What Friends And Family Should Avoid Saying To Their Loved Ones
Are you ready to hear 62 things women hate hearing about their infertility?
I have been on the receiving end of some of these, so I know the hurt that can result.
Walking through infertility is quite a journey, filled with all kinds of emotions. If you’re on this journey right now, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
When people try to chime in with nice platitudes or say extremely rude comments to fill the silence, it doesn’t help the person struggling at all.
Many of these comments have come from asking friends, family, and women on Facebook for their personal experiences with this issue. I was flooded with tons of responses from the women in my Infertility Support Group!
Please know that when you read these comments, these are real words that have hurt many women.
However, knowledge is power, and I believe that if you’re willing to learn, you might walk away from this article with a little more compassion and understanding for what this journey is like.
Also, if 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility, then there’s a strong chance that you know someone walking this path. Maybe you’re on this path right now. Regardless, let’s educate ourselves so we can be more kind, thoughtful, compassionate friends.
I’ve divided these comments into 4 different sections: platitudes, unsolicited advice, ridiculous questions, and “you did not just say that!”
Let’s look at each category, learn what we shouldn’t say, and then brainstorm ways we can be helpful, compassionate friends.
Time to learn and grow together!
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The first group of comments women hate hearing I like to call the platitudes. These are simple statements, that to some, appear to be a nice bandage that you can slap on a problem and make it all better.
On the contrary, when statements like these are made, the person receiving them feels very uncared for and not validated in their grief, pain, and hardship.
Here are some common platitudes that should be avoided in conversation.
- It will all work out.
- Everything happens for a reason.
- Maybe it’s not meant to be.
- I guess this is God’s will.
- It will happen in God’s timing.
- You’re still young. It can still happen.
- It’s just not your time I guess.
- Your time will come.
- I’m sure it will happen for you.
- It’s bound to happen any time now.
- When God closes a door, He always opens a window.
Many of you have been on the receiving end of some of these platitudes.
How did it make you feel?
When all you’re wanting from a friend is a listening ear along with compassion and kindness, hearing an empty platitude just comes across as unkind. Usually it’s a conversation ender.
What can I say instead?
First of all, thanks for wanting to learn a more positive way to be there for your friends and family. That’s a great place to start!
My advice is to remember that being there for someone doesn’t mean you have to say much at all. We need to learn to be comfortable with silence, awkward pauses, and not knowing what to say.
Your friend may just want a safe place to land, with all of her thoughts, feelings, and ugly crying. Don’t try to fill the time with empty, unkind platitudes.
Trust me, that’s NOT going to make her situation any better. Just BE THERE for her.
If you really want to say something, then try and validate their pain and grief.
Here are a few helpful ways to show someone you care with your words:
- I’m so sorry you’re going through this.
- I cannot imagine what you’ve been dealing with lately.
- I have no idea what it’s like to be in your shoes, but I’m here to listen.
- You can share anything with me. I’m here for you.
- I’m sorry for all the hurt and grief you’ve experienced.
Whatever you do, just show up and be a good friend.
2. Unsolicited Advice
Oh boy, this category is packed to the brim.
We all know that in any situation, there’s always going to be people who want to swoop in and offer advice.
When it comes to trying to conceive (ttc) people somehow feel very free with their advice, especially women who have had multiple children.
Many people think that if something worked for them, then surely it can work for you too!
These are prime examples of things women hate hearing about their infertility.
What many well-meaning people fail to realize is that when offering advice, it’s usually not received well.
Many times the advice is completely unsolicited, meaning it was never wanted in the first place!
Also, a couple’s infertility journey is extremely private and complicated, and normally no two stories are the same.
You can’t just slap advice on a situation and think that it will be received well, then followed, and a baby will result. Uh, no!
Here are some examples of unsolicited advice that are given way too often:
- Have you tried ____? It worked for us!
- You just need to have more sex.
- Stop stressing out and then it will happen.
- *Just relax and it will happen. (This was the most popular answer!)
- Stop overthinking everything.
- Have you tried raising your legs after sex?
- You should read these 3 books. Trust me!
- Have you talked to your fertility specialist yet? What does he think?
- You should use this vitamin regimen my doctor recommended. Totally worked!
- Has your husband been checked out yet? It’s probably him.
- You need to go on vacation. That will totally help you relax and conceive.
- Get drunk first and then have crazy sex.
- Just try not to think about it.
- Maybe you should lose weight first.
- *You can always adopt. (This was one of the most popular answers!)
- You need to make sure that you and your husband are on the same page about everything.
- Maybe you should eat ____.
As you can probably guess after reading these, no one would appreciate hearing any of this stuff.
One thing to note is that infertility is a very long, emotional journey for many couples.
It involves tons of tests, lab work, ultrasounds, tracking, timing intercourse, procedures, the list goes on and on.
Women going through this are already receiving tons of advice from their OBs and their fertility specialists, so they don’t need to hear all of the unsolicited advice from others.
Telling a woman who is in the throes of infertility that she should just stop trying and adopt, is basically telling her to give up on a dream. Don’t be the one to stop her pursuit.
It’s a conclusion that she and her spouse need to come to on their own, if they decide adoption is for them.
I want to help my friend, so what should I do instead of give her advice?
Here are some ideas for how to help your friend in real, tangible ways.
- Be there for her
- LISTEN more than speak
- Ask if you can pray for her
- Ask her how she’s handling everything
- Let her know that you’re there for her
- Ask her how she best feels cared for (texts, phone calls, spending time together)
- Don’t pry/ask too many questions. Let her direct the conversation. Be happy with ANY info she bravely shares with you.
- Honor confidentiality
I wrote a post that talks about what it’s like going through infertility. There are some great ideas for how to walk alongside your friends. Definitely worth a read!
3. Ridiculous Questions
This next category of comments I like to call the ridiculous questions.
Women going through infertility hate being asked tons of invasive questions.
These are the questions that can make a normal conversation go south very quickly.
When you’re on the receiving end of one of these, you have to contain your eye roll and oftentimes you think, “Did she really just ask me that?”
When women are struggling through infertility, they don’t appreciate being peppered with questions, especially by strangers.
What’s the deal with moms at the park and their incessant ability to ask very personal questions?
Remember, every woman’s story is special and unique to them.
Here are some examples of ridiculous questions:
- When are you going to give me a grandchild?
- You’ve been married for 5 years now, isn’t it time for kids?
- When are you going to have #2?
- Don’t you want your daughter to have a sibling?
- Don’t you think you already have your hands full with one?
- Do you REALLY want kids? (No, I just love wasting tons of time and money on fertility treatments for the fun of it. Seriously!) Pardon the sarcasm!
- So how long have you been trying?
- What kinds of positions have you tried?
- Are you having sex everyday?
- Have you thought about IVF?
- How far are you and your husband willing to go to conceive?
- Have you thought about surrogacy?
- Are you sure you want to pay all of this money for fertility treatments?
Now that you’ve read through these ridiculous questions, can you see how they can change the temperature of the room very quickly?
I want to know what’s going on in my friend’s life, but what can I do? Asking questions is so helpful in learning more about her story. What can I do instead?
Great question! It’s not that you can’t ask questions, you just need to be asking the right questions.
Here are some life-giving questions to ask your friend or family member:
- How can I help you throughout this process?
- Can I pray for you right now?
- What is a way that I can best care for you as you walk this road?
- I want to be here for you, can you give me some ways to tangibly support you right now?
- Has it been hard for you to hangout with us and our kids lately?
- How has your family treated you during this process?
- Is there anything that I’ve done that’s been hurtful?
These are great questions to start with. Whatever you do, just let your friend know that you’re there for her through the ups and downs. Reassure her that you’re in this for the long haul.
4. You Did Not Just Say That!
This was the best descriptor for the final category of things women HATE hearing about their infertility.
These are the things people say that make you want to punch a wall or just smack somebody. Seriously!
I honestly think that comments like these are said flippantly and by people who are too focused on contributing to a conversation in any way possible, even if it’s rude or unhelpful.
Here are examples of “You did not just say that!” comments:
- At least you didn’t get pregnant and have a miscarriage.
- My husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant.
- I know what you mean, I’ve been trying for 4 months! (try 4 years!)
- Maybe you’re not meant to be parents.
- Get over it.
- Stop spending so much money and just get a puppy.
- Be happy you’re alive.
- At least you have nieces and nephews.
- You don’t know the meaning of tired until you’ve been a parent.
- You’re Fertile Myrtle. You’ll get pregnant again.
- At least you get to sleep in.
- Other people have it worse than you.
- Ugghh. I hate being pregnant! (Really? Because I would do anything to be pregnant and have that experience!)
- You can have my kids. They exhaust me.
- You already have one kid so you should feel lucky.
- Nothing you can do about it.
- You wouldn’t understand because you don’t have kids.
- You’re too old.
- At least you haven’t lost multiple babies.
- Maybe you’re not praying hard enough. (Are you kidding me?)
- Now we’re a family because we have a baby. (So couples without kids aren’t a family?)
My only advice for this category is to be others-focused in your interactions.
Think about what your friend or family member is going through. Don’t make your interactions about you, make it about them.
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Other Helpful Infertility Articles:
Let’s Wrap Things Up!
Thanks for hanging with me through this entire post! I hope you learned a lot about what to say and what not to say to someone going through infertility.
If you’re ever having to question whether or not to say something, the general rule is don’t.
Remember, don’t force a conversation with your friend. Just show up and be there.
Your friend is probably more lonely in this season than you could ever imagine, so what she really needs is a steadfast, trusted friend.
Be okay with ugly cries. Be okay with silence. Just be there.
Your consistent presence and friendship will speak louder than any words you could ever share.
Here’s my call to action for you this week!
Think of one person in your life who you know is walking this journey right now. Reach out to them and send some kind words their way. Be that great friend they’re needing!
A final word to all of you walking this journey: you are not alone. I’m right there with you.
As someone struggling with secondary infertility, I know the loneliness, the longings, and the emotional roller coaster that this journey entails.
I’m so sorry for all your pain, losses, hardship, and grief, and that so many people don’t understand your journey.
Please know that I am praying for each of you, and asking that God would fill each of your hearts and minds with hope.
If you have specific prayer requests relating to your personal infertility journey, please reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to pray for you!
Lots of love to each of you!
Cover Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope.” ~Romans 15:13