Dear Carolyn: My husband and I are returning to my hometown for a celebration where we will see many people who haven’t seen me since I graduated from high school. I’m dreading the expected question “Do you have any children?”
We don’t because my husband and I went through a very rough time and have spent time working hard to repair our relationship before starting a family. I know we have made the right decision but it breaks my heart whenever people ask. Any advice to keep from spending the celebration in tears?
– No Children. Yet?
A: I try to take letter-writers at their word wherever possible. It’s simple respect.
But I’m balking at your “I know we have made the right decision.” Right decisions tend to sit better than yours appears to be sitting with you. They might cause a bad moment at a party, for example – but not constant tears, or dread of such tears, or dread of casual questions.
For this decision to indeed be right, I think there needs to be at least some cause for confidence that your relationship will recover in the foreseeable future and that children will follow.
So if you have that confidence, then lean on it when you’re under the hot lights of a hometown grilling. “Children, yes, soon” will be the answer in your mind, even if the one you speak is simply “No kids yet, and you?” (Questions are ace deflectors.) A few rogue tears – accept them as inevitable – merely show you’re human, and they’ll upset you more than they do anyone else. A smiling “Oops, there I go again, new topic” will suffice.
If big, uncontrollable tears say you don’t have that confidence in your relationship, then my answer is to a question you didn’t ask: Do what it takes to be sure of your path, and don’t talk yourself into one just because another “rough time” is more than you think you can bear. The right decision, whatever it may be, is worth the transitional pain – as is the right home for those badly wanted kids.
Comforting jilted groom
Dear Carolyn: Close guy friend was just dumped, five months before the wedding. She says it was because she wanted to travel and work, while he wants to settle down and have kids. All of us friends are calling it a line of crapola.
What should my husband, who was going to be one of the groomsmen, and I say or do? My heart hurts for him.
I don’t think I’m the only one who knew they weren’t a good match, although I’d NEVER say that (well, not anytime soon, anyway).
A: For starters, you can stop referring to a legitimate, breakup-worthy difference as “crapola.” Even if it is, and she really just fell out of love or found someone else, saying it’s about kids allows your friend both to save face and repel the pitying hordes. Her explanation also neatly avoids vilifying anyone. Why mess with that?
And that brings up something else: no pity, no potshots. Getting dumped is awful, yes, but he isn’t helpless and she isn’t evil, right? They just didn’t work, for reasons only they truly know, and are better for calling off now what lawyers would eventually put asunder.
Enough don’ts. Do listen more than you talk. Do include him by extending invitations with no pressure to accept. Do trust he already knows “they weren’t a good match,” thus relieving you of the obligation to find just the right time to say everyone knew this long ago. Do let him decide when he’s ready to talk, circulate, trust, love – and save meddling for emergencies (depression, for example) instead of times when you’d just do things differently.
Finally: Do respect the big picture. He’s down now and you’re the helpers, but that could change faster than a triplet’s diaper. People don’t want rescuers – just equals who don’t treat them like they grew a second head.