I was sexually active with my boyfriend and I got pregnant. He was shocked. After this, he became aloof and angry with me for getting pregnant. The fact is that I was not on the pill, but he thought I was, as I had mentioned a visit to my gynaecologist to discuss contraception. I had an abortion and he was physically there with me but was emotionally withdrawn. While he hugged me when I cried post the abortion, things have changed between us ever since. I feel vulnerable and want to marry him. I know both of us were unprepared to be parents, and I feel foolish for not having had the discussion on contraception clearly with him. I really love him, but this experience has created a strange awkwardness between us. What should I do?
Ans: Relationships are tested by many situations. Often, these are situations that one did not prepare for. This is simply one among a series of many shocking and unsettling truths that you will have to learn to face together as a couple (if you want this relationship to last). Abortions, miscarriages, serious health problems, mood disorders, money crunches etc., are a sample of just some of the issues that couples have to ‘go against’ – as a team.
There appears to be a gap in communication that has occurred between you all. Let us try to understand your boyfriend’s behaviour first. Your boyfriend’s emotional withdrawal is a likely result of him feeling aghast or simply pissed off with you and the abortion. Aloofness may be his coping mechanism of choice to absorb the shock he may have felt in knowing that he now has to ‘deal with this pregnancy’.
It is possible that he blames you for the way he feels because he ‘thought’ you were on the pill. It may also be his way of grieving. His aloofness may also be his way of demonstrating to you how he feels or his way of punishing you for what he sees as a ‘misstep’ on your part.
Also, there are ‘conscious tricks’ that are played by some people to get certain desired emotional or behavioural results from another person. There was a girl I once met who confessed that she usually goes on these ‘silent treatment’ sprees by refusing to speak to anyone at home. She said that she would often do this to break her elder sister’s resolve (who plays the family referee) and then would get what she wants when her sister would start to woo her on behalf of everyone else – with the ‘desired options’.
Do you now see how many possible reasons could exist within a person to act a certain way? Further understanding requires furthering the communication. Also, men are usually not as open to expressing their vulnerabilities due to gender role based societal conditioning that dictates them to be ‘strong’ and ‘always in control’. A lot of men don’t take kindly to being unprepared for something. They may like to be in control.
Expressions like ‘be a man’ or ‘don’t cry like a girl’ or ‘who is the little soldier?’ or ‘you are now the man of the house’ or ‘you have to protect our girls’ – is often a part of a young boy’s childhood conditioning where he learns to either suppress or subvert all strongly felt emotions to present a ‘brave face’. Sadly, women also perpetuate these gender-based roles in their own sons not realising the damage it may cause to young boys.
The prospect of unplanned parenthood is likely to have roused ‘strong emotions’ in him and his aloofness could be a result of him trying to ‘be the man’ or rein it all in. He is probably trying to process all these feelings in the manner in which he has learnt to. Sometimes emotional coping methods are learnt from one’s parents and surroundings or from tactics that may have worked in the past.
To continue to feel foolish and helpless is to not tackle the situation when it’s still fresh. It’s alright to feel disappointed. If you’re comfortable to speak to him about this, I suggest you try that first. Initiating a dialogue is important at this point. Tell him how you really feel.
Try to call out the situation for what it steers clear of any blaming. Stick to the facts. A situation is what it is until it is coloured by judgement. Judgement towards each other will be unhelpful – at this point. A communication gap occurred which led to a failed attempt at preventing a pregnancy. Failure is an important part of life and it shows us where we can improve.
Even the greatest politicians and industrialists of our times can’t claim to have never failed in their lives. Explain to him how you feel about yourself, the relationship, your body and his behaviour – after the abortion. Express your wishes and needs to him. If this doesn’t work and you still wish to rebuild the emotional bond between you will, you will may want to consider a visit to a marriage counsellor or a consulting psychotherapist – to help you will work through these issues.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialisation in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)