Providing Support For Men In an Unwanted Pregnancy Situation
Dealing with an unwanted pregnancy can be one of the most difficult challenges of being in a relationship. You are going through this together, but experiencing different things. She is experiencing being pregnant, and has to make a decision that she will be fully responsible for completing. Pregnancy hormones can accentuate anything she is feeling. She may have strong emotions and some of them may be directed at you. As the man in the couple, it’s important that you work to be open with your own emotional responses, rather than to just react or respond to hers.
You may both be “at your worst” and you may be seeing sides of each other that you’ve never seen before. At the same time, you are evaluating your commitment to each other in making a decision. Take this situation as an opportunity to get to know each other better. Difficult situations are the best times to learn about each other. How are you doing as a couple? Are you listening to each other? Do you care about each other’s opinions? Is there mutual respect? Are you honest with each other? Are you disappointed with each other? Why? Going through a difficult time is not a bad thing. It’s a chance to learn more about the person you’re in a relationship with. Learn about how you handle things as a couple. This can only help you learn how to create a healthy relationship, with her or with someone else.
You’re both dealing with the realities of being pregnant, including the daunting prospect of having a child, or the frightening procedure of getting an abortion. You may feel differently about these options. She ultimately has to make a decision, but she needs to know how you feel and what you think. This is a time to be active in your relationship, not passive. You both got yourselves into this situation, and you need to work to support her to the best of your ability. Even if you are feeling similarly, the situation is still difficult, as she has to be the one who execute the decision and she needs your active support. There are practical things you can do to make this easier for her.
Here are ten ways to be a better partner to her.
1. Be Honest. While women have to make the decision about the outcome of the pregnancy, they need to know where you are at in order to make their decision. Of course, the “right” thing to say is that it’s her decision, and you’ll support her no matter what she decides. But if you say this, you should really mean it. This means that if she decides to end the pregnancy, you will not feel resentful and angry, or feel she has done something to hurt your relationship. This means that if she decides to continue the pregnancy, you will support her financially until the child gets through college. You will be a father to the child to the best of your ability and you will emotionally and financially support her as the mother of your child.
The most hurtful thing you can do is to say “the right thing” and not mean it. She may not think she wants to hear your honest feelings. She may get angry. She may be more upset than you’ve ever seen her. However, it is better for her to know the actual situation she is dealing with than to have a child based on idealization and fantasy. This situation isn’t just about the two of you. It potentially involves the life of another person. When it comes down to it, she has to make the decision. The more she knows, the better, no matter how hard it is.
If you think it’s best to end the pregnancy, then you should tell her. Tell her why. There can be many reasons. You may feel you want to accomplish certain goals before you have a child. You may feel like you are not financially ready. You may feel that your relationship is not stable enough. You may feel your family and friends would not support the decision. You just simply may not want to be a father at this time, with no explanation. It’s just not what you want to do.
If she feels differently and says she wants to continue the pregnancy, then take a hard look in the mirror, and tell her what commitment you will make. Don’t make promises. Make commitments. Here are the kinds of commitments you can make that will help her be more clear about her decision:
- “Let’s get married.”
- “I’m ready to be a father.”
- “You can count on me for financial support.”
- “I am ready for us to have a child and raise the child together, but don’t want to get married.”
- “I want to be a father and will be a father to our child, no matter what happens in our relationship.”
- “I can’t commit to being a father at this time.”
Be as specific as you can! She has to make a decision that will affect both of you for the rest of your lives. The more she knows where you stand, the better.
If you want her to continue the pregnancy, let her know. Be supportive of the fact that it’s her decision, but don’t let that hold you back from letting her know what you really want. If you want to have a baby, give her confidence that you are not living in a world of fantasy, but will be there for her to deal with the realities of raising a child. The more practical support you give, the more she will know that she really is not alone, and you are ready to make a commitment. Even if she decides to end this pregnancy, it will give her confidence in you and your relationship in the long run. Find out about prenatal care. Figure out ways to support her once the baby is born. Find out information about pregnancy, and tell her about your research. Talk to friends about what they did when they decided to have a baby. Find out the details of what’s involved. Find out how much it costs to raise a child and come up with a budget. Figure out a living arrangement that would work for your family.
