Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

Firm Boundaries Among Friends

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Dear Stacy,

My husband and I have been married five years, are both in our mid-30s and have been trying to get pregnant for three years. We are working with a fertility practice and have had several heartbreaking experiences. I am not sure if it’s going to happen for us, but we are going to keep trying for a little while longer. My husband is being very supportive and our relationship is strong — that’s not why I’m writing. I am writing to get some help with how to deal with the probing questions and general insensitivity I am finding within my friend group.

Most of them are married, most have kids already and most are wondering when I’m going to get pregnant. I haven’t shared what I’ve been going through because it’s been so hard and I don’t think I should have to, but these friends are making it painful for me to be around them. How do I grow thicker skin? How do I tell them I don’t want to talk about it without piquing their suspicion? How do I get through this time while maintaining my privacy?

— Low Profile

Dear Low Profile:

I am so very sorry for what you are going through. It is incredibly painful to experience something so personal and private, and then have others assume it’s fair game for conversation. At the same time, I am curious about your decision not to tell anyone about your fertility efforts. You use the term “piquing suspicion,” suggesting this is a covert effort to create a family. I strongly believe in firm boundaries, but you are expecting your friends to maintain boundaries they are unable to see. How can they respect your privacy when they don’t know you’re being private?

We all assume that others know what’s “really” going on with us, but (as I often tell my clients) your friends are “stars” of their own “shows,” with their own story lines and internal dialogues. You are a supporting character who doesn’t get a lot of screen time unless you ask for it.

Meanwhile, confiding in friends from that vulnerable place invites them to be vulnerable along with you. It deepens the bond of friendship. It creates safety and connection — just what we need when we are struggling and grieving the everyday losses in life. I wonder if building a stronger friendship with one or two others might help ease your burdens in general.

Sure, we could come up with some quick retorts for when someone asking when you’re going to have kids oversteps (maybe along the lines of, “As soon as you learn to mind your own business”), but those questions might be easier to weather if you had others to entrust with what’s happening on the inside.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphylpc.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacy@stacymurphylpc.com.

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