Daily Press (Sunday)

Sharing news of fertility struggles

- Email tellme@washpost. com or write “Tell Me About It” c/o The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071

Editor’s note: Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Sept. 2009.

Dear Carolyn: My wife is a private person, especially when it comes to problems. I hear, “Everyone has their own problems, so they don’t need to be burdened with mine,” at least once a week. Normally, I would think this is a good attitude, except for the big problem we found out about recently: The consensus of several doctors is that a pregnancy would kill her.

We have always wanted children, and this is a terrible blow to us both, which we are working through.

She doesn’t want to tell anyone even though we are constantly asked by family and friends,

“So when are you going to have a baby?” I think they have a right to know so we aren’t getting badgered, but she doesn’t want “pity” or “advice.” What’s your opinion? — Boston

Dear Boston: Your wife is entitled to handle it in her own way, but so are you. And if your way is to share your news, then, out of respect for you and your marriage, she owes it to you to release her grip.

Certainly, because it is her marriage, too, and specifical­ly her health and body at issue, your right to tell others is limited; it’s not so simple as her choosing not to tell and your choosing to tell and everyone living happily ever after.

Out of respect for her sense of privacy, you’ll need to confide, with her knowledge, only in a select few whose support you prefer and whose discretion you trust.

In fact, it won’t even be as simple as asserting your right to grieve. If you subject her rationale to a cursory sniff test, you’ll see that calling her a “private person” is a euphemism. “They don’t need to be burdened” with her problems? She doesn’t want their “pity” or “advice”?

What about their love, their support, their empathy, their understand­ing, their creative thinking, their invitation­s to a movie/play/ barbecue/sporting event to nudge you gently out of the depths and into the day-to-day light?

If your wife doesn’t trust anyone to provide her any useful emotional responses, then she doesn’t trust anyone, period. That’s not privacy, that’s fear, and insecurity that runs deep. She’d rather feel lonely and in control than take any of the risks involved with being close to other people.

If I’m reading her correctly, then it was probably all she could do to trust you, and even then, I suspect she still limits what she shares with you.

This is the woman you love, and whose philosophy on “burdens” you seem to respect. I’m not interested in changing these, nor will she change except of her own volition. I simply suggest you may have mistaken fear for “a good attitude.”

For your emotional health and hers, please try to discrimina­te between burdening others and simply letting them in.

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