1. Don’t pull away from extreme emotions. Support her to have whatever emotional response she is having. It is common not to understand what she is feeling. She is pregnant and both of you may be surprised to find that her emotional response to this isn’t what you expected. It’s not rational. In pregnancy, her emotions may all be extreme: extreme anger, extreme sadness and extreme disappointment. She may be on an emotional roller coaster and her feelings may change from minute to minute. She may be very emotional, but unable to articulate her feelings.
It is best to let her be emotional and to be there for her. You don’t need to understand it. You don’t need to try to make her feel better. You don’t need to defend yourself. Strong emotions don’t necessarily mean something is wrong, or that you have to do something. The more you can be there to support her going through the process, the better she will be able to figure out how she wants to proceed.
What can you do? Ask her what she wants and needs. Hold her. Listen. Let her talk or vent. Be there. Be available. Make sure she feels you want to be available even though it is hard. Don’t let her push you away. Write her notes. Leave her messages. Send her flowers. Let her know that you’re there and that you’re available. You got into this situation together, and you will stay until things are resolved.
Understand that it is her decision. It may not be “fair.” It may not be “right.” You may hate the fact that you are not in control. In this situation, she can decide to end a pregnancy even if you want to continue it. She can decide to bring a child into the world that you will have some kind of relationship to, whether you want to become a father or not. If so, by law, you will have financial obligations for the next 20 years. There is a physical reason it's set up like this, not a moral one. She has to carry the pregnancy and the pregnancy can only proceed if she chooses to continue it. Once the baby is born, it becomes more complicated. The legal rights of fathers are beyond the scope of this website, but are something you can research. Often the laws vary from state to state.
Accept this situation, for this is how it is. You are not in control of the decision. Many men find this especially difficult. You can only do your best to influence the best outcome for everyone involved. Direct your energy into supporting her to make her decision.
1. Find the best medical care. If you’ve come to this website, you probably have. Do research. Find out the best option for her and find a way to pay for it.
1. Don’t delay. If you are considering ending a pregnancy, you can get an evaluation even if you have not made your decision. Go to a doctor’s office and let them know you are still deciding. You can meet the doctor, talk through the options and get an ultrasound. You can find out how far along the pregnancy is and how long you have to make a decision. The more information you have, the better.
1. Pamper her. Let her know how you feel about her. Little things mean a lot.
1. Beware of falling into roles. Neither of you are victims and you’re not a predator. Unless you forced her to have sex (in which case it’s unlikely that you’ve come this far on this site), it takes two to tango. She may take her anger out on you. You may feel angry that you’re not in control. Remind yourselves that you both made adult choices that got you into this situation.
1. Let her be angry. Now that she is pregnant, she has the tougher job. She is pregnant. She feels pregnant. No matter what her situation, no matter what her moral beliefs are, no matter what you say you are going to do, she has to be the one to make the decision. She will have to carry out the decision. She has to lie on the table to end the pregnancy, or she has to carry a baby and become a mother. Be sensitive to this. No matter how much you support her, she may feel very much alone. Instead of reacting to her anger, find ways to let her know you are there.
1. Reach out to other people. One of the hardest aspects of going through an unwanted pregnancy is that nobody talks about it! Almost everyone ends up in this situation at some point in their lives, but everyone is afraid to talk about it. It’s normal. Try reaching out to someone and letting them know what you’re going through. The internet makes it possible to reach out to strangers. Take advantage of it, and look for websites that offer support.
1. Take responsibility for preventing the next pregnancy. Take it upon yourself to learn about all of the birth control options. When you meet with the doctor, play an active role in the decision. Make the decision together about how to make love responsibly.