Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dismaying Story #118: After a Pregnancy Scare

Dear Andrew,

I am in the relationship that I believe will be THE ONE for me. And my boyfriend has let me know on several occasions that he agrees with me. We have moved in together six months ago and I haven't discovered anything to disagree with me yet, so my conclusion still stands. We are both 24 years old.

Three months after we met, at some point, I felt so strongly about him that I couldn't help but want to tell him. And I started my declaration with "I know you might panic when you hear this but..." and I don't remember what I said, but it was somewhat of a love declaration. I inserted the first bit because I know the classical story of the man who wants no commitment so he panics when he hears that the woman does.

He did not panic. Actually he said some things back and then he said: "I don't panic that easily, you know. The only thing that would make me panic would be you telling me you're pregnant." And then he added: "But when I think about it, that wouldn't be that big a panic either." And then he told me the story of when he and his ex-girlfriend discussed about this and he completely dismissed the idea of she being pregnant with such vehemence that she was very upset. She apparently told him "If you are so much against me, you don't truly love me". He said he had come to realize she was right and that at that point, with me, he wasn't so much against the idea anymore. I was impressed with his attitude - I know that guys usually are very frightened of pregnancies, especially at young ages, and I really took it as a sign that this relationship was indeed as serious as I thought it to be.

Two months ago I had a pregnancy scare. A pregnancy test turned out negative. But a friend of mine told me I had to take it again in a couple of weeks because apparently pregnancy tests are not accurate in the first three weeks (something to do with hormones and stuff). When she told me that she asked me: "What if you are?" and my answer was: "Well, this definitely isn't a good moment to have a child and I wouldn't plan one anytime soon, but if I am then so be it." I was amazingly calm (compared to another pregnancy scare I had with another boyfriend a couple of years ago when I thought I was going to go crazy), not exactly pleased but definitely not scared either.

That was the moment when I told my boyfriend about it. And he DID panic. Terribly. I told him that I probably wasn't pregnant but that he needed to know of the possibility. And yet he panicked so hard that at some point he had tears in his eyes. I couldn't understand this sudden panic attack. He said "Babies are a stop in your life: after you've had one, you can't travel anymore, you can't go out at night, you can't do anything anymore." I pointed out to him that we travel at the frequency of once in a couple of months - and I'm sure my parents would be more than happy to help us in that eventuality - and that we never go out at night. He answered "It doesn't matter. It's the idea that I can't do it anymore that does."

The next day I went to see a doctor who confirmed I was not pregnant. We both let it go but for some reason now I'm remembering and I am wondering.

My reasons for not wanting a child are the following: we are currently counting our money at the end of the month, which means we barely make enough to support ourselves; I am still new at my job and I don't think my employer would be too happy about a maternity leave from me; we are living in a very small flat, we can't afford a bigger one, so a child would have no room... etc. If you study these reasons, you will see these are all temporary reasons. At some point there's a big possibility that these arguments will expire and I expect that in three or four years I'll be ready to have a child. And I cannot imagine my life without having a child.

My boyfriend's reasons, however, are not so temporary. If he feels that a child is the stop sign of his life, there's absolutely nothing that I can see changing his mind, except actually having one and seeing that it isn't. And that can't happen without his agreement. And I am worried about that.

So my question is this: not as a psychologist, but more as a man, would you like to tell me what is it with men and children? Why is it that they are so scared of the idea? Is there a chance that he might grow up and change his mind?

And another question: I can't help thinking of that conversation we had at the beginning of our relationship. And I can't help having the same reaction as his ex-girlfriend: if he's so scared of it, maybe he just doesn't love me as much as I love him. I was frightened of having children with other men, but ever since I met him the idea is not so scary anymore. I want him to be the father of my children. And I want him to see me as the mother of his. I don't want to be just another temporary relationship on the road to THE ONE for him.

Signed, Wanting Kids

Dear Wanting Kids,

Yes, there is a very good chance he will grow up and change his mind.

Society teaches men that they should be providers. He knows he will probably end up taking on that responsibility someday, but he also wants to have some time first to play and enjoy life. Toss a baby in there and that phase of his life is gone in a nanosecond, to be replaced with bills and the work associated with being a parent. His options for building a career become more limited because he needs to provide a reliable, long-term income stream immediately. He feels a sense of loss, and that is what he was expressing.

