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 rollercoaster 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, 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?”