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I am happily married, financially stable, and a mom of a beautiful, feral toddler. On a drunken night I convinced myself that I did, in fact, want a sibling for my toddler—quite the 180 from my staunch stance of being “one and done!” I’m now 10 weeks pregnant with my second child and plagued with nausea, vomiting, and most of all regret. Should I terminate this pregnancy and tell all (including my husband) that I miscarried? He, his parents, and my parents are all excited about baby No. 2. I, however, am completely disappointed in myself for having a lapse in judgment and thinking I would be OK with getting pregnant again.
—Thinking About Termination
“I don’t want to be a parent” is a wholly sufficient reason to schedule an abortion. You are under no obligation to disclose your decision to terminate a pregnancy to anyone else, no matter how excited they may have been about your pregnancy or how much they might wish you to carry your pregnancy to term. Your husband’s and your other relatives’ interest in, relation to, or attendant feelings about your pregnancy and your prospective parenthood of another child must always remain secondary to theirs. Your pregnancy is not a decision to be made by an executive committee whereby other people can purchase shares in your reproductive choices because they’ve married you, or because they hope to become grandparents again, or for any other reason.
If you decide to have an abortion, you may choose to inform your husband beforehand if you think he’ll be supportive (emotionally and physically, since you’ll need care while recovering), or afterward, if you trust he’ll keep it in confidence. That’s not mandatory, but you may find it relieves some of your sense of isolation if you think you’ll be on the same page. But I hope you’re able to share your regret and distress with your partner, not so he can talk you out of them, but because secrecy and shame can make for a damaging combination, especially in the long term. It may also minimize the likeliness that you’ll feel additional pressure in the future to go along with the general family excitement about a second child and give them what you think they want.
You don’t say anything about your husband’s (or your other relatives’) views on abortion. You may not know these views, but if you have reason to believe your husband or family would antagonize you for having had an abortion, you should prioritize your own well-being and safety first. If you decide you want to move forward with termination and don’t feel prepared to discuss it with your husband, then consider confiding in a trusted friend or your doctor. Whatever you decide, don’t let your disappointment or your embarrassment keep you from making an informed and self-interested decision about something as huge as raising a second child.
Help! I Don’t Want to Pay for My Teen Son’s Girlfriend’s Abortion.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Karen K. Ho on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
My partner is a slob. He’s a 40-year-old man, and we’ve been living together for a year and a half. He’s pretty neat around the house, but not when it comes to his appearance. He often has dried toothpaste or even leftover coffee and food around his mouth, rarely does up his fly all the way (if at all), wears mismatched socks, and often has his shirt on inside-out. He wears a dirty coat and unlaced shoes. He works out regularly, eats well, and showers daily, so I don’t think it’s a universal issue or an indicator of depression. I’ve talked to him about it a few times, but he hasn’t been very receptive, and says he “just doesn’t care about stuff like that.” This was always a bit of an issue, but it’s gotten much worse during the pandemic.
We’re both working from home. I get that we aren’t going out and don’t expect him to dress up, but I do want him to dress himself presentably. I want to be able to see him for the attractive man he is, but it’s hard not to focus on the sloppy stuff. I find it really unattractive, not least because it makes me feel like he’s just not trying. Maybe I just need to recognize that “looking presentable” is a societal norm that has rightly fallen by the wayside during the pandemic and I’m being super shallow. Is it reasonable to expect someone to be attentive to their appearance right now? If it is, can you help me better understand why this bugs me so much, and suggest how I might broach the issue with him in a more compelling way?
—Shallow or Slobby?
It’s certainly good to exhibit extra patience and tolerance toward others, especially the people we live with, during the pandemic. Letting go of mismatched socks would probably fall under that category. But finding daily toothpaste and coffee stains on your partner’s face annoying is not, I think, an indicator that you’re overly finicky, or letting vanity get in the way of love. They’re minor irritations, to be sure, but they’re also constant, and now that you two spend the majority of every day in close proximity, very difficult to avoid noticing. It might help to reframe this conversation with your partner, not to convince him that he ought to care about “stuff like that” on his own, but to stress that you care about it, that glancing in the mirror after eating or double-checking his shoelaces and zippers will take relatively little time and energy to address, and that it will go a long way toward establishing a sense of reciprocal care and physical intimacy. You’re not asking him to completely overhaul his wardrobe or change his appearance dramatically. You just don’t want to kiss him with tomato stains on his upper lip or when his coat smells so bad you need to take a few steps away! He’s capable of improvement here, and you’re not unreasonable or shallow for asking him to try.
I’m in my early 20s and, not to be dramatic, but I don’t know if I believe in love anymore. My parents divorced when I was young. Later I found out that one had cheated with someone I always thought was just a family friend. They’re now together, in a tense and unhappy union. My other parent’s subsequent relationships were all pretty awful, also involving cheating and manipulation. Their current partner is much like the rest. Most of my aunts and uncles are divorced, either due to adultery or straight-up disappearance. Those who aren’t are clearly unhappy.
I just feel like the only healthy relationships I actually see come from books and movies and TV. When I try to picture myself with someone, it really feels like just a fantasy. I’ve tried dating multiple times, but each time I “self-destruct” because it feels like nothing will last. I get scared and end it, even when there’s nothing wrong. I’ve never even managed to last a year. I’m in therapy (for other things), and it was my therapist who first even mentioned that my views on love and faithfulness might be warped by my experience growing up. The problem is: I’m really lonely. I want to be with someone (or multiple someones) or to just be cuddled. But I’m so very afraid, and it’s hard not to doubt whether anything ever really works out in the end. How do I get out there? How do I make it last?
—Afraid to Believe in Love
I hope this doesn’t sound dramatic in turn, but I’m not sure it’s very important to “believe” in love or not. It’s important to avow your own desires, if only to yourself, and it’s important to treat anyone you have sex with or date with dignity and respect. It’s important to cultivate relationships and build trust and affection with other people—but those relationships don’t have to last until the very moment of death, or be exclusively romantic, in order to be meaningful. If you feel lonely and want to be cuddled by someone you feel comfortable with, you don’t first have to work through your complicated feelings around marriage, permanence, the dynamics of your family of origin, or monogamy first. You can decide you’re ready to pursue one sort of relatively low-level intimacy without first solving the riddle of lifelong romantic love. You’re allowed to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. What might it look like to pursue sex and romance one date at a time? What might it feel like to ask yourself what you need in order to feel relatively free, open, trusting, and connected for a single conversation, a single evening together, before worrying about the next? Have you ever shared your fears with someone you’ve dated before, or have you kept them to yourself until they became unbearable until you felt you had no other option but to end things? You don’t need to share those fears in the anticipation that whomever you’re dating will be able to successfully reassure you out of them, but merely for the purpose of feeling slightly less isolated and slightly better known.
It makes sense that you’d feel daunted by the sight of so many damaged, damaging marriages in your family growing up. Without dismissing your experience based on your relative youth, and without trying to force you into always looking for a silver lining, I’d encourage you to treat that experience as an opportunity to examine different models of relating, of expressing care, of loving. “Abolishing the family” may sound hopelessly hippie-ish, but I think it’s worth exploring just the same. Family as we currently know it is not necessarily the best way to satisfy our desires for support and love. But if you believe that heterosexual marriage and monogamy creates more problems than it solves, where else might you look for healthy connection, deeply rooted community, care, and joy? I don’t think you need to resign yourself to thinking, “Well, this type of relationship is probably still good at its core, I just happen to have seen a lot of bad apples.” You might try looking for an entirely different type of barrel, while you’re seeking out different and better ways to live and love.
Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Get it from Slate.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My MIL and FIL are kind, highly educated, successful people who, for reasons I’ll never understand, get into the most contentious, over-the-top, dramatic, and humiliating fights with each other in public, all the damn time. Before this goes further, I’d like to clarify that I have never seen it become physical (yet!), but it’s still terrible. They fight everywhere, over everything: in public, on Christmas, on vacation, after church, out to dinner with my parents, everywhere.
Over the holidays, they fought while holding my kids, feeding my kids, putting my kids into winter clothes, taking pictures with my kids, and building gingerbread houses with my kids (who are currently 3 and 1). I don’t want to keep my kids away from their grandparents, but something has to give. I attempted to redirect and act like a buffer, but they are absolutely shameless and can’t be kept from fighting for long. I eventually broke down and begged them to stop fighting, which lead to the “lie, lie, deny” act of “We have no idea what you’re talking about.” They want to see the grandbabies all the time, but I can’t take any more of this incredibly chaotic and dysfunctional dynamic. Please help!