Will he always want to play rather than settle down? That is highly unlikely. Most men (and most women too, for that matter) progress past the stage in life where going out and "partying" all the time seems like the thing to do. Most people change their focus to building a career, a home, and a family. Chances are your boyfriend will go through this progression as well.

You didn't refer to him as your fiancé or husband, so the two of you have not yet made the commitment to spend your lives together. He can't really object to the pregnancy by saying, "But we haven't even decided to get married yet!" He knows there is a chance you would interpret that as, "You should walk out the door and never speak to me again!" He doesn't want that -- he wants life to go on as it has, with the two of you working through the gradual process of being together and possibly, hopefully working toward a final commitment. A pregnancy forces his hand in many ways. It hurries the process and removes control. This loss of control is threatening for many people.

Be careful with that one, though. This does NOT mean he doesn't love you. You wrote: "If he's so scared of it, maybe he just doesn't love me as much as I love him." I don't believe that is a valid inference. He can love you like crazy and hope to spend the rest of forever with you, and still not be ready to welcome the lifestyle changes and monetary challenges that children bring.

My suggestion: Find a time to discuss the future with him. Play "what if" and "how do you see life unfolding" with him. Ask him if he could ever see kids in his life. Many guys will say, "Sure, some day, just not now." If he does, then you likely have nothing to worry about.

I hope that helps.

All the best,


  1. Timing is everything. He may indded love you very very much, but he isn't ready...
    Economic reasons are just as valid as having done the things you want to do first -- graduate college or getting a master's degree, traveling, having alone time together as a couple, being established in your respective careers...
    He may see a baby as a stop sign UNTIL he thinks these type of things have been experienced...
    There is a difference between 'I don't EVER want kids' and 'I want them, I just would like to feel more secure in my life first'.
    This is just a guess.
    Also, it may depend on what his family life was like growing up... If he had a happy homelife with brothers and sisters, his memoris of that are good.
    If it was traumatic, he may be afraid to go there becasue there are bad memories of what life and parents are like when there is a family...
    Best wishes to you. I hope it all works out so you both are happy in the long term !

  2. Anonymous3:51 AM

    his parents announced him out of the blue that they were getting a divorce when he was 10. the few times he talked about it he made it sound like a betrayal, like the point his life was pretty much ruined, the point where he lost his control over his life. that might indeed be a factor... :(

  3. There may not be any rush, but if you're living together then you are already thinking about spending your lives together. Having children needs to be a topic of conversation before you say "I do." If this is more important to you than to him, then the resentment it can cause whether or not you have them can become a huge problem for the party who does or does not get what they want. I've seen this cause huge marital strife.

    Do not be coy about what you want, do not let the chance to discuss it slip past you. It matters far too much to be afraid to discuss it for fear of running him off. His feelings aren't the only ones that should be taken into account.

  4. Anonymous8:21 PM

    I went through that with my husband. He knew from the beginning that I wanted two children and I knew he wanted none at the time. We waited 3 years before making the decision to have kids. I wanted him to be ready and it didn't bother me to wait. (we were 21) We knew when the time was right-it felt right between us. Sex wasn't just sex, it had a purpose.
    I believe that he may truly love you and children have absolutely nothing to do with that. It's not a matter of having children with you, it's having children AT ALL right now. So don't take it personally and start talking about it, as it will eventually be a decision to make.

  5. My dad swears that 27 is the magic age at which men finally start "nesting".

    I wouldn't give up on him yet but everybody here is right--discuss it thoroughly before you make any permanent plans. (Until then--protect yourselves! Nobody needs the stress of false alarms.)

  6. Anonymous7:29 PM

    I think his panic comes from him being 24. That's very young to start thinking of all the responsibility of a child. My man is 37 and we are expecting our first child. For two years all I heard about was how he wouldn't have a life and he would panic if I brought up kids. Well, this one is a surprise and he is handling it very well. that's not to say he won't freak out as soon as our son is born, but in the meantime he is looking forward to the RESPONSIBILITY believe it or not. I don't think his panic attack has anything to do with the amount of love he has for her. I just think that he is too young and knows the challenges they would face and that they may be too much to bear right now. Give it a few years and see what happens then.