My husband insists that I get an abortion. We have a 5-year-old daughter we had planned to raise as an only child, so this pregnancy was unexpected. My husband told me that he is not happy enough in our marriage to go through another pregnancy and childbirth with me. Our daughter has Down syndrome, and when we found out, my husband went through a phase of depression but kept strong for my sake. I, on the other hand, made things very difficult for him. I had unrealistic expectations and wanted him to be in tune with me all the time. I have admitted and apologized for my terrible behavior, and I had thought we had come to a point of stability and happiness. He now tells me that he feels like nothing but a moneymaking machine, and he does not want to support my daughter and me any longer. I want to help him, but he wants me to stay home with our daughter and his elderly mother, who lives with us. I told him that we should go through marriage counseling, but he doesn’t want to. I do not want to get an abortion; it is a moral issue for me. But I also do not want an unwanted child. I want to save what is left of my marriage, not only for myself but for my daughter. I thought that I was in the happiest time in my relationship. Please, tell me what to do.
You have to accept that your marriage may be over no matter what you do. Your husband threatens to leave you if you have the baby. But if you abort a child you want in order to save your marriage, there won’t be much of a marriage to save. You cannot allow your husband to bully you into an abortion (and, for the record, I am ardently pro-choice). It is truly unfortunate your husband won’t agree to counseling, because you two have a mountain of issues to sort out. You have a special-needs daughter, and no matter how much you adore her, a handicapped child puts strains on even the strongest marriage and requires a painful reassessment of your dreams for the future. You and your husband are so out of sync that you believed you two worked through a period of estrangement while he’s been thinking he just wants out. He feels as if he’s nothing more than a paycheck, but it doesn’t sound as if he has much sympathy for your day-to-day existence taking care of your daughter and his elderly mother. Tell him you still love him and believe that together you can repair your marriage and find joy in your new child. Say that if he won’t go to a counselor with you, you will go by yourself—because you are going to need a lot of support in the coming months. And keep in mind that at some point, you may need a lawyer to let him know that no matter what his fantasies about being free of his financial obligations, with the birth of his second child, they just got bigger.
I’m a mom of three teenagers who each have cell phones with texting capability and computers with instant messaging. What I find amazing is how little actual real-voice conversation goes on between boys and girls. My kids tell me that often it’s easier to instant message and/or text than talk to someone “live,” especially if the other person is someone whom they normally would feel nervous talking to face-to-face, and in fact may not talk to at all if it weren’t for the texting/instant messaging. My son even asked a girl to homecoming via instant message, which I found shocking and totally improper! By the time I found out, it had already been done. A boy has also asked my daughter out by texting. She is not allowed to date yet, so I told her to call the boy personally and turn him down. I’ve talked to my kids and insisted that they limit their texting as they will never know how to talk to actual humans if they don’t try it every now and then. Am I the only one who is worried by this trend among kids, or am I overreacting and should just get used to it?
—Person to Person, Please!
Dear Person to Person,
As this New York Times article points out, Barack Obama announced his vice-presidential pick via text. The article also reported that a survey of wireless users found the average consumer sent or received 357 text messages a month (compared with 204 phone calls), while teen users sent or received 1,742 text messages. In other words, give it up, Mom. Sure, you could use the “If all your friends were walking into traffic, would you do it, too?” argument—and actually, in this case, you’d have a point, since people are walking into traffic while texting. But every new communication technology creates its own disruption of social norms, especially for the older generation. You wish your children would behave decently and at least use the telephone. But in When Old Technologies Were New, author Carolyn Marvin writes that after the telephone arrived in the late 19th century, there were fears it would cause mass exposure of family secrets and allow young people to conduct their social lives without the supervision of their elders—and it did. Back in 1877, the very same New York Times characterized the telephone as having an “atrocious nature.” So, relax, and be assured that someday your children will say to their children, “Where are your manners? Can’t you just text your friends?”
My boyfriend and I are in our late 20s and have been dating for six years. We have been living together almost as long and are practically inseparable. Our relationship didn’t start out as good as it is now. I cheated on him with his then-closest friend, “Joe,” about four months into our relationship. It was a very short affair that I was (and still am) sincerely ashamed of. I feel that Joe, who is quite a bit older, took advantage of my inexperience and started the affair, which is part of the reason I have such a strong resentment. After many tears and candid discussions, my boyfriend and I recovered, and Joe was essentially removed from our lives. But a couple of years ago, my boyfriend and Joe started running into each other through work. Eventually, they started talking, and now he and my boyfriend are hanging out together more and more frequently. I have hardly spoken two words to this man—and I don’t want to. Just recently, my boyfriend asked him to house-sit while we were on vacation. I was upset to find out about it, but my boyfriend was offended when I expressed my displeasure. He doesn’t understand my resentment and I don’t want to reopen that long-buried trial. I don’t want to forgive and forget—I don’t want to see this guy ever again!
—Wishing for “Just the Two of Us”
This reminds me of that old Henny Youngman joke: “My best friend ran away with my wife, and let me tell you, I miss him.” Maybe your boyfriend is a particularly forgiving sort, or maybe he really, really enjoys Joe. But given how painful the episode was and how strong your feelings are, it’s rather odd he would invite this guy to stay at your house, leaving you with the image of him sleeping in your bed and nosing through your unmentionables. Since you are able to keep your distance from Joe, you shouldn’t try to make him completely verboten to your boyfriend; be confident enough to let your boyfriend see him separately from you. But if your relationship is as good as you say, he should be able to understand when you explain that you won’t try to change his friendship with Joe as long he won’t try to make you have one. Tell him that you don’t think you’ll ever get rid of your residual guilt about and anger at Joe, and you certainly don’t want him hanging around your house.
My parents divorced when I was about 6, and my father was never one for visits. When I was 11, he moved cross-country, and I never saw him again. I’m 30 now, and last week I received a certified letter with his death certificate and his will. I am feeling very confused about how to mourn someone I didn’t really know but feel I should have known and loved. Mostly, I feel an overwhelming and refreshed rejection due to the very blunt statement in the will that my siblings and I were intentionally excluded. It is confusing to have one parent who loves you and is extremely proud of you while the other one intentionally removed you from his life. His will listed names and contact information of other people in his life. I am considering calling one of them to ask if he or she would be willing to tell me what my dad was like. I am hesitant because I don’t know if I deserve to intrude on their lives when he so clearly did not consider me a part of his. Is this a terrible and selfish idea?
It is perfectly normal that this new information would be so freshly wounding. For years you were used to not having a father in your life. Then you find out it’s too late to ever have one, and you’re back to feeling abandoned all over again. There is nothing selfish about wanting to know more about this man. Just be prepared that whatever you find out will probably hurt. If it turns out he always left behind everyone he was close to, you will wonder what made him so destructive. If you find out he made a new family and was devoted to them, you will wonder how he could have been so cruel to all of you. Understand that there will always be a mystery at the heart (and about the heart) of a parent who leaves his children behind, and be grateful for the loving mother you have.