She's Pregnant, He's Distant

Having babies is serious business. Moving ahead together by choice, not coercion.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on March 1, 2004 - last reviewed on November 20, 2015

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?

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

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

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.