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‘My friends are all focused on having children, but I’m not’

From feeling left out because you aren’t ready for parenthood, to other vexing issues of a personal nature, clinical psychologist Jo Lamble answers questions from readers looking for expert advice on social dilemmas and relationship problems.

Question:

A number of my friends have children or are currently expecting. When we go out together, babies and kids are the main topic of conversation – which is pretty understandable. But lately the conversation is focused on the age you need to have kids by, and it is making me feel upset and uncomfortable.

I think it is insensitive for them not to consider me, but I also don’t want to come off as jealous that I’m not in that phase of my life. It is starting to make me want to avoid get-togethers. What do I do?

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Jo’s answer:

“That phase of life” sums up what you’re going through. It sounds like you’re in that stage when many friends are having children and that is the sole topic of conversation. It’s quite a long phase, which then morphs into talk about schools and kids’ achievements.

Many people don’t stop to consider whether the topic is interesting for all, or maybe even upsetting for some.

I gather you have already tried steering the conversation on to other topics. Have you tried mixing up the group? If the gathering is made up of some parents and some without children, then the topics of conversation should be broader.

And if you don’t have many friends without children, it may be time to cast the net a bit further and socialise with others at times.

Question:

I need some help in reconnecting with my partner after our separation nearly three years ago. When we separated, I was going through a very long period of constant work. There were long hours and days away from home, and weekends of more work on our property. I was mentally burnt out.

The relationship broke down and our dream home was surrendered.

At the time, I could not make sense of what was happening around me.

A month after the separation, when the dust had settled and I’d had some rest, I woke up to what had happened. I had lost my best friend. My attempts at building her trust have been in vain. I miss her. How do I fix this?

Jo’s answer:

It’s clear you have gained some insight into what happened for you three years ago.

Understanding ourselves is the first step towards change. I gather you have tried reaching out to your ex-partner, but she is still in pain. Perhaps you have been trying too hard to explain to her what you went through.

It sounds like you have described all that was going on for you and why you were mentally burnt out. You can also see now what you’ve lost.

It’s essential to take responsibility for your part in the relationship breakdown, which it sounds like you have. Now it’s time to really try to understand her. What was it like for her in the lead-up to the separation? What was it like for her when the relationship broke down and your dream home was surrendered? How have the past three years been for her? In other words, to build trust and to increase your chances of reconnecting, turn your focus towards her pain, her fear and her happiness.

If you keep explaining what was going on for you, it can start sounding defensive and lacking in empathy. Showing her empathy by asking how it’s been for her will hopefully lead to a closer relationship going forwards – even if it’s just as friends.

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