. Whatever he mentions, underwear or not, say something super supportive:

I hope you don't have to do that for too long. I'm sure it's hard. Still, it will be worth it when you're parents, right? I know you'll be amazing ones and I really want a niece or nephew. If you want to come over and [play video games, watch the ball game, play poker] to distract yourself just let me know. I want this to work out for you.

Even though you may have said this about some dietary restriction or other non-underwear recommendation, you will be speaking to the underwear thing as well in the supportive comments you give your brother in law.

[If you can't even discuss the fertility situation directly, which would be true in many families, then you can discuss "this crazy 2020 we're all having" and how so many of us have to do things -- even wear things! -- we never thought we'd have to. Don't be too clever here, this isn't a nudge-nudge-wink-wink conversation where you're letting him know you're in on the secrets. Just talk about the pandemic. He can have his own insights into how wearing boxers so you can have a baby is kind of like wearing a mask so you don't spread covid.]

Also, really listen to him, again even if he doesn't mention the underwear. Next time your sister vents to you that he is "only" wearing boxers over 2/3 of the time you can remind her that he is giving up caffeine or not working overtime or whatever recommendations it is that he is actually following. This may help her unspoken worries that he's just not putting enough effort into this.

One more thing: only do this once. It's not your role to carry messages between spouses who are struggling with infertility. It's high-stakes territory and you're not a trained counselor. Help once, then stay out of it.

  • 1
    I saw my update was edited out because of this rule: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/221 I didn't know to place my update as a comment to the accepted answer instead of editing the question. My sincerest apologies. I'm sharing why this answer worked out for me in case others may be experiencing a similar situation. Brother-in-law brought up the topic. I shared I wore boxer shorts all my life. He opened up to me because I was a guy. He needed life experience info on boxer shorts. He only knew briefs. Read edit history for details. Comments have a char limit.
    – Robert
    Dec 22 '20 at 18:28

How can I convince my sister's husband to switch to boxer shorts?

You can't. This is way too personal for you to be involved in. Between this being about underwear, and about it being a treatment for a potential medical problem, which is in turn about his family life...you can't get involved.

This is not your problem to fix, do not even try. It's between him, his wife, and his doctor.

Honest, it was a huge violation of your BIL's privacy for your sister to bring this to you.

  • 2
    As you know, we require answers here to have some sort of backup. Please edit to include that information.
    – Em C
    Jul 26 '20 at 21:09
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    I honestly don't know how this answer, although correct, can have any backup to it, unless the author has stuck their nose where it doesn't belong and came away from that learning not to do that again. Jul 27 '20 at 1:38
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    I don't agree with the answer. There are friends and families where such a conversation would be normal. "A big violation" is too judgemental without saying in which country this would be a big violation.
    – guest
    Aug 25 '20 at 17:34

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