She's Pregnant, He's Distant

I have had a long distance relationship for almost a year and not long ago visited my boyfriend in the United Kingdom. We had a wonderful time and his family and friends were kind and generous toward me. Chaos broke loose after I returned home. First he learned that his father has terminal throat cancer. And within a week I had to tell him that I was pregnant. At first he sounded happy at my news but then became terribly cold and distant, and eventually angry. He said that he was overwhelmed and really needed space to deal with all of this. He also has this superstition that the news of my pregnancy was the harbinger of his father's poor prognosis. I am now 18 weeks pregnant and for the past two months have been the one to initiate conversation. When I ask if he wants our relationship to be over, he says to give him more time. I feel dangled on a string, unloved, and very alone in this pregnancy. To top it off, I am having twins. Much as I pride myself in being an independent woman, I am feeling quite needy right now. What really is going on with this relationship? Is it really going to get better? Should I just get over him and abandon him the way he has done to me?

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Indeed, you have great need for emotional support at this time, and I hope you have family and friends to provide it. Expecting it from your boyfriend is a bit unfair. Unless he participated 100 percent in the decision to become a parent at this time and together you two consciously made plans for this possibility, the news of your pregnancy can come as a shock to him. So his desire for time to absorb the news is, to say the least, understandable, even laudable, especially under the circumstances of dealing with his father's terminal illness.

Having babies is serious business. It is both self-indulgent and unrealistic to expect pregnancy to cement a relationship that is still in its formative stages itself. It does a great disservice to the idea of relationship to demand that your boyfriend go along with your unilateral decision on what is literally a matter of life and death. It can be seen as entrapment, and entrapment never works.

Raising one newborn is hard work, let alone twins, and a challenging undertaking even when firm emotional, financial, and logistical preparations have been made, which does not seem to be the case here at all. At the very least these would include a joint household. I won't even go into how unfair it is to a child to bring new life into the world without agreement and preparation for the consequences.

Your boyfriend sounds like he is truly grappling with what to do. If I were in your shoes, as needy as I might be, I'd try to fully support him in thinking things through. Try to put aside your neediness for a moment to at least see the situation from his perspective. Do you know what kinds of plans and dreams he had for his own future? Are they in any way compatible with parenthood now? Is there some way you can both feel you are moving ahead together by choice and not coercion? Are there some sacrifices that are acceptable to each of you, and are you capable of making them? How and where would you live together as parents raising your babies without jeopardizing everyone's future?

Here is what one man suggested might be helpful: If she said to me, "I'm having the baby and I'm really pleased you're the father; I'll go it alone even if you won't support me; don't feel obligated; if you do contribute that's great; but what I'd really like is for you to share in it, and if it doesn't work, I won't hold it against you."—Then I'd say, "Hmmm, what's to lose?"

I know this is asking a lot of you. But if you can put yourself in your boyfriend's shoes now, it may help salvage a most critical situation for the both of you.

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.