Summertime Get-Togethers and the TTC Journey: Our 4 Tips for Navigating Tricky Conversations
With Memorial Day kicking off the summer get-together season, many of you on the TTC journey may be feeling a mix of excitement and dread. You may have plans to meet friends and family you haven’t seen in person in a while, with the last two summers having been curtailed by the pandemic. With those, though, comes the possibility of innocent questions and well-intentioned comments about family that still hurt. Today, we share a few tips for navigating those tricky situations.
1. Assume benign intent
Questions about family plans or stories of someone else’s kids can be painful when you are struggling on the journey, but most people are well-intentioned. They either genuinely want to get to know you more, want to share their life’s excitement with you, or simply think that it’s an easy conversation starter.
When they do know that you are struggling and still end up making a painful comment, in most cases, it’s because they want to be helpful and supportive, but don’t know how. Faced with challenges, human beings cope differently, which can make it difficult for others to know just how you’d want to be treated.
So, assume benign – or good – intent, unless you know otherwise. It may not remove the sting, but it will keep you grounded and stop you from reacting in a way that you might regret later. Psychological studies back it up: People who are intentional about giving others the benefit of the doubt are generally happier.
2. Get clear on your boundaries, and have canned responses ready
Be vague and change the subject
This is a perfectly acceptable way to protect your sanity. No one is entitled to more information about you than you want to share, although some people in your life may want you to believe otherwise! You get to set your own boundaries.
It’s true that fertility struggles shouldn’t be a taboo topic, and more open discussion about it will benefit many on the journey. However, remember that it’s not on you to fight against the societal discomfort around the topic, certainly not when you are hurting. Don’t feel obligated to share more than you are ready for.
- “Oh, I have no idea! How’s your new job – do you get to work from home?”
- “All in good time, I guess. How's your cat?”
Tell them it’s a tender topic you don’t want to talk about
There are a lot of ways to say this. You can do it breezily so the other party mirrors your nonchalance and moves on; or, depending on what you know about them and your comfort level, you can be a little more pointed.
- "That’s a loaded question for a BBQ party! Speaking of, do you know who made this corn salad? I have to get a recipe.”
- “Thanks for asking, but I don’t really want to talk about it.”
- “That’s a bit personal, don’t you think? But how was your Florida trip?”
Seize the opportunity to open a conversation
If you’ve decided to be open about your struggles, you can take the opportunity and start sharing your situation. Keep in mind, though, that you may not want to make this decision on the spot. You may feel under pressure and don’t have the time to strategize how much to share with whom. For many couples, it’s a joint decision that requires a prior discussion (or many). It’s perfectly fine to say a little bit, but save the meatier conversation for a more intimate setting later – or decide that you’ll share just the basics so people close to you are aware, but not a lot more.
- “Actually, we’ve been trying for a while – longer than I’d have thought!”
- “Well… that’s going to be a long answer. I’m not sure if we want to get into it here, but let’s meet up for coffee sometime?”
- “It’s been a struggle, to be honest. We’ve had a few cycles of treatment that didn’t work, and we are still trying. I can’t share much more than that right now, but I appreciate you asking.”
Rinse and repeat
Hopefully everyone will get the hint and respect your boundaries, but if you get stuck with someone who just wouldn’t stop grilling, you have every right to be firm. Repeat what you’ve already said. Feel empowered to walk away. A bathroom break usually works, but also remember that leaving early entirely is an option, if you feel that it might get too much to handle.
- “Oh, I have to grab Jessica there. I haven’t seen her in ages. Nice talking to you!”
- “I already said I don’t want to talk about this.”
3. Enlist a rescue
If you have a trusted friend with excellent social skills, enlisting the friend to keep an eye on you and come to your rescue can be a life-saver at gatherings. You may never need them to “steal you” from a nosy acquaintance, but just knowing that someone can sweep in to get you out of a painful conversation can relieve some of the anxiety going in.
4. Be busy with a task
For some of us, having a task can be a great way to avoid uncomfortable conversations. Volunteering to be in charge of the buffet table, for example, can give you a perfect excuse to vow out of an interaction and have a sense of control. If you feel up for it, hosting the get-together also gives you the ability to set the format and tone of the party, so that everyone is focused on something other than family-focused small talk.
What worked for you?
Fertility struggles are one of the most stressful experiences in life, but you are not alone – and you can help others. Send us your tips via LiveChat, and we’ll share them with the community.
If you and/or your partner are struggling emotionally, reach out for professional help. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a therapist specializing in helping those on the journey, too, like Mandy Rodrigues, who gave a talk on coping for Ovaterra Institute (check out her video here). Please reach out if we can be of help. We are with you.
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