Dear Amy: My husband and I are in our late 20s. We are close friends with a married couple who are about 10 years older than we are. They struggled with infertility for years. They pretend they’re OK with their situation, but clearly they aren’t.
Anytime a child is around, the woman gets very emotional. She starts out acting excited to interact with a child, then progresses to saying she doesn’t know how to interact with the child because she doesn’t have any, and then she says being with children makes her sad.
They say: “We won’t be friends with you once you have kids.” We can’t tell if that’s a joke. They currently have no friends their age with kids, and have talked about people that used to be their friends, “before they had kids.”
I understand how devastating it must be for them; but the emotional roller coaster with every child interaction is draining, especially as many of our friends are starting families (or planning to).
They chose not to adopt, foster, or go through IVF, which is their choice and all 100 percent acceptable. But it’s hurtful to hear them say that our friendship is limited, and we are scared to tell them when (or if) we conceive for fear of their reaction.
How can we tell them that while we recognize they have gone through a very painful experience, they are hurting others with their plans to dump us if we have children?
Friends Until Kids
Dear Friends: I’m going to try to draw a parallel. Many of my cohorts still have their parents (mine are gone now). This can make me feel both sad and jealous. But do I want my friends to share my orphaned state in order to relieve my own sadness? No. Do I sever the friendship because they are busy taking care of their elderly parents? No. A mature adult learns to process sadness and tolerate discomfort, and not punish others for it.
Granted, babies have a way of turning their parents’ world inside out. Friendships do shift and sometimes end as a result.
If this couple wanted to, they could easily find fulfilling ways to have children in their lives, including developing important relationships with their friends’ children. But they don’t want this, probably for very complicated reasons.
I hope you will be honest in your reaction: “When you joke about or threaten our friendship over the issue of having kids, I don’t know how to react. What are you really trying to say?”
Dear Amy: My husband and I both had previous marriages (we met after our divorces).
When he divorced (after 32 years of marriage), he told his family that he did not expect them to cut off contact or disown his ex.
We have now been married for almost 24 years, and my husband’s sister still invites his ex to every family function.
At one event, my husband and I were sitting on the couch when his ex-wife walked by and his sister said, “Oh, I need a picture of you with (her son).”
She didn’t take photos of her son with his uncle (my husband). She always gushes over the ex at every turn, while hardly acknowledging my husband or myself.
What do you think of a sister continuing to invite her brother’s ex-wife to every family function, 23 years later? She invited her to their mother’s 90th birthday party, which I can understand, but this woman didn’t just show up and pay her respects -- she stayed all evening, and other guests asked us why.
Dear Second: It seems that your husband’s sister prefers his ex to you (and perhaps your husband), and she is conveying this, not just through these invitations, but through her behavior toward you.
You cannot control her invitation list, but your husband should honestly tell her how you two feel about her social slights when you are all together.
Dear Amy: I was shocked at your outrageous and sexist comment in your response to “Unsure,” when you suggested that she, a woman, should “quietly stick to your own knitting.” What year do you think this is?
Dear Disgusted: I’ve heard from many women who were outraged by this phrase.
This is a very old and well-known idiom, and it is not used in a gender-oriented context. It merely refers to someone attending to their own expertise. In fact, I heard it this week applied to NFL players, few of whom (I assume) actually knit.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.