Ask Amy: My friend’s struggles with infertility have hurt our relationship

Dear Amy: My college best friend is struggling with infertility and is near the end of the road with multiple rounds of unsuccessful IVF.

I’ve been there to support her through this, even though we live far from each other. My heart aches for her.

I have had two children during the course of her fertility struggles.

I have taken great pains to break the pregnancies to her gently, privately, and early, but I know it has been difficult for her.

I have been as tender as possible in sharing about my family life. (Neither my partner nor I use social media. I am a very private person).

As time has gone on and the medical interventions have ratcheted up, I can feel my friend withdrawing from me.

For example, during this most recent round of my friend’s IVF, she requested of our text thread of close friends: “no pictures of little ones, please.”


I’m the only one of us with kids, so I imagine this comment was directed with me in mind, even though I don’t think I’ve ever shared a picture on the thread.

I am feeling quite distant from my dear old friend at this point.

When we catch up on the phone, even answering the most innocent questions opens up this painful topic of my children.

I truly want to honor her feelings and the hardship she has faced, but the truth is that my kids are the most central and important thing in my life right now.

It feels strange and strained to avoid references to my family when we interact. I am struggling to know whether authentic friendship is possible here.

Any advice?

– Old Friend

Dear Old Friend: Your friend’s extreme fertility challenges will likely impact all of her relationships (not just yours), and because this issue threatens your friendship, I think you should attempt to talk this through – in as frank and honest a way as you are able.

In the course of this conversation, you might ask her if she is willing (or able) to form any relationship with your children. She is a special person in your life; could they be in her life, too?

She might respond that this is simply too painful for her. Ask her to draw the parameters about what she is able to discuss with you; if she insists that she cannot tolerate any mention of your children, it means that you can only discuss the central aspect of her life – and not yours. You can no longer be intimate friends, which is another casualty of her fertility struggle.

• • •

Dear Amy: A couple of years ago I overheard my sister ask one of her teen grandsons if he had found a girlfriend yet.

Later, I explained how uncomfortable that question had made me when I was a gay teen who had not yet come out.

I suggested that if she had to delve into a young person’s love life, that she should reword the question so that it doesn’t assume that the person is a heterosexual, maybe instead asking, “Have you found a special someone in your life, yet?”

She blew me off, saying that if the boy was gay, he would have told her.

Last week I witnessed her doing the same thing to yet another grandson (the original boy’s cousin).

I lack the words to describe to her the fear of rejection by their families and friends that many (most?) young LGBT+ people go through while working up the courage to come out to their families.

Every time a family member says something assuming that they are heterosexual, it just makes it that much harder to share the truth – if the young person is not heterosexual.


I would hope that people who love the young folks in their lives give those youngsters the message that it is OK to be who they are by not assuming they are straight.

– Out and Proud

Dear Out: Thank you for highlighting how potentially damaging this assumption can be – especially for a young person.

I need to add that – honestly – I find that the overt curiosity about any teenager’s romantic life on the part of grandparents (and other adults) can seem unduly intrusive. Let a teen volunteer this information, if they are inclined.

• • •

Dear Amy: In addition to the advice you gave to “Not His Mother,” the woman whose husband does not clean up in the kitchen, I suggest buying pre-cut and packaged items for him to use, especially on the nights she is away from home.

– Trying to be Helpful

Dear Trying: But she is not his mother.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy,” which is carried in over 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million readers daily. Email