Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
Q. My husband and I have been married for about two years, and people constantly ask us when we are going to start a family. This question stirs up a lot of emotions for me: I suffered through a miscarriage and have had a hard time getting pregnant again. I would love to tell people that they are asking an inappropriate question, but I don’t have the audacity to do that. What should I say?
Name withheld by request
A. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through a difficult time. And the folks asking this question would feel just as sorry if they knew the details of your situation. Remember: They have no idea that they are causing you pain. From their perspective, they see a couple starting out on a lovely journey through life together. When they inquire about your plans to have children, what they’re really trying to say is: “Seeing you reminds me of good times, which makes me happy for you, and this is my way of acknowledging that sentiment.”
Of course, it would be better if they could just say that. Train them, nicely, to be more careful about what they say to young marrieds like you. The next time this happens, say, “I know you mean well, and I appreciate your kind thoughts, but personal questions make me uncomfortable.” Then, before there’s time for an awkward silence, change the subject to a neutral topic.