March 28, 2014 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Pick a point, and grieve, then live

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I get you are a strong believer of the be-content-with- yourself theory of singlehood. What I am not getting is when someone is longing for a baby, we “get” this and understand if they skip other people’s baby showers. When someone is single and longing for a partner, we assume something is wrong with them for craving something outside themselves. Your advice has really followed these lines and I don’t see the longing as all that different. Please explain.

– Anonymous

No life goes exactly as planned, and so our happiness with the one we have will depend largely on how productively we respond when it takes an unwanted turn.

Infertility is indeed a similar, unwanted turn, but with significant differences. For one thing, you can know you’re infertile; you can’t know you’ll remain single in perpetuity. Plus, infertility is a physical condition for which there are treatments. By contrast, an adult who wants to be someone’s spouse cannot turn to medical intervention. Instead, that adult controls only him- or herself. Thus the long-range, make-the- best-of-what-you-have advice to someone single versus the short-range, manage-your-emotions- as-you-make-your-choices advice to someone facing infertility.

The main difference here – and the gap in which your distress has found purchase – may just be that infertility allows for a logical grieving point. There is no such Moment on which a lonely person can hang his or her grief.

Indeed, the undefined window of time can aggravate the pain of pining for a mate.

So that is where I’d amend my advice: Pick a point, and grieve. Grieve what you hoped or planned for that hasn’t materialized – maybe when you first form the thought, “I thought I’d be married by now.” That goes for someone pining for a mate, but also for someone longing for a child.

But keep letting grief make your decisions? No.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email