Dear Carolyn:How does a couple decide how much of their life to share with family? My husband and I have been trying for a baby for a year and are now starting fertility treatments. I feel strongly that I want to keep this as private as possible — between us, a therapist, and one or two close friends. My husband wants to share with his parents and siblings and thinks that I should also share with my family.
I understand his need for support, but I think we would be better off getting it from a professional vs. my in-laws, who will likely give us a bunch of platitudes and push fertility myths, and then somehow end up telling the rest of the extended family.
If I'm being honest, I'm also embarrassed and feel broken because the issue is on my end, and don't need everyone knowing that.
It's all extremely personal and sensitive, and can't anything stay private anymore? Or do we always need to be sharing?
— Don't Need Everyone Knowing
Don’t Need Everyone Knowing: I am so sorry you have to go through this.
I also am sorry you see yourself as “broken.” Would you say that to your friend if she were in your position? Would you call her such an ugly word and agree she should be “embarrassed”? I don’t even know you and I know — no way. You’d be encouraging her, urging her to trust that you won’t judge her or annoy her with advice and myths.
So please be as kind to yourself as you’d be to your friend.
As for reconciling your preference for privacy with your husband’s impulse to share, it’s important to get into the specifics. He wants broad community support and you want narrow, professional support. That’s the general picture. The specific one for you is that you don’t want your in-laws pushing myths or sharing your news widely. That’s fair. The specific picture for your husband, I’m guessing, is that he doesn’t want the added weight of keeping a secret. That’s fair, too, since both of you would have to choose your words carefully whenever you’re around people.
These do seem mutually exclusive, so it’ll be tough, but they’re also the same thing: You both want to feel comfortable around other people as you go through this difficult process. Maybe just talking about it on those terms will help the two of you figure out what your two visions have in common — and maybe, for example, you can trust some people to know without blabbing and opining without being asked? Discretion isn’t a totally lost art, I hope.
If you just can’t find a level of disclosure you both can accept, then, given that your body is the one getting treated and stuck and hormone-jacked, you have the veto power here. (Again — after a good-faith effort to find a compromise.) His thinking you “should” share with your family is suspect — if we’re going to play the “should” game, then he “should” support your right to decide how best to manage your relationship with your own family — but I hope he will freely honor your claim to the last word.