Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
I think I said something wrong and now my friend’s therapist is mad at me. Long story short, my friend is trying to get pregnant and has had her second IVF failure. I have three kids and we are trying for No. 4. Over lunch the other week I tried to explain that I completely understand her longing for that first baby, because I feel the same way in my longing for this one. Looking back, I think she kind of shut down the conversation at that point. Well, fast-forward to this week when I confront her about not returning my calls and texts, she tells me she is “setting a boundary” because her therapist said she should. I don’t get this at all. Why would her therapist try to cut her off from her support system? What can I do to get back into her good graces? –Wants to Fix It
Dear Fix It, Give me a second while I get my gaping mouth to close.
Dear, dear, dear one. Her therapist is not “mad” at you – or at least, that’s not why she told Friend to set a boundary. The therapist may have advised Friend to set boundaries so that she is not triggered by people who suffer from tone deafness – and my dear, that’s you.
I can imagine that you were completely genuine in your suggestion that one person wishing for a first child has much in common with another person wishing for a fourth. In fact, I am sure you meant it in the very best way possible, as a way of bonding the two of you together in this life experience, but you aren’t on the same page – not by a longshot. Let’s both imagine Friend’s deep grief and utter shock that a mother-of-three might liken her circumstances to one actively struggling to become a mother-of-any. I do not mean to minimize your pain (not even in the slightest), this is just an apples to oranges situation – strike that – it’s an apples to a single, solitary orange situation.
Let’s shift this for a moment and focus on the very normal, yet often misguided way we humans often try to crowd into another person’s experience as a way of building intimacy. Sometimes, that backfires and people get deeply, devastatingly hurt. You can be a good friend without assuming you are both riding the same emotional roller coaster (in case I didn’t make my point before – you are on two totally different roller coasters). My advice is simple – learn from this misstep. Apologize from a safe distance on the other side of the boundary she has set (READ: via a phone call or voicemail), and then continue to respect the boundary. You can be a gentle, loving presence on the other side while you wait for her.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist, practